Samui Wining & Dining
Inflaming the Senses

A light-hearted look at the ups and downs of aphrodisiacs over the ages.

A light-hearted look at the ups and downs of aphrodisiacs over the ages.Don’t let’s be coy here: this is the age of honesty and straight-speaking. And it’s no longer taboo to talk about sex – even in a magazine that’s all about food. Anyway, when it comes to things like love, ecstasy and heightened pleasure, there’s probably been just as much written about this in the context of restaurant reviews than in all of those TV reality shows combined.

And so, to get down and dirty, aphrodisiacs come in three forms, and the search for such stimulants go back for millennia. First there are the ones that increase libido in both genders. Then (a male thing) boosted potency. Finally (the one where everyone benefits) substances which enhance sexual enjoyment. And whereas there most certainly are chemical stimulants, the most popular (and many would say the most effective) aphrodisiac of all is an intimate evening spent wining, dining and wooing!

It’s a togetherness thing. Even the preparations – getting ready for the evening together – play a part in the slow build-up to the evening’s climax. Take something as simple as perfume. Ambergris is a substance vomited out by sperm whales. It’s also highly-prized for its ability to inflame the male senses; hence its inclusion in fragrances such as Chanel ‘Number 5’, Balmain, Givenchy ‘Amarige’, and Gucci ‘Guilty’ etc.. And while there appears to be some chemical reality in this assertion, I’m not even going to approach the realms of powdered unicorn, rhinoceros horns or narwhal tusks!

That kind of thing carries over from a medieval outlook and, other than a charming reminder of years gone by, doesn’t fit with what today’s science tells us. It’s like the mystique surrounding oysters. They are not an aphrodisiac in any way. But if you try to think back to a bygone age when the glimpse of a female ankle drove men insane with lust, then it becomes conceivable that that passing resemblance of an oyster to the female genitals could well have had a similar effect. (Although quite what oysters are supposed to do for women is harder to speculate about.)

One foodie icon which does bear closer scrutiny though, is chocolate. This contains mind-altering chemicals, introducing intriguing questions about its ability to arouse the savage beast (or beastess). It’s got tryptophan, a ‘neurotransmitter’ that regulates mood and sexual desire. It also has another substance which works at molecular level, phenylethylamine, a stimulant proven to cause feelings of well-being and warm and fuzzy happiness in general. And on top of that, there’s additionally the ‘messenger molecule’, anandaminde, named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, because that's the feeling it promotes. Keep all of this in mind (together with the fact that too much of it also makes you throw-up).

Coffee is another comestible which has evolved within a sphere of hopeful eroticism. Whereas it’s true that anything containing caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, making us more alert and thus possibly more aware, the same also holds true for cocaine and amphetamines, neither of which are aphrodisiacs. And now we’re getting closer to the very hub of it all . . . our mood.

Which is probably a good time to insert the concept of alcohol. This timeless substance has been accused of many things, but everyone agrees on one thing; it lowers inhibitions.

Consumed with gentile restraint, either in the form of holiday cocktails or as part of a sophisticated wine-paired dinner, no other single substance (except chocolate maybe) has stood the test of time when it comes to not only enhancing libido, but also casting caution to the wind. But, as with choco-fun, too much alcohol also makes Jack a very dull boy indeed. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

My points have been postulated and my suppositions aired. Now all that remains is you and your partner on the evening of the 14th of February. One of you (hopefully both, each unknown to the other) will already have fixed a couple of things in advance (restaurant-booking, gifts, flowers). She will shower and use a perfume containing ambergris (not compulsory). He will do something similar, including whatever it takes to let her know he’s making a special effort (long trousers, shoes not flip-flops, shave etc.)(compulsory). Already the mood is being set.

A surprise taxi ride in time for the sunset and a couple of gentle cocktails first. Lots of eye-contact and meaningful smiles. Then a candle-lit dinner on the beach with your own discreet butler and/or chef. Wine paired (as that way you don’t get distracted by having to think about it). A menu including oysters (go for it!). Eye-contact, smiles, and occasional leg-touching under the table. Desserts with chocolate. Irish coffee to finish. The stars overhead and the gentle swish of the waves. A taxi booked and waiting to take you back. . .

The greatest aphrodisiac of all is being desired by someone you love. All the rest is by-the-way. But if you want it to go on forever, keep making the effort. And maybe the thoughts above will help a bit when it’s St Valentine’s Day 2019!


Rob De Wet


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