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February 11, 2014 / theyellowbungalowla

a passionate (and delicious!) way to celebrate valentine’s day…

Spiced & Honeyed Beet Dip was one of the recipes featured in a recent class I attended at the Getty Villa.  Beets are considered an aphrodisiac because they can increase blood flow.  They also contain high amounts of boron, which is integral to the production of human sex hormones.

Spiced & Honeyed Beet Dip was one of the recipes featured in a recent class I attended at the Getty Villa. Beets are considered an aphrodisiac because they can increase blood flow. They also contain high amounts of boron, which is integral to the production of human sex hormones.

To me, Valentine’s Day sparks thoughts of sticky-sweet candy, heart-shaped chocolates, and a pile of small, red & pink cards from every one of my classmates, prompted by my grade school’s insistence that students must award their attention fairly to the entire class.  Later on in junior high and high school, my father began sending a bouquet of flowers to both my sister and me to honor Valentine’s Day.  I suspect he began doing so one year as the holiday approached and one (or both) of us had experienced a broken heart and would surely not receive anything special from a suitor.  In anticipation of tears, he began a tradition that continued for many years.   The tradition continued all the way up until I moved out to California.  As he had every year, my father sent a bouquet for Valentine’s Day but the delivery was made to a neighboring apartment complex rather than mine, which I think discouraged him and ended the tradition. Today, Valentine’s Day comes and goes with a little more than a couple of cards shared between my husband and I, maybe dinner plans or an afternoon at the spa, both of us willing to give the holiday to the young and passionate.

One of the groups in our cooking class created this platter of grilled chicken skewers with basil almond pesto.  Almonds are associated with fertility due to their aroma, which is thought to arouse passion in females.  Basil is also thought to stimulate sex drive and boost fertility, and its scent is used to induce an overall sense of well-being.

One of the groups in our cooking class created this platter of grilled chicken skewers with basil almond pesto. Almonds are associated with fertility due to their aroma, which is thought to arouse passion in females. Basil is also thought to stimulate sex drive and boost fertility, and its scent is thought to create an overall sense of well-being.

Last week, however, I experienced a new take on Valentines Day, one that combined food, culture, and art in a compelling and delicious way.  I signed up for “Aphrodisiac Cocktail Party” at the encouragement of a friend who insisted that the culinary workshops held at the Getty were well worth their investment.  I had attempted to sign up for these classes in the past but with no luck; they fill up quickly, typically selling out like a sought-after concert.  However this experience takes place on the breathtaking grounds of the Getty Villa rather than in a packed arena.  The class was hosted by Maite Gomez-Rejon of ArtBites, the company she founded that blends her love of food and art history.  Maite’s background includes both a culinary degree (from the French Culinary Institute) as well as a master’s degree in fine art.  And when you add the Getty Villa’s incredible collection of art to the mix, well, you’ve got a very compelling (and delicious) afternoon.

In class we created this delicious platter of dates stuffed with pomegranate arils, pistachios, and mascarpone cheese.  Some say that it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Adam & Eve feasted upon in the Garden of Eden.

My group created this delicious platter of dates stuffed with pomegranate arils, pistachios, and mascarpone cheese. Some say that it was not an apple but a pomegranate that Adam & Eve feasted upon in the Garden of Eden.

After briefly meeting up in a classroom, the group toured through the museum for almost 90 minutes. Maite stopped along the way to highlight specific pieces and to discuss their significance to our gathering. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and pleasure, was a major theme of the works we examined on our tour. We viewed statues, storage jars, jewelry, and other pieces while Maite shared stories about how the Greeks and Romans viewed food, sex, and pleasure. I found it fascinating to learn that so many foods that we enjoy today were considered aphrodisiacs in the ancient world. Phallic and sex organ-shaped foods, such as asparaguas, peaches, and figs has long been considered aphrodisiacs. More interesting, I learned that the association of seafood as an aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, who is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea.

This gorgeous platter of seared scallops with a green herb sauce utilizes several foods that are considered aphrodisiacs.  Seafood is considered an aphrodisiac thanks to Aphrodite; their shape is also very suggestive.    Herbs were associated with health and vitality, creating a mood that could lead to passion.

This gorgeous platter of seared scallops with a green herb sauce utilizes several foods that are considered aphrodisiacs. Seafood is considered an aphrodisiac thanks to Aphrodite; their shape is also very suggestive. Herbs were associated with health and vitality, creating a mood that could lead to passion.

After a fascinating and inspiring tour of the museum, we met back in the classroom to cook through the recipes Maite had created, all of which included at least one ingredient considered an aphrodisiac. What I found interesting is that while some of the students came with a friend or two, most of us were meeting each other for the first time. The cooking began tentatively as each student wandered to a station and introduced her or himself to the other students at that station. The cooking might have begun slowly but soon the room was full of chatter, each of us exchanging ideas and suggestions and bonding over this shared experience of preparing food together. A drink station that included two different cocktail recipes, one using peach juice and the other using rose syrup, served as another point of interaction. As one student would make a drink and exclaim it delicious, other students would wander over to find out what the fuss was about, joining in the fun.

Peaches have long been associated with sex because of their shape.  This recipe also included rosemary, which was commonly used in wedding bouquets throughout the ancient world.  Rosemary is thought to promote sweet dreams.

Peaches have long been associated with sex because of their shape. This recipe also included rosemary, which was commonly used in wedding bouquets throughout the ancient world. Rosemary is thought to promote sweet dreams.

Once all the food was prepared, our group moved into another room that set with tables meant for sharing the meal together. We all took turns walking through a gorgeous buffet of our creations, chatting and laughing like one big, happy family. In that moment, I was reminded how powerful food is to our basic human experience. We came together to learn about the foods that inspired art and created culture throughout ancient times. However, we also shared the experience with one another, “breaking bread” in the most basic, humanistic way. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and has forever changed that way that I view Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to Maite Gomez-Rejon of ArtBites and the Getty Villa for creating an interesting, high-quality course.

For future art + food-related events with Maite, check out her schedule here.

You may also like to familiarize yourself with the incredible offering at both the Getty and the Getty Villa, calendar found here.

After cooking through all the recipes, our group sat down to a delicious meal of aphrodisiac-inspred foods.

After cooking through all the recipes, our group sat down to a delicious meal of aphrodisiac-inspred foods.

One Comment

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  1. morganione / Mar 16 2014 6:32 am

    I am a fan! I LOVE the photos and inspiration on this blog! Do you have a recipe for the peach and rosemary cocktail?

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