I am totally obsessed with aphrodisiacs. Strawberries, chocolate, mangoes, almonds, asparagus. I love the idea that eating a food can sensually intoxicate you. Oh if it were as simple as sucking down a few oysters to be instantly moved to have sex. I want it to be true. But, alas, there is very little, if no, scientific evidence that validates these claims. So what is it?

I always associate sexy food with how you eat it. Remember that scene in Flashdance when Jennifer Beal’s character, Alex, is sucking on the lobster tail with butter running down her chin? She’s turned on. Her boss/date is mezmorised. And you were shifting in your seat, right? Who cares if lobster is an aphrodisiac or not (it is, but as I’ve discovered, what isn’t), it was for those few minutes — because she made it so.

Take the artichoke. When I found out this was on the list I thought to myself, ‘are you kidding me?’ However, in 16th century Europe, artichokes were considered so powerful an aphrodisiac that women weren’t even allowed to eat them. Can you imagine? A food so powerful that it makes you uncontrollably desirable. That said, look at an artichoke thistle (see photo to right). In the 16th century that was probably considered girl on girl action.

Let’s review this most passion-inducing vegetable for a minute. Uncooked it leaves a horrible, bitter taste on your fingers. It has pointy thorns on the top of each leaf. It takes forever to cook. And it’s a pain in the ass to eat. You literally have to scrape the meat off each leaf with your teeth. And then, if that wasn’t enough, to get to the best part of it you have to get rid of the choke or potentially threaten your own life. All that said, God forbid you get too close to the diner or you’ll be ravaged on the spot.

Doesn’t this say it all? The artichoke epitomizes everything I believe about sensuality and beauty. It’s all in the unravelling. Look what this complicated, oddly unattractive vegetable brings to bear when you decide to cook one up:

  • Hard on the outside, but soft on the inside. Don’t let the thorny exterior fool you.
  • Allow 1 hour to simmer before eating. (Enough said there, gentlemen.)
  • Have patience. This intricate meal demands you eat and enjoy each leaf, one at a time, slowly and with care.
  • Dip in your favorite sauce and suck to get it all. Clarified butter. Cumin and olive oil. Honey and lemon. Whatever your desire may be — just be decadent.
  • Delight as each leaf gets softer and softer as you penetrate the heart.

Then, just when you think you’ve got it made, you’ve finally reached nirvana, you hit the choke. This is the perfection of Mother Nature. You’ve ravaged this beast of a vegetable and it stops you dead in your tracks. She forces you to take inventory, appreciate your hard work, and then then work even harder to truly appreciate those final, most delicate morsels.

So what is my long, drawn out point? When something like the artichoke becomes illegal based on it’s sexual properties you know that it is all the eyes of the beholder. So stop stressing about what you look like, and start thinking about how you’d like to be eaten.