Once a suitor (okay, my only suitor, ever) said to my boyfriend, "What's the secret to Sadie's heart?" Matt said, instantly, "Pudding. Sweet pudding when she's sad, and savory puddings when she's happy." True enough.
With all due respect to anti-depressants (and, one hopes, a few commonalities of interests, lack of drug problems), he wasn't wrong. As a result, we keep a large arsenal of Kozy Shack and My-T-Fine on hand at all times. If things are getting bad, he frequently detours to Rice to Riches (NYC's rice pudding central) or one of the numerous Magnolia-style bakeries for a takeout cup of banana pudding. It is indeed the secret to my heart. And had he discovered this sooner, we might have saved everyone a lot of time and trouble.
Is food really an aphrodisiac? The New York Times investigates, and the result (headed by a pic that must have at least two poor women cringing) is a resounding "meh." Most of it - oysters, asparagus, even chocolate - is in our minds, despite the visual suggestiveness of the one, the phallic connotations of the other, and cocoa's mild euphoric properties. Yes, there are scents (and, presumably, tastes) that exert an arousing effect, but it's not really anything you'd want to eat, unless maybe you've gone way off the El Bulli deep end.
In one small experiment on sexual response to food scents, vaginal and penile blood flow was measured in 31 men and women who wore masks emitting various food aromas. This was the study that found men susceptible to the scent of doughnuts mingled with licorice. For women, first place for most arousing was a tie between baby powder and the combination of Good & Plenty candy with cucumber. Coming in second was a combination of Good & Plenty and banana nut bread.
(And if you're wondering how they even thought to put these things in the trial - unless maybe they were reduced to the dregs of some kid's Halloween candy stash and were stuck with the ominous purple box of G&P - I don't know.) And the smell of cherries, by the way, "significantly decreases sexual arousal in women." Which when you think about the whole virginity thing, does make a certain sense.
Basically, although some foods can stimulate circulation etc., the piece confirms that a lot of this has to do with associations, upbringing, indicators (ie, caviar and out-of-season strawberries were and are expensive) and, one presumes, personal idiosyncrasies. It's primarily Americans, apparently, who get so incredibly excited about baked goods. (Which is great, since a new study finds that "those with an extra-sweet tooth may be depressed or at higher risk of future alcohol problems," possibly making pudding an unwise choice for low moods.) The one true aphrodisiac? Even the Times agrees: wine.
A Viagra Alternative To Serve By Candlelight [NY Times]
Related: Sweet-Toothed Children 'May Have Depression' [BBC]
[Image via Robert Wright for The New York Times]