Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's in an oyster ...

OK, I've been meaning to write this post for some time as I've had a few, we'll say, interesting discussions on the matter.

For millennia, oysters have been revered for their qualities as an aphrodisiac, and no place were they more sought after as an exotic and popular delicacy than in ancient Rome.  Originally imported from England, the Romans eventually stored and farmed them in salt water pools. Supposedly, they "fattened them up by feeding them wine and pastries." Hmm, I wonder if those "picky" English oysters would insist on cream scones and teacakes, or if they were OK with a cannoli or struffoli, maybe even a simple biscotti? As to whether those legendary Roman whoopie fests were at all "inspired" by the mass consumption of bivalves is up for debate, but it's clear that several civilizations throughout history have recognized oysters as having certain beneficial qualities for libido. Enough speculation.

What we know is that oysters contain high quantities of zinc and protein, both of which are thought to be necessary ingredients to in a healthy and sustained libido. They also contain compounds that have been shown to be effective in releasing sexual hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. These compounds are D-aspartic acid and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate). Moreover, the scent and texture of a fresh briny oyster can be alluring and even stirring for many people.  Don't believe it? Go eat 2 or 3 dozen and check back in the morning.

I have a recipe I call "Roman Oysters." Nothing fancy, it's just basically grilled oysters with olive oil, a little garlic, red pepper, rosemary and sea salt (if needed). I wasn't really thinking about the not-so-fringe benefits when I created the dish eight years ago, but it turns out that rosemary and garlic are also both considered to be aphrodisiacs and olive oil contains vitamin E, so maybe you'd get a quadruple dip of goodness. Hey, maybe everyone would!

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