Europe

The History of Oysters

The notion that oysters are an aphrodisiac is legendary. In Greek mythology, when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, emerged from the sea, she emerged on an oyster shell. And then she gave birth to Eros, the god of intimate, erotic, romantic love. Thus the aphrodisiac connotation.

The Roman emperors believed in it. Why do you think they paid a fortune for oysters, including having some shipped to Rome from Cancale, France?! Those Greeks and Romans got a lot right, so few have questioned their belief in oysters. Certainly not Giacomo Casanova, the paragon of promiscuous lovers, who reportedly ate fifty to sixty raw oysters a day, with a dozen for breakfast being a restorative. (By the way, some people believe raw oysters are a great hangover remedy, providing lots of B12, zinc, dopamine, and electrolytes, as well as protein, to quickly recharge oneself.)

Casanova was something else. In his memoirs he confessed to seducing a total of 122 women in his native Italy, in Paris where he lived, and in Europe where he traveled. He had one novel suggestion for how to eat an oyster: “I placed the shell on the edge of her lips and after a good deal of laughing, she sucked in the oyster, which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my lips on hers.”

There is not yet compelling scientific proof of oysters’ aphrodisiac powers, but there is an often-cited 2005 American-Italian scientific study that discovered that oysters are rich in two kinds of amino acids associated with increased levels of sex hormones. In addition, oysters are especially rich in zinc, which aids in the production of testosterone. So, who knows? But what I do know is that an idea is a powerful stimulant. So if you believe raw oysters are an aphrodisiac, then that thought, accompanied by a few juicy raw oysters, may well stimulate the libido. Amen.

Mireille Guiliano, Meet Paris Oyster: A Love Affair with the Perfect Food, 2014

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