The Nuffield Hospitals Group, a non- profit-making network of acute care hospitals, says there is no point in rushing around trying to find powdered rhino horn or Spanish fly when the "kitchen could hold your night of passion". It recommends an eclectic list of ingredients that includes bananas, prunes, tomatoes, alcohol and aromatic oil.
Prunes may be considered school-dinner food by Britons today - but dried, they are an excellent energy food, which is presumably why large amounts were consumed by the clients of Elizabethan brothels. They are high in fibre, iron, potassium and vitamin A, and also provide a lot of carbohydrate, low fat and high energy. Indeed, Henry VIII was apparently a big fan of prunes, which were served up as a delicacy at royal banquets. Whether this was why he married six times is not clear.
Vinegar, a rich source of potassium, is "of great value to sexual athletics, improving muscle tone and gland strength," says Geoff Benn, the development manager at Nuffield Hospitals, while the skin of the suggestively shaped banana is full of a hallucinogen, bufotenine, hence its reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Bufotenine is also found on the skin of toads. "If you kiss one, it may not turn into a beautiful prince or princess," adds Mr Benn, helpfully, "but you may hallucinate that it has done so."
The common-or-garden tomato also has titillating properties. First introduced into Europe by the Spaniards and nicknamed the "pomme d'amour", it has been said that the flesh and colour suggest parts of the body, while its sources of iron and vitamins generate vigour. The Cromwellians, who believed tomatoes were strong aphrodisiacs, spread false rumours that the fruit was poisonous in order to discourage their use.
Any alcohol is an aphrodisiac, according to the Nuffield dieticians. But be warned: "Too much will lead to loss of health and sexual performance."
So, after extensive research, we have come up with your ultimate Valentine meal. Fry the tomatoes and onions for a ratatouille starter. Pour the vinegar over some chips (bought earlier). Use the aromatic oil as a salad dressing and serve prune and banana fruit salad for dessert. Drink wisely rather than too well throughout. And if anyone will eat that with you, you can be assured it is true love.
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