The rising popularity of the original aphrodisiac
The famed lover Casanova was known to have dined on 50 raw oysters every morning for breakfast but could that really explain his 120-plus sexual partners? Compared to lush indulgent foods like wine and chocolate it’s hard to imagine that briny slimy oysters could make anyone even just a little randy.
The most common explanation for oyster’s aphrodisiac status is that they have a similar shape and texture to female genitalia. There also seems to be a lot of folklore bolstering oyster’s reputation.
“[The word aphrodisiac] is based off of Aphrodite the goddess of love who was born of the sea. So in folklore raw seafood is considered an aphrodisiac” says CJ Joyce general manager at National 17 home of one of the city’s popular “buck-a-shuck” nights.
Chef Eric Giesbrecht owner of Meta4 Foods a wholesale company that specializes in oysters and shellfish and its catering/retail arm OysterTribe believes that it’s not the oyster itself but the eating experience that is arousing.
“I think it’s more of a psychological group behaviour that is more metaphorically aligned with sex” he says. “There’s oyster ‘virgins’ who are very curious about what an oyster tastes like what does it feel like what’s going on how do I do it. There’s the same nervous tension [around eating oysters as around sex] because you’re putting a live food raw in your body; there’s an intimacy there that harkens to the sexual experience.”
There is some scientific evidence that oysters may promote sexual function in addition to desire. It has the highest concentration of zinc compared to any other food — one oyster contains more than the daily recommended intake. Zinc plays a role in sperm production and deficiencies have been linked to decreased testosterone levels and infertility.
A 2005 study also found that bivalve molluscs like oysters mussels and clams contain two rare amino acids — D-aspartic acid and N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) — that when injected into rats increased sex hormone production making them more sexually active.
Aphrodisiac or not Calgarians are falling in love with oysters. Giesbrecht reports that business has doubled annually since Meta4 Foods opened in 2010. Heesung Kim president/co-owner of The Embarcadero Wine & Oyster Bar estimates that her restaurant sells 2000 to 3000 oysters in an average week.
“I would say in the last five years oysters have become a lot more trendy” says Kim. “Fifteen years ago we would have our regulars who love oysters but not quite so many people who would come in just to try them.”
Giesbrecht says that Calgarians are demanding higher quality food and asking more questions about where their food comes from. He credits the popularity of small plates and the subsequent increase in more casual dining experiences where people share their food instead of ordering individual entrées for helping bring oysters or “the original small plate” to the limelight.
“There’s a demand for oysters because they are the epitome and the essence of the ocean” he says. “If somebody’s going to serve seafood at a restaurant you might as well taste the cleanest crispest mouthful of ocean water you can get and have an oyster.”
Kim points out that oysters are a healthful choice citing that it is a low-calorie high-protein nutrient-dense food that is gluten-free and Paleo-friendly. Joyce believes there are some who are curious about oysters’ aphrodisiac qualities then get hooked on the experience.
“People think ‘I’m gonna get some action let’s get some oysters’” he says. “But once they start eating them they realize that they’re really really good”
CHEAP DATE: $1 OYSTERS AROUND CALGARY
MONDAY: WINEBAR KENSINGTON
Winebar offers the larger meatier brinier Pacific oysters for $1 apiece on Monday nights; fans of their East Coast counterparts will have to pay double.
TUESDAY: NATIONAL (BOTH LOCATIONS)
National 10 th and National 17 th both offer over 100 beers and ciders to pair with your oysters. Light citrusy lagers and IPAs Belgian lambics and dry stouts are your best bets.
Don’t start your evening too early as Roosevelt’s oyster special doesn’t start till 5 p.m. Its sister restaurants on 17th (80th & Ivy 1410 Bier Haus) have buck-a-shuck on Mondays and Thursdays respectively.
THURSDAY: PARKERHOUSE GRILL & WINE BAR
Cheap oysters does not have to mean crowds and loud music. Enjoy a classier buck-a-shuck after 4 p.m. on Thursdays at Parkerhouse.
DAILY: THE EMBARCADERO WINE & OYSTER BAR
Not exactly “buck-a-shuck” but The Embarcadero offers a $1.25 oyster feature every day . There are always at least six types of oysters available so a good opportunity to find your favourite.