A couple stepped up to the counter of a local Grenada eatery to order lunch. “Fried fish and a couple of bakes,” the woman ordered.
“What to drink?” asked the smiling young girl behind the counter.
“Fruit punch for me, and …” the women gave her husband a nudging look to answer for himself.
“What’s the sea moss?” he inquired. The counter girl blushed, and motioned for the chef to come out front. As he repeated the question, a big grin spread across the chef’s face.
Conspiratorially, the chef leaned close to the customer’s ear and whispered: “Try it, it’s good for your …” His deft hand motion pointing downward instantly made clear the potent powers this drink proposed.
“I’ll have the sea moss,” said the husband.
The sensualness of the sun, sand and sea creates the mood for love 365 days a year in the Caribbean. Like other areas of the world, there are foods like sea moss and several others that legend tells can enhance Cupid’s powers.
Sea moss, or Irish moss, is a marine plant that grows in profusion along the shorelines of many islands. The plant is fan shaped, with finger-like prongs. It becomes translucent when first harvested, and creamy white when mixed with evaporated milk, vanilla and sugar into an invigorating drink. Island men covet this brew as their own special form of Viagra.
The sea also provides other aphrodisiacs like sea eggs and oysters. Sea eggs are the roe of the white sea urchin, which is found in the relatively shallow waters surrounding the islands. Entering through this spiny shell offers the enticing reward of a mound of soft, slightly salty tasting eggs inside. Sea eggs found on island restaurant menus are often cooked and flavored with other ingredients, but their virile powers are best when sucked down raw right off the shell. The same raw recipe stands true for the aphrodisiac powers of oysters. Global food historians tell that Casanova ate 50 raw oysters every morning in the bathtub with the lady he fancied. Island men often go one better than Casanova, for the mangrove-tree oyster of the Caribbean is a scant two inches long. It takes a great many to satisfy one appetite and spark another.
Island residents lead a spicy life, thanks to the trinity of celery, onion and garlic. This mixture is what gives most soups, stews and entrees their exotic taste. Long celery stalks, by virtue of their shape, elicit thoughts of love. But islanders will tell you that it’s celery seed that is even more vitalizing, especially when crushed and added to a flavorful dish. Onions take their passionate potency from their pungent fire. An old West Indian wives’ tale warns (or wishes) that men who make-up a paste of onion juice and honey and apply it repeatedly to an unwilling member may wind up having that recalcitrant fellow standing at attention for days. Garlic’s aphrodisiacal effect is rooted in its power to produce a wonderful feeling of well-being after a meal. The tomato too is also found in many Creole Caribbean dishes. Its red heart-shape has earned it the name ‘love apple’.
Some of the Caribbean’s Garden of Eden fruits speak of love from their obvious, almost embarrassing, resemblance to those two anatomical founts of joy. Bananas and plantains mimic the male member. Avocados, once cut in half, look like the gentler sex. Cocoa pods are also female in their appearance. Long ago in the Mexican Caribbean, the Aztec chief Montezuma is said to have consumed over 50 cups a day of a cocoa drink made from crushed cocoa, chili peppers and snow. Perhaps it was the caffeine buzz that set him afire for the village women folk.
Back in Grenada, the nutmeg too – an essential ingredient in sea moss – holds Cupid powers of its own. A half-nut quantity works men up ‘like a stallion’ according to the lyrics of one of Jamaican-born Beenie Man’s songs.
Do any of these foods really work? Who knows? However, the couple who had ordered the sea moss at the food truck said days later that they’d never tell—all the while wearing big smiles.