Spices, Love, and Chili


Front cover of The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight by Muhammad al-Nafzawi, translated by Richard Francis Burton; 1883, originally 1410–1434. Via Wikimedia Commons.

TAWNYA MANION (ORIGINALLY PUB JANUARY 2013)

Spices play an intricate part in how  we experience flavors of different dishes. However, they add more than just gusto to edibles. They actualize notes of different cultures, replicate familiarity, and assist in healing the body. But why are spices rumored to possess aphrodisiac qualities? Historically, the use of cinnamon, myrrh, saffron, and ginger show up in a variety of different ancient texts, including, the Songs of Solomon, Proverbs, and Psalms from the Old Testament; the Arab’s Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight; and the Hindu’s Kama Sutra. In these books the application of herbs and spices are used to perfume a room, warm a bed, excited the tongue, and rub into the skin.

Spices consist of a blend of chemicals that compose their potent smells and tastes. Cinnamon contains Eugene and Cinnamaldehyde, which masks bad body odor, increases circulation throughout the entire anatomy, and produces a tingling or numbing feeling when applied directly to the skin. Ginger possess Gingerold and Zingiberene. These chemicals increase blood flow, work as an anti-inflammatory, and quiet an upset stomach. Saffron, the stigma of the S. crocus plant, consist of Picrocrocin, an alchemical that produces a number of antioxidants in its threads. Traditionally, saffron was used as an antiseptic, anti-colsant, and as a digestive aid. Cadinene, Heerabolene, and Limonene are the active constituents in myrrh. This spice is commonly used in North Africa and is used to heal digestive and respiratory disorders, along with treat skin irritations and infections. The fragrance of myrrh is said to assist in meditation and in rejuvenation of the body, mind, and soul. Though these components do not produce exact aphrodisiacal effects, their health benefits give the body the strength needed to perform the act of physical love. Furthermore, the rich scent coupled with the stimulating impact spices have on the taste buds creates a heady reputation of love promoting effects especially before modern medicine.

Bundles of cinnamon; Sam Mugraby, Photos8.com. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Spices can be added to just about every dish. I like to add cinnamon to my chili, ginger to my morning juice cocktail, and saffron to fish or rice dishes. My only experience with myrrh is as incense. Another great way to add more ginger to your diet is shred up a two inch section of the root, put in a tea bag, and seep in boiled or simmered water for five to ten minutes. An important note about spices is that they do lose their potency and flavor over time. Generally, a spice will stay good for about one year after it is opened. I like to buy mine from a company called Tsp Spices, which packages organic spices in individual pre-measured teaspoon sealed packets. This ensures that every time you cook with a seasoning you know it’s fresh.

The luxurious reputation and folklore surrounding spices is not based on science, but on rarity and its use to exemplify riches. Even modern love uses the fragrances of different spices to catalyze romantic love by tantalizing the sense of smell and creating a lasting impression remembered by the subconscious. However, in the context of this aphrodisiac food column, seasonings added to cookery activates  alleged stimulating effects due to the chemicals that give a particular sustenance its tonicity.

Cinnamon Spiked Chili

SERVES 4

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2  cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 gloves garlic, made into a paste
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1-pound ground sirloin
  • 1 24-oz jar of fire roasted crushed tomatoes, or regular crushed tomatoes
  • 2-cups kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp. chili seasoning
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream (optional)

Put canola oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer and move easily around the pan add the onions, garlic, and peppers, then sauté until the onions are translucent, about five to seven minutes.

Add the hamburger meat and break apart the clumps. Stir the meat until the pink color turns brown.

Once the meat is almost cooked through add the crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, and spices stir until the tomatoes begin to boil. Once the mixture boils turn the heat down to low, and let simmer for at least thirty minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the chili does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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