Under the aegis of the Goddess of Love, Isabel Allende uses her storytelling skills brilliantly in Aphrodite to evoke the delights of food and sex. After considerable research and study, she has become an authority on aphrodisiacs, which include everything from food and drink to stories and, of course, love. Readers will find here recipes from Allende's mother, poems, stories from ancient and foreign literatures, paintings, personal anecdotes, fascinating tidbits on the sensual art of foodand its effects on amorous performance, tips on how to attract your mate and revive flagging virility, passages on the effect of smell on libido, a history of alcoholic beverages, and much more.
An ode to sensuality that is an irresistible blend of memory, imagination and the senses, Aphrodite is familiar territory for readers who know her fiction.
In this bawdy memoir-cum-cookbook, Allende has put together an apothecary of aphrodisiacs, from snake's blood and rhinoceros horn to the more commonplace and more palatable oysters, "those seductive tears of the sea, which lend themselves to slipping from mouth to mouth like a prolonged kiss ... can be purchased in bottles, but there they look like malignant tumors; in contrast, moist and turgid in their shells they suggest delicate vulvae--a prime example of food that appeals to the eye." Chapters such as "Alligators and Piranhas"; "Supreme Stimulus for Lechery"; "Bread, God's Grace"; "Forbidden Fruits"; and "The Saucy Way to Foreplay" offer categorical listings on the aphrodisiac qualities of meats, spices, fruits and vegetables, and alcohol. A few chapters into the book, one begins to wonder what foods aren't considered erotic: "the shape of the wheat head is considered phallic, which proves human imagination knows no limits." Wine (no surprise there) is recommended because "it lessens inhibitions, relaxes, and fosters joy, three fundamental requirements for good performance, not only in bed but at the piano as well." However, as in many situations, moderation is key: too much and you may find your guest asleep in the soup.
Allende dismisses nouvelle cuisine in favor of earthier foods and more satisfying portions. More than 100 recipes are provided, from sauces and soups to hors d'oeuvres, supplemented with her voluptuous commentary. Recipes such as Mykonos Sauce, with walnuts, pistachios, basil, garlic, and milk; Widower's Figs; Filet Mignon Belle Epoque; and Alicante Cream Soup, with leeks, shrimp, oysters, paprika, and cream will have you in an apron (and perhaps not much else) in no time.
"If cookbooks make up part of your library," Allende notes, "books on eroticism should, too." And what more delightful combination of the two than Aphrodite, which provocatively underscores the relationship between sustenance and sexuality, and the aphrodisiac qualities of watching a man cook: "[Women] suppose that if he can remember how many minutes frog legs can tolerate in the skillet, how much greater reason he will have to remember how many tickles our G spot demands." Spiced with litanies of lust and longing from Anais Nin, W.B. Yeats, Pablo Neruda, and Lady Onogoro, and enriched with Allende's warm humor and lusty joie de vive, Aphrodite will tantalize your senses and engender lascivious grins. Recommended in delicious but moderate doses, this book is not for the faint of ... er, heart. --Jhana Bach