The World Is Your Oyster

I’ve mentioned oysters more than once before, and of course they’re currently out of season. But I’m missing them, so thought I’d post the first mention of them from my book, ‘Aphrodisiacs’.

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Let’s face it, the oyster is pretty much the daddy of all aphrodisiacs. It’s the first food people think of when they’re asked to come up with one. They also conjure up some pretty mystical and magical feelings, I mean there are very few other foods that have live streaming websites. I kid you not, you really can watch oyster beds live on camera.

But all this oyster-worship is a little odd, since Aphrodite herself is normally shown rising from the sea in a scallop shell, not an oyster shell. It obviously derives all its power from that sympathetic magic, My “E” number 2, the enigma. But there’s not much of an enigma about it, really. I mean they are stacked full of zinc, which is good for the libido, but you’d need to eat about half a ton to make any serious difference. But let’s just be honest from the outset. The oyster looks a bit like certain lady parts, and that moist, slurpy method of eating them that we generally prefer, is just, well, frankly somewhat cunnilingual, if I may just make up an adverb.

Now you can do plenty of things with oysters, but I’m afraid that for my money, you can’t beat them live and raw with just the teeniest splash of tabasco, accompanied by a lovely crisp white wine. Champagne completes the cliché, but I prefer something with fewer bubbles tickling my tonsils, like a Loire-valley Sancerre or Touraine.

We’ve even developed a rude-sounding word for the preparation of this salty, tasty, gooey little bivalve mollusc, and who doesn’t enjoy a damn good shuck? So here’s probably the easiest recipe you’ll read today.

Live Fresh Oysters (half-a-dozen each at least)

For the rash amongst you, perhaps a little lemon juice, tabasco or a light vinegar

Hold the oyster with the cup-shaped shell in the palm of your hand, and the flat shell face-up. Take your flat-bladed stubby shucking knife, or any flat, broad sharp knife. Find the hinge, and work your knife in (just the tip!) between the shells near one of the corners of the hinge. Ease it gently in, and run it all the way around to the other edge of the hinge before tilting the knife to make the hinge ‘pop’. Separate the shells, and run your knife underneath the oyster flesh to sever it from the shell. Be careful not to tip it, or you’ll waste all those yummy juices. Splash on whatever sauce takes your fancy (or don’t), and slurp the whole thing back in one go.

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(Gar)Lick My Love Pump Soup

aka Cold Garlic & Celery Soup, or “How to get single women to start huffing (or at least sniffing) celery”.

Garlic soup 2

There are two reputed aphrodisiacs on parade in this baby. Believe it or not, garlic is meant to be an aphrodisiac. Personally, I blame the French, and I do so despite living with them in the heart of Normandy. I can’t complain, because I adore garlic, and would happily eat it raw like an apple given half a chance. Actually, I have eaten it raw like an apple, and I don’t recommend it, that papery skin gets stuck in your teeth. But I digress. I suspect it was a Frenchman who persuaded his paramour that garlic was an aphrodisiac just so that she wouldn’t complain when he smothered her with his aioli kisses.

Actually, like most ‘hot herbs’ (which is what garlic is classified as, weirdly, despite basically being a type of onion), it has a long history as an aphrodisiac, stretching back to the ancient Egyptians. Tibetan monks who had eaten garlic were refused entry to the monastery, on the basis that their ardours would undoubtedly rise, inflaming the (presumably highly homoerotic) passions of their fellow monks. It does actually qualify in a few ways, firstly, that Frenchman had the right idea – sharing the same flavours is a good way of creating a little crackle of sexual electricity, so it has some ‘environment’ credentials. The fact that it is quite hot, and oh so tasty, gives it a bit of ‘experience’. But it also does have some real-life physiological ‘effects’ too. There is the slight medicinal value – it really can help improve blood circulation, so (over many years) it might help to open up constricted veins and arteries.

Now I’ve gone into the differences between an aphrodisiac and a potency aid before, but just to recap, those idiots who think tiger penis or rhino horn is going to make them harder for longer don’t belong in the same sentence as aphrodisiacs. Potency aids are not aphrodisiacs, unless your idea of a seduction is a bit on the ‘rapey’ side. But if getting it up is a problem, it could be because the veins in your groin are constricted, so garlic could help. The other thing is that like other hot herbs, the active ingredient, in this case Allicin, activates certain chemical receptors inside your body to cause a reflexive cooling response. That means your heart rate will go up and you may start to sweat a little more, two things that also happen in the heat of passion, so once again we have a little bit of that ‘sympathetic magic’.

Celery, on the other hand, is apparently phallic. I got very confused when I first read that, and started worrying why my own parts weren’t green or ridged. But again it’s actually one of those few little critters that actually has some physiological effects, though largely for women. Celery apparently smells like androsterone, the primary male pheromone. One of those hormones that is naturally produced by men, that when sniffed by women stimulates sexual arousal. So celery is quite literally orgasmic. I defy you ladies now to walk past the celery display at Sainsbury’s without having a teeny curious sniff.

Raw celery root, which you probably won’t find outside of a Chinese herbalist, has been used as a cure for impotence for centuries, because it does stimulate the pituitary gland, which in turn releases several of the main sex hormones. The closest you’re likely to find in your local supermarket is that ugly great knobbly brute, celeriac. Who knew?

Anyway, white Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t very big on cold soups. In fact I’ve had a guest return his bowl of gazpacho because ‘it isn’t even warm, let alone hot’. But if you’re used to living in the hotter, flesh-revealing, passion-inducing climates of the Mediterranean or Caribbean, cold soups are something of a regular on the menu. This one makes a fabulous summer starter, just right for when it’s getting all sultry and you’re peeling off all your clothes.

1 bunch roughly chopped celery
2 finely chopped shallots
1 large garlic bulb, finely chopped (that’s bulb, pop-pickers, not clove)
500ml chicken stock
250mg butter

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium-low heat. Add a handful of the garlic, and stir it in for a minute or two before adding the rest of the garlic, the shallots and celery. Cook on the same medium-low heat, stirring regularly, for about 15 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring up to a simmer. Then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before puréeing it with a hand blender for several minutes until it is silky smooth.
Cover and chill the soup in the fridge. Overnight is best, as it lets all those yummy garlic juices to practically ferment. Serve it nice and crisply cold. Best yet, chill it in the freezer for 5 minutes before serving.