CASANOVA scoffed oysters by the dozen and even Cleopatra may have exploited a cabinet full of arousing potions to woo swithering lovers.
Now there is a new bid to promote the romantic qualities of food, in the refined settings of the Royal Botanic Garden.
The facts behind aphrodisiacs will be laid bare at a new food festival being launched in the city.
Dubbed “Science on a Plate”, the ten-day even is the first combined science and food festival in Scotland and will run alongside the city’s International Science Festival from March 31 to April 9.
Organisers will serve up a feast of hands-on activities for all the family aimed at encouraging people to think more about food, its origins and its controversies.
One adults-only segment of the event is a session with Mark Douglas-Hill, author of the Aphrodisiac Encyclopedia: A Compendium of Culinary Come-Ons.
The 34-year-old Londoner, who researched the mythology and science behind so-called sex foods, will cook up several dishes believed to perk up life beneath the sheets before sharing out the carnal canapés with his audience.
A qualified psychologist and chef, Mr Douglas-Hill began researching the book while still a student at Edinburgh University and said speaking at Science on a Plate festival will be like a homecoming.
“I’ve always been interested in the nutritional and psychological side of food but the most interesting aspect of that is the long-held tradition of aphrodisiacs,” he said.
He said the nutritional and psychological properties of ingredients were analysed before he assessed whether there was any substance to their reputation.
“A lot of them do [work] for different reasons,” he said. “The most compelling argument is for oysters, mussels and the whole family of bivalve molluscs. There has been some research looking at two amino acids that build up before the oyster spawns and these have been tested and have been shown to increase sexual activity in their control groups.”
Asked if he expects a romantic response from his audience, Mr Douglas-Hill said: “I think it’s almost inevitable.”
Ian Edwards, head of interpretation and events at the Botanics, said: “We have wanted to do this for quite a long time. “There’s a lot of myths about what is or is not an aphrodisiac like chocolates and oysters. There has not really been much authority but we have managed to track down someone who has produced an encyclopedia of aphrodisiacs. There seems to be a lot of science behind what the experts are saying.”
Science on a Plate will also boast cookery demonstrations bringing together Scotland’s finest chefs and top scientists and a “Scientist at your Table” meal offering fine dining interwoven with lively debates on controversial food topics.
Foraging experts will also host a walk identifying edible outdoor morsels, while a fairtrade tea party will be held.