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Austin Chronicle Hippo Snouts and Hyena Eyeballs

It's Strange but True What People Will Put in Their Mouths

By Mick Vann

AUGUST 14, 2000:  The term "aphrodisiac" comes from that famous goddess of love, Aphrodite. She's the one who popped into our earthly realm from the scallop shell to bring us mortals the stuff that Barry White and Marvin Gaye sang about so eloquently. And through the years, just about every edible thing imaginable, and some stuff even the most jaded imagination can barely contemplate, has been used to gird the loins of the hapless horny male. Remember: It's almost always the guys who feel the need to produce seed.

The Romans preferred exotic items such as hippo snouts and hyena eyeballs, as well as the venerable onion. And in the 16th-century Arabic love guide The Perfumed Garden, tales were spun of the priapic lover who remained constantly erect for 30 straight days simply by gobbling onions through the course of his lovemaking. The cacao bean harvest for the Aztecs created orgiastic rituals that went on for weeks, and Monteczuma himself is said to have primed his pump with 50 cups of cacao drink before servicing his 600 wives. Whew! We need to rest a minute after that one.

Tomatoes were first thought to be the famous forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden when they were brought over from the New World, and were called "love apples." And the avocado that makes us so hot for the sack after gorging on guacamole was named after the Aztec word ahuacatl, which was also their term for testicles.

But today, especially in the Orient, the aphrodisiacs just keep getting weirder. There is absolutely no end to the whacked-out stuff the aphrodisiac junkie can conjure up. Most of these tasty tidbits fall into one of four categories. First, there are, of course, foods that resemble genitalia, such as the peter pepper and the oyster. Second are items that are prohibitively expensive or difficult to obtain, such as caviar. This is a strange category that seems to follow an illogical path, assuming that wealth = rank = power = sexual potency -- kind of like the Ferrari freaks found around town. Third is the consumption of the actual genitals of poor hapless animals that are usually considered fierce or frisky. And fourth is the class of foods that are out-and-out life-threatening.

Consider the menu of The Snake King Completely Restaurant in Guandong, China. They serve snake 75 different ways, and all of them are considered excellent sources for strengthening the yang. And they specialize in "Five Snake Wine," each bottle of which contains five snakes. The drinkers hope to get lucky, since five is considered the most favorable number, and it's packed full of snakes (and we assume a high yang yield). Or the restaurant in LeMat, Vietnam, where, before ordering, a cobra is brought to your table with its throbbing heart excised and popped into a shot glass, the blood and bile added in, and the shot glass topped off with a brandy composed of fermented snake and rice whiskey. Think of the possibilities!

Dog is thought to be very beneficial for the yang, and it is usually one of the ingredients in "Five Penis Wine" found in China. Dog genitals are sold at market in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, and they are used in soup and wine to warm the blood and enhance virility. In Vietnam, four raw cat gall bladders pickled in wine are tops for exciting the men, but cats enjoy the luxury of eating rats, which eat the rice, so they are more immune from consumption.

Penis eating extends to the bull "pizzler," which can be found frozen in markets, and environmentalists go ballistic when they see dried tiger penis or powdered rhino horn offered for sale at incredibly exorbitant prices. These units naturally offer the strength and stamina of the beasts to the diner. Ironically, wildlife conservationists are praising the growing black market in Viagra sales, because it's caused a huge drop in the slaughter of endangered species used in aphrodisiac production.

In China, sea cucumber is called the "Ginseng of the Sea," because it has a long, thick, muscular form that swells to the touch. Shark's fin soup has long been known as a penile stimulant, and even jellyfish are highly sought after. But the weirdest of the sea creatures is the fugu blowfish consumed in Japan. Pulverized fugu genitals mixed with hot sake is the hot ticket. It's highly illegal, incredibly expensive, and amazingly dangerous. Fugu toxin, if improperly prepared, is 250 times more deadly than cyanide, and some 20 diners per year in Japan succumb to its lure.

The list of bizarre frisky foods seems endless. Balut are the 18-day-old embryos of ducks that are so popular with the Filipinos (we've found these for sale at local Oriental markets). In Vietnam they are called ho bit long, which is not a reference to purchased oral sex. Or consider the delicious durian fruit, described as "carrion in a custard," and "like eating pudding in an outhouse." It's known as the king of fruits, and long believed to stimulate the parts south, but the smell is so offensive that it is universally banned in hotels, rental cars, and airplanes.

Deep-fried tarantulas in Cambodia, bat blood wine in the South Pacific, stewed crocodile meat in Thailand -- we could go on. But before you go in search of this stuff, remember that the mind is the strongest of all aphrodisiacs. Let the bats keep their blood, and for God's sake, the four-footed critters their penises. Develop some real romantic interest in that maybe baby, whether it's for the long or short term, and let the wood sprout naturally. And if all else fails, there's always Viagra.

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