I'm perhaps the world's biggest opponent to the concept of aphrodisiacs, mainly because I've dated a field hockey team's worth of women who are revolted by my love of oysters and who refused to be kissed for at least 24 hours after said ingestion. On my own side, I can go months without eating chocolate and when I finally do, it's just another flavor, nothing special. This cookbook arrived as an anonymous gift or possibly a press sample--there was no documentation, but I remember the original debut well.
The New InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook
by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge
$16, 208 pp.
This is the 2007 update of the 1997 InterCourses, written by Memphians and featuring models and stories from this area. It achieved a kind of fame as a slightly racy wedding present, and while there are a lot of double entendres and seductive photos, there's nothing really naughty or scandalous about the book. The photography is stunning, and you'll never look at smoked salmon the same way again. But as always, it doesn't matter how pretty the plates are or how lovingly the type is set. At the end, it all comes down to the food, and this book delivers.
Most of the recipes are my favorite type: not too filling but seriously high on flavor. In my continuing hope that men of my generation become better cooks, you don't impress a date by throwing the eight pound brick of frozen Wal-Mart meatloaf in the oven. Dumping melted Velveeta over spaghetti doesn't cut it either, and if the two of you survive the meal you're just going to be reaching for medicine rather than each other. I love that the book has an entire chapter on figs, an ingredient that doesn't get enough love outside of the Newton form. And a chapter on pine nuts! And basil! Each ingredient gets three or four recipes, a story, and with the current edition, an update on those stories a decade later.
It's very Mediterranean in its approach, and back in 1997 that was a real revelation to me--and an even bigger surprise that such an eclectic cookbook would be written in my home town. I'd been to Italy the year before with the girlfriend at the time and I was primed for that kind of approach to cooking. I've gone through various waves and phases over the years, but even today on a date, my goal is to keep it light, keep it fun, and focus on flavor and balance more than anything else.
For more background on the book, there's a great interview with Hopkins about her self-publishing success, and of course there is additional content at the InterCourses website.