The lights are dim, and shadows hide the speaker's face. The voice is thin and strained. The tape is rolling and the confession begins.
This isn't a Frosted Flakes commercial, and it isn't Oprah.
This is someone who eats for sex, a seeker of aphrodisiacs.
Some people will eat anything. We live in the midst of an invisible subculture of people whose tastes are likely to seem a bit extreme or even macabre to outsiders. These people don't eat for nutrition.
Taking into account the variations that inevitably come with locale and individual taste, this confessor is likely to own up to chowing down on snake blood, animal genitalia, garlic, reindeer meat or antlers, truffles and rock salt from the mines of the southern Pakistani province of Sindh. Luckily, they're not into smorgasbords.
Do you remember your mother telling you to eat your vegetables? Spinach was supposed to make you strong and carrots would give you good eyesight.
Every culture believes that certain foods enhance particular traits or attributes. Some people eat to live, some live to eat, and some people eat aphrodisiac foods to enhance sexual performance.
If you're inclined to experiment, it's time to plate up.
The next time you're in Thailand, you might look for a restaurant that (illegally) serves tiger's penis soup -- assuming that you have no morals or ethics. The tiger's endangered-species status doesn't seem to matter to the impotent and/or self-doubting individuals who are willing to pay upward of $300 a bowl, hoping to put a little tiger in their tanks.
Eating healthy animal organs to strengthen corresponding human organs -- organotherapy -- is believed to date to before Roman times. Deer penis was popular, but for some reason that I'd rather not second-guess, deer testes weren't as popular.
Monkey and cock (i.e., rooster) penises were also on the Roman menu for those seeking stamina or upward mobility. If you wanted a sampler plate, you might add cocks' combs and testicles.
Women had tasty treats of their own. Pig and cow wombs were popular fertility enhancers. They were served stuffed. Thankfully, I couldn't find a recipe for the stuffing.
This diet seems off-putting enough to wonder why adoption and anorexia weren't more common in Rome.
The Romans weren't alone. In The Perfumed Garden, a 16th-century Arabian erotic manual, Sheik al-Nefzawi included this recipe: "Boil an ass's penis together with onions and a large quantity of corn. Feed this dish to fowls, which you eat afterwards. This will increase the size and quantity of a man's penis."
If organ meats don't whet your appetite, consider getting stoned. In some Asian countries, gallstones sell for $550 an ounce. At that price, they're more expensive to ingest than remove. Love isn't cheap.
My favorite on the aphrodisiac menu is ambergris. I just like the name. It's French for "gray amber." If you're lucky, you'll find it washed up on the beach, a little lump of congealed whale sputum. It's an exotic love spice, and it's also used to make perfume.
Not all libido enhancers are odd. Garlic, cloves, walnuts, pine nuts, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla, ginger, asparagus and celery are purported to have aphrodisiac qualities. A trip to the right salad bar might just be the best way to fan the flames of love.
Caviar, oysters and lobster have a long-standing reputation as first courses in a lovers' feast. Restaurants and seafood purveyors all over town sell these performance enhancers by the ounce, on the half-shell or live.
Truffles have a reputation as a tasty fungal treat for the wealthy. Whole Foods Market and AJ's Purveyor of Fine Foods sell truffles. You can buy enough for a healthy taste for less than $20.
If your budget isn't in the caviar bracket, consider some Sindhalu salt. This Pakistani rock salt is supposed to enhance your performance as it seasons your food. It's available in Tempe at India Bazaar, 933 East University, for only $4.99 a pound.
Eating genitalia did not stop in the days of yore. In fact, another bargain booster is the Rocky Mountain Oyster (bull testicles). Many local butchers can get them for you. They're priced by weight, not by the pair.
The Internet has a lot of recipes for the matador's special. Most call for breading and frying these huevos, rather than poaching or scrambling. Beer seems to be the accompanying beverage of choice.
Before you spend a dime, consider whether there's any reason these foods might actually increase sex drive or stamina.
If your partner is impressed with courage, eating penis soup or drinking snake blood might enhance your sex appeal. Maybe it's not the effect of the food on you, but the brave act of ingestion that does the trick. It's the "real men eat tiger" syndrome.
Wealth and power are potent aphrodisiacs. Luxury dishes such as lobster and caviar have an allure all their own. These have been the foods of the privileged for centuries. It just might be the cost of the meal that heats things up.
And everyone knows that feelings of lust are often accompanied by expansion of blood vessels. Spicy foods make us sweat, and make our faces flush. If you feel hot, you just might be hot. Pass the pepper.
The next time you're in a crowd -- at the movies, the mall, or, best of all, the airport -- take a look at the people around you. Who are these people? Do you ever wonder how they live and love, or what they eat?
What we eat and how we love are personal. That's why it's said that there's no accounting for taste.
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How else can you explain women's fascination with Woody Allen? He summed up the relationship between food and sex in a way that makes sense, and still leaves us wanting more: "Sex is like having dinner: Sometimes you joke about the dishes, sometimes you take the meal seriously."
I wonder if that was Woody confessing in the shadows.
Contact Andy Broder at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org