By Judi Gallagher February 1, 2009

Oysters are said to have been served at Aphrodite’s banquets, most notably with a form of caffeine and cocoa to keep the euphoria lasting for several days. Today gourmet stores around the country note the rise in “aphrodisiac-laden” foods during the week of Feb. 14. Here are a few romantic foods in your pantry that may inspire both culinary and sensual passion.

Mustard Believed to stimulate the sexual glands and increase desire.

Vanilla and Cinnamon The scent and flavor of vanilla are believed to increase lust. Open the pure vanilla extract and sprinkle it around the kitchen (perhaps even dab a little behind the ears). Or maybe try fresh cinnamon sticks in the a.m. with warm cinnamon buns, topped with sautéed sliced bananas—a good start to a romantic day

Pine Nuts Pine nuts are supposed to stimulate the libido and have been a common “pleasure food” since medieval times. Crush toasted pine nuts and blend with a touch of olive oil, Chinese five spice (star anise is also said to promote after-dinner activities and is a key component in five-spice) and chopped figs; then rub on a pork roast for an arousing dinner.

Nutmeg Chinese women believe nutmeg to be an aphrodisiac; in quantity, it can produce a hallucinogenic effect. Vanilla crème brûlée, with a sprinkle of nutmeg and fresh sliced strawberries, might be a nice dessert for this theme. Serve it with a shot of espresso and a piece of 70 percent chocolate. (Let’s just say it couldn’t hurt!)

Truffles The Greeks and the Romans considered the rare truffle to be an aphrodisiac. The musky scent supposedly stimulates and also sensitizes the skin to touch. You can find fresh Oregon truffles in the produce section of Fresh Market. Sauté slightly with butter and a hint of cabernet. And, since cabernet wine suggests warmth of body, might I suggest a bottle of Silver Oak and candlelight?

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