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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hey, That Looks Just Like a.... by Rose Anderson

Yesterday's interesting post for National Rose Month got me thinking about how people ascribe meaning to things. Long before Nero chose to tune his fiddle while Rome burned, there existed a concept about plants and their uses. It was believed that the gods signed every plant. To learn its purpose, one need only draw a correlation between it and what it resembled. 

Example: A plant with liver-shaped leaves would be beneficial to the liver. A plant with red sap would be useful to the blood. 

The idea came to full fruit, no pun intended, during the Renaissance. This curious philosophy was called the Doctrine of Signatures. The human mind being what it is, it didn’t take long before plants with evocative shapes became aphrodisiacs. 
A Renaissance man in preparation for a night of wild loving with unparalleled stamina would look to the cornucopia of scrotum-shaped and phallus-shaped fruits and vegetables and chow down. Small seeds of all sorts were believed to have seminal associations. Of course he'd need a handful of those if the evening was going to have a happy ending.  

Choice foods were eaten with purpose. Avocados, figs, and garlic are a few of the obvious testicle-shaped foods that were consumed, but there are even more penile foods out there from the four corners of the known world: zucchini, carrots, bananas, asparagus, and pineapple (must be that stalk) – basically anything long and firm made it to the dinner table. They also consumed acorn meal and mushrooms. Oh you silly guys. These last two seem a little short of the goal to me. 

Following the same "looks like" process, ruffled leaves of certain greens such as arugula were also considered aphrodisiacs because of their labial-like quality.  

Somewhat easier to imagine, all yoni-shaped edibles such as almonds, anise seeds, pistachios, and pine nuts have a long association with the act of love.
My Sicilian heritage has given me exposure to Italian weddings, and I can't think of one I've attended where those delightful candied almonds weren't given out as favors. Fertility is the point and most wedding guests have no idea of the symbology behind their delicious treat. 

Just about every red and juicy fruit was considered suggestive, but figs are said to be the most sexually blatant of all. As a unisex love fruit, figs have that je ne sais quoi that appeals to both men and women. Beyond the scrotal shape, it's the juicy red center that works the magic. In my research I discovered that when a Mediterranean man sliced opened a fig and ate it slowly in front of his lover, he was performing a powerfully erotic act. Yeah, I can see that.
While plants with genuine health benefit aren't conspicuously signed by the gods as the Doctrine of Signatures suggests, it is said that a plant exists for every ailment. Quinine for malaria, meadowsweet (the active ingredient in aspirin) for fevers and pain, and the rosy periwinkle for childhood leukemia, are a few that come to mind.  

There are others that could certainly enhance a night of love: Vanilla, ginko, chili peppers, yohimbine, and ginger are just some of the edibles with very real circulation benefits. And circulation is key if you plan to rock the Kasbah later. Some, like chocolate, coffee and malt vinegar have phenylethylamine, a stimulant to the central nervous system. Perhaps invigoration after eating chocolate is what led to a box of chocolates becoming a sweet token of love.

Thinking on all this, my husband has given me many boxes of chocolates in the 37 years we’ve been together. He has also poured me countless cups of coffee during that time. However, not once did he offer a bottle of malt vinegar! 


Do you have a favorite romantic dinner? Do share!

About Rose
Rose is multi-published award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest. 


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Polly McCrillis said...

Ah, those Renaissance men. Guess we have to give them credit for the original Viagra, hm? Any time my husband cooks for me it's a favorite romantic dinner. He has little time to cook so when he does, it's out of love, with a dash of hope that his efforts may lead to dessert -out of the kitchen. Great post, Rose!

Sandy said...

Fantastic post, Rose. I always learn a lot from you. Smile! My husband cooked for me when I was sick, and didn't expect dessert. lol

Rose Anderson said...

Thank you, Sandy and Polly. :)

Tina Donahue said...

Scrotum-shaped fruits. LOL. Now there's a concept. Great post, Rose. :)

Rose Anderson said...

LOL Tina. Avocado comes from the Aztec word “ahu├ícatl” meaning testicle. The Aztecs used it as an aphrodisiac. :)

Donna Cummings said...

This was great -- so informative! Of course, now I'm going to check out everyone's grocery carts, to see what their "plans" are for the evening. LOL

vicki batman said...

Hi, Rose! You always have such interesting topics. Any meal with Handsome and sharing is special. Even ham sandwiches. I don't think I need to know what ham means. lol

Fran Lee said...

So much fun, Rose! Thanks for the walk through historical...and hysterical...beliefs! Loved it!

Judy Baker said...

My hubby cooks a lot for me, but I don't think he's aware of the shapes and what they mean! I'll have to share your post with him. Interesting! Thanks

Paris said...

I will never look at figs the same way, lol! Nothing like covering all of your bases. Thanks for the interesting post, I always love learning new and fascinating stuff about our romantic heritage:)

Melissa Keir said...

Such a fun post! I love hearing about the history of food. It makes sense that they think those things but wow... I never realized how many foods fit that category. I would think jalapenos would get the circulation is one that always warms me up!

I wonder if this is why I love Malt Vinegar (and vinegar in general) on my food!

Cara Marsi said...

Very interesting, Rose. I had no idea there were so many phallic shaped foods, or scrotum shaped ones. I can't think of a romantic dinner. Guess hubs and I aren't that romantic. But he does love figs. I'm probably the only person of Italian heritage in the world who doesn't like figs. I've been to many Italian weddings and gotten my share of almond candy.

Victoria Adams said...

Fun post. Wonder what a signature would look like on a plant designed to treat PMS.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

It's always been believed that certain foods raised the libido--prior to Viagra. It's an interesting topic.

jean hart stewart said...

Fascinating blog...thanks for all the interesting facts....

M. S. Spencer said...

As always, your blogs are so interesting and informative! Romantic food memories: I had a boyfriend who would call ahead to every restaurant to make sure they had raspberries for me! M. S.

Rose Anderson said...

Thank you. I'm glad everyone found it an enjoyable post. And thanks for stopping by everyone. :)

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