My yummy Valentine

This year, supermarkets and food companies have taken that old adage to heart about the way to a man's heart (or a woman's for that matter) being through the stomach.

Lovers and wannabe lovers can tantalise their true love's taste buds with everything from His'n'Hers Tarts to Valentine's yoghurt and even Valentine's baguettes.

But the prize for sheer front must go to Tesco for their "Love Sausage" which, they claim, is packed with natural aphrodisiacs - it comes in a special presentation box with a new version of that old rhyme: "Roses are red, violets are blue, I want to share my love sausage with you!"

The extra large sausages (pounds 2.19 for a pack of four) include root ginger, oyster sauce and ginseng and are meant to be shared, according to Janet Smith from Tesco.

"For the greatest effect," she says, "I suggest a candle-lit dinner table, champagne chilled to perfection, wait until the wave of romance reaches its peak and quietly go into the kitchen and produce your love sausage."

If, after that, you feel you still need dessert, Asda's "His 'n' Hers Tarts" (99p) are heart-shaped tarts, a strawberry one for him and a chocolate one for her, although in keeping with the spirit of the evening, you could always share. Also on offer from Asda is "True Love Ice Cream", vanilla flavour with passionfruit sauce and pink chocolate hearts (pounds 1.89 for 500ml) and Valentine's strawberry and passionfruit yoghurt (27p).

For something more substantial, M&S have large heart-shaped cakes emblazoned with "For my Valentine" (pounds 3.99 for Madeira, pounds 4.99 for chocolate), but if the message you want to send out is a bit more risque try South Bank bakery Konditor & Cook (0171-261 0456). According to general manager Mark Ryan their "horny gingerbread men" are selling like hotcakes. The men, who resemble the Cerne Abbas Giant, have "stylised bits and bobs in a kitsch but tasteful kind of way", says Mark. (The men sell for pounds 1.95 and 30p goes to the charity Food Chain.)

The shop at 22 Cornwall Street SE1 also sells what have become known as "magic cakes", small cakes with suggestive messages on them. "We call them that," says Mark, "because we get people who buy one on a Friday to leave on someone's desk and then they come back in on Monday trembling and aching all over. They have an unbelievable effect!"

An alternative to Valentine's Day champagne is Cupid's Ale. This English ale (Asda pounds 1.49 for 500ml) has a slightly red hue due to the added ginseng, reputed to boost energy and vitality. It may be just what you need tonight.

The Foods of Love

Whether foods can indeed be aphrodisiac is open to debate (one imagines it depends very much on who you're sharing them with) but chefs and food manufacturers are now adding all sorts of ingredients to our meals in the name of St Valentine.

Rhino Horn: This was an old favourite on Valentine's night until people realised that the rhino might not be benefiting much from it.

Ginseng: Now cropping up in everything from beer to sausages. Known traditionally as "man root" due to its distinctive shape.

Oysters: Oysters have always been linked to love; no Roman orgy was complete without them and Casanova is supposed to have consumed 60 a day. There are, however, scientific reasons for the link. Oysters are high in zinc which improves male fertility. They also contain dolpamine which "provokes sexual interest", according to oyster expert Shirley Line.

Figs: They've always had a reputation for being erotic thanks to Adam and Eve, and in some countries figs are thrown (gently one hopes) at newlyweds as a fertility rite.

Asparagus: Because of its shape and the rather sensual way we eat it, asparagus has always been linked with sex. The famous herbalist Culpeper once wrote that it "stirreth up bodily lust in man or woman".

Caviar: There is no scientific proof that caviar is an aphrodisiac but it is mentioned in connection with seduction in everything from Russian poetry to Persian stories. Maybe the link could simply be its cost which makes people think "Wow, if they've spent that much on me they must care!".

Passionfruit: Although it'll probably be on every dessert menu tonight it wasn't actually named after the rumpy-pumpy kind of passion. The fruit gets its name from the flowers which apparently resemble the instruments of the crucifixion.

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