JUST AS HE was about to perform my annual gynecological exam, my doctor asked me what stories I was working on for the paper. I told him our food editor had tasked me with researching which foods to eat, and which to avoid, before and after sex, and I asked if he had anything to contribute. The nurse guffawed, asking sarcastically, "What, you mean there isn't a wealth of information out there?" And then do you know what my doctor said? He said, "Yeah, I mean, whatever happened to just smoking a cigarette and going to sleep?"
And that, my friends, is an up-to-date medical response to the subject. And yes, as I informed the nurse, there is a wealth of information out there about foods that supposedly enhance your sex life.
Modern advice about sex and food can be broken into two basic categories of bullshit. First-level bullshit is the most destructive, counterintuitive, and rage inducing of the two. Pick up most any 20th century-era literature on the topic and you'll find tongues wagging over "sensual" recipes that call for two or more fatty cheeses, plus heavy cream, salami, sautéed in both pork and duck fat, with gobs of honey and liquid-confection chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and—oh, healthy!—strawberries on top. And maybe an oyster on the side.
This kind of first-level bullshit is not only dangerous, but it makes no sense. When you meet someone you're interested in romantically, it's in part because of how they look—and if they look good, that's probably because they mind their health (the road to which is not paved with recipes that call for entire sticks of butter). But somewhere along the (probably Francophilic) way, we conflated sex with indulgence, and have the aptly named love handles to prove it. Which is tragic. If you love someone, don't get them fat.
Second-level bullshit is infinitely more harmless, but still silly. Based on more recently updated food-science data, the more modern iteration promotes a common-sense diet of whole grains, fresh produce, an active lifestyle, and yada yada, you know the drill.
This, of course, is the only way to have better (AKA healthier) sex; you just get healthy. But since Bon Appetit still has to turn out a February issue, we'll probably always have editorials on which trace amounts of minerals will make indiscernible differences between the sheets.
That being said, at least second-level bullshit encourages healthy eating. I mean, it's kind of a stretch to say that the antioxidants in arugula will block you from boner-zapping toxins, and are therefore a sexy food, but at least it might get you to eat your greens.
If you must know: Foods rich in folic acid are thought to boost one's orgasmic potential. The best source is liver, so there's the get-out-of-jail card for patê, and for vegetarians a good bet is asparagus.
Zinc has been identified as a libido booster. And here's where I'll give props to ye olde oyster, which is indeed impressively packed with the stuff, though shellfish in general is a good source.
Ditto selenium, found in nuts—almonds are traditionally looked to for romance, but brazil nuts are actually a better source. And vitamin E increases skin softness and sensitivity, which is why I'm proposing that raw sunflower seeds remarket themselves as sex food.
Don't forget: None of these will cancel out the stress, fatigue, depression, worry, and anger that are really killing your sex life. So... good luck with all that bullshit.
Cutting through the bullshit of seducing with rich foods, or improving sexual prowess with healthy foods, requires a dish encapsulating both options... and the magic of the ubiquitous oyster. Oysters Rockefeller are loaded with all the good stuff, and a bit of booze to boot. There's really only one place to go in Portland to indulge in these sexually fortifying morsels: EaT: An Oyster Bar. But they were kind enough to share their recipe with Mercury readers.
EaT: An Oyster Bar's Oysters Rockefeller
by Chef Ethan A. Powell
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 quarts baby spinach leaves
4 bunches live watercress (leaves only)
1 cup sliced green onion (tops only)
1 cup melted butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
splash absinthe or anisette liquor
1/2 lemon juiced (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Tabasco or Crystal works best)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan for topping rock salt (for serving)
For Rockefeller topping:
Puree spinach, watercress‚ and green onion until slightly finer than a rough chop (not to the point of liquefied), and set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium- high heat and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs, hot sauce, and absinthe.
Return puree mixture to the pan and simmer on medium-low for five minutes. After the sauce has thickened, add the lemon juice, salt‚ and pepper to taste. Chill the mixture until it sets up.
Properly refrigerated, the mixture should last for at least one week.
Shuck a fresh oyster, making sure to fully cut the abductor muscle from the top and bottom of the shell. Save oyster liquor and meat in the rounded bottom shell for serving.
Scoop enough Rockefeller topping to cover the oyster (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons, depending on the size of the oysters). Place oysters under the broiler until the topping begins to bubble. When the topping is hot and the oyster has cooked through, top with 1/2-1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese and return to broiler until the cheese is golden brown.
Cover a serving plate with rock salt and arrange the oysters as you like. Garnish with lemon wedges.