Forbidden Friday: Lust


If you've got a hot date tonight, you'll definitely want to read the following tidbits from our book Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits -- and then get yourself to an exotic foods market:

World's Strangest Aphrodisiacs

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Sometimes you can have too much of a wood -- er, good -- thing. In the case of an unfortunate group of French Foreign Legion soldiers in North Africa, frog legs proved to be such an effective enhancer of "erectile function" that priapism -- a prolonged, painful erection that will not go away -- ensued. Subsequently, researchers from American universities found that the frog legs contained enormous amounts of cantharidin, better known as Spanish fly. It turned out the frogs had been eating meloid beetles, one of the main sources of the legendary aphrodisiac, eventually making things hard for the soldiers.

Two more love potions after the hump -- er, jump.

Sweet potatoes: Shortly after Columbus made landfall in 1492, the natives of Hispaniola introduced him to the sweet potato, a member of the morning glory family. Spanish colonizers soon spread the sweet potato lovin' to Asia and Europe, the popularity to cultivate it driven in part by its reputation as an aphrodisiac. In Health's Improvement, a medical guide from 1595, Dr. Thomas Muffett wrote that sweet potatoes increase not only libido, but apparently also the incidence of flatulence, claiming that they "nourish mightily... engendering much flesh, blood, and seed, but withal encreasing wind and lust."

Unagi: Served raw in sushi or cooked as part of an udon (noodle) dish, sea eel, or unagi, is reputed in Japan to be an aphrodisiac. The association likely springs from a rather obvious similarity between the shape of the eel and, as usual, an erect penis. Of course, there might be some science behind the belief as well. Unagi is high in vitamin A, which may help sexual function. Although unagi is an increasingly popular item on American sushi menus, ost diners are unaware of its erotic associations in Japanese cuisine.