The second in a series of snippets from my current read Aphrodite (A Memoir of the Senses)
Last week's snippet is here.
From the Chapter
How to define an aphrodisiac? Let's say it is any substance or activity that piques amorous desire. Some have a scientific basis, but most are activated by the imagination. Cultures and individuals react to them in their own way. For thousands of years, humanity has experienced with countless possibilities in an incessant search for new stimuli, a search that led to pornography and the genesis of erotic art ancient as the dawn of millennary cave paintings. The difference between the two is a question of taste; what is erotic for one may be pornographic for another. For the Victorians, Evil was everywhere. They covered the legs of their tables to preclude bad thoughts, and a young lady was not allowed to hang a man's portrait on the walls of her room, for fear that the painting might look on as she was undressing. It didn't take much to excite those good folks.
Some aphrodisiacs function through analogy, like the vulva-shaped oyster or phallic asparagus; others by association, because they remind us of something erotic. They also work through suggestion, because they remind us of something erotic. They also work through suggestion, because we believe that when we eat the vital organ of another animal --- and in some cases, that of another human, as happens among cannibals ---we absorb their strength. In general, anything with a French name seems aphrodisiac. Serving mushrooms with garlic isn't at all the same as champignons a la Provencal, nor is ham and cheese comparable to croque-monsieur. The same criteria apply on the battlefields of love. It is a good idea to assign suggestive names to the different postures, as in the enlightened erotic manuals of Asia. It isn't necessary to remember the authentic terms; you can invent them and no one will be the wiser; delicate butterflyin somersault, swooning lotus flower in lake with ducks, and others of that ilk. Of course, we cannot overlook therapeutic stimulants, plants, and hormones, but after testing a good number of them I believe that sensorial stimuli are more effective: daring games, massages, shows, erotic literature and art.
February is a good time to visit a good grocery store or whole foods/gourmet market. I kept the winter blues at bay today by shopping for choice ingredients for dark chocolate mousse with roasted almonds. I also bought a used book and some French lavender soap.
I'd been looking around the house for weeks for my old copy of this book. There are a lot of things I'm looking for these days, in fact. This one was easy to replace, the other things, not so much. I ordered it used from Amazon and it arrived in perfect hardcover condition for the less than the price I paid for the paperback when it was first released as such.
It is a delicious book full of stories, autobiographical detail, myths, lore, poetry, recipes and sweet little paintings about food and its connection to anything and everything erotic and human.
I will share with you an excerpt from the introduction. (I could not find the painting Allende chose for this section, so I substituted with one by Frida Kahlo. Further note: I saw the painting up-close and personal at Tate Modern in 2005. One of the highlights of my museum going adventures.)
I believe that the images and writing posted here fall under the "fair use" section of the U.S. copyright law http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107, as they are intended for educational purposes and are not in a medium that is of commercial nature.