That, at least, is the recommendation of an Italian psychiatrist at the University of Geneva, Willy Pasini, who has been writing about food and sex for years. According to his latest research, copiously reported in this month's issue of the glossy magazine Class, there is nothing in the kitchen more sexually enticing than a big, sloppy bowl of polenta, the ground cornmeal mush eaten as a hearty winter filler in the north Italian plains.
Apparently, cornmeal is unusually low in a hormone called triptophane, which along with a related substance called serotonin usually makes people sleepy after they have eaten. Polenta is thus liable to keep you up until all hours, in every sense.
"Experiments with laboratory rats have shown that a solid maize diet over five days drives the little beasts into a frenzy of copulation, even making them forget their sexual orientation," Professor Pasini reports.
So does that mean that half of northern Italy jumps in and out of bed with each other, irrespective of gender, during periods of cold weather? No, explains the professor, who is himself from Milan; humans can only take so much polenta at any one sitting without becoming distinctly antisocial. "In very large doses, maize provokes flatulence," he said.
Professor Pasini, who is also a member of the Italian Cookery Academy, has some more conventional aphrodisiacs to offer: sparkling wine, seafood starters, fresh fruit, especially peaches, and chocolate. One more unusual suggestion is frogs' legs, which contain safe but suggestive quantities of cantharidin, the toxic stimulant most notoriously found in Spanish fly.
But it does not seem such recommendations make much of an impression on would-be Latin lovers, despite the abundance of potions and strange remedies around Italy. Opinion polls show only 5 per cent of Italians even think about aphrodisiacs when planning a romantic dinner with a new flame.