This weekend Becca Roberts (check out her wonderful blog) and I hosted our first pop up dining experience together, centred around two key themes that may not typically go together : Bugs and Sex. I’ve written previously about edible insects and breaking down perceptions of disgust by increasing exposure, so decided to run a ‘Taste Education’ event where we encouraged people to step outside of their culinary comfort zones to eat insect-infused foods.I made Grasshopper sushi with seaweed salad, tomato, basil and prawn pasta in a silk worm sauce and honeycomb ice cream with wasp larvae and chocolate coated strawberries. We also invited our guests to vandalise the tableclothes with their thoughts on the meal though ‘foodles’ (food doodles), and it was a resounding success!
A collage of the foodles (courtesy of Becca)
The event was based around the notion that one of the many, perhaps less publicised, benefits of eating insects is that they are a natural aphrodisiac. Since we were cavemen, humans have been searching for foods that can be used to increase sexual desire and improve performance in the bedroom (or cave). Many spices, vegetables, fish and meats have been identified as possessing aphrodisiac qualities, including insects. Now I know shoving grasshoppers down your throat doesn’t exactly seem scream an appropriate pre-coital behaviour but indeed, insects have been traditionally used as gastronomic foreplay.
Wasps and bees, for example, are thought to increase sexual vigour, and cure premature ejaculation, while spanish flies are genuinely believed to be a natural Viagra. The wife of Ceaser used to sneak spanish flies into meals at banquets to woo her guests so she could use their misdemeanours as blackmail.
Of course these are mainly old myths with little scientific evidence, so don’t go trying to coax your partner into eating a load of edible insects just because you think it’s going to get you laid. I mean it might but I’d have a plan B just incase.
There is this really interesting union between food and sex, which you can read more about in an article I wrote for Understory (a fantastic new “neurogastronomy” company with lots of exciting projects and products to come), to be published along with their orgasming pudding (seriously, they go check them out). I’ve been reading a lot about this link between food and sex; both facilitate immense pleasure, often complementing each other. Heck I’m not gonna lie, watching that lindt advert where they slowly pour melted chocolate into a ball can be a genuine turn on.
So what is it about food that gets people in the mood? Many people will tell you that oysters are an aphrodisiac because they are high in zinc, but watching anyone trying to shovel a slippery grey blob into their mouth while dripping Tabasco down their top is probably the least sexy think you will ever witness. I think the sexual nature of food is more about the psychological mechanisms than the nutritional value.For example, when I googled why strawberries are an aphrodisiac the key reason was not for its vitamins or minerals, but because you can feed strawberries to your lover a sensual way, and being fed increases sexual desire.
It makes sense that these two important survival functions facilitate pleasure independently, as the rewards are what motivate us to repeat the behaviours. It’s suggested that these two pleasure systems overlap in various ways, meaning that pleasure from one enhances pleasure from the other. So regardless of the content of food can genuinely be a natural aphrodisiac, in that the pleasure derived from eating is controlled from a neural circuit that is intrinsically similar to circuit that, for lack of a better word, stimulates sexual pleasure.
So perhaps there is some truth in the notion that insects are an aphrodisiac – maybe not because of what they contain but because the pleasure and excitement from trying a novel and delicious food can enhance sexual desire.
With all of these links between food and sex, we thought it was only natural to set up ‘Love bug’. Here’s is the recipe for the easy and healthy seaweed salad that might even get some sparks flying…the grasshoppers are optional.
(Apologies for the crappy photo, I was too rushed to take a better one)
Spicy seaweed salad with edamame:
1 bag dried seaweed (can buy from a Chinese supermarket or a big tesco)
2 handfuls fresh or frozen edamame beans
3 tbsps cup mirin
3 tbsps cup soy sauce
3 tbsps sesame oil
large pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp chinese five spice
2 tbsps miso paste (optional)
4 slices spring onions
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1. Soak the dried seaweed in a large bowl of cold water for 10-15 mins, until the seaweed is soft.
2. While the seaweed is soaking, boil the edamame in hot water for about 4-5 mins.
3. Meanwhile whisk together the remaining ingredients for the dressing.
4. Drain the seaweed and mix with the cooked edamame and spring onions.
5. Coat in the dressing and top with sesame seeds to serve.
This is a great salad to serve with home-made sushi – get my recipe here!