Are oysters an aphrodisiac?
– Rocco Schmidt, Mereaux
Oh, for the person who can give a definite answer to the question! What is definitely true is that the legend has existed, some say going back to Roman times. (Although the Romans probably never needed much to get started, if you know what I mean.) There have been some studies that point to the amino acids found in bi-valves of any type as definite influences. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine there was a presentation at the American Chemical Society in which a chemist, George Fisher, and some colleagues studied some shellfish and discovered that mussels contained the D-Aspartic amino acid which has been found to increase the level of sex hormones in lab rats.
Even though the study did not involve oysters, Fisher was quoted in several publications speculating that perhaps the amino acid could contribute to an aphrodisiac effect. The effect of D-Aspartic acid in humans is still being studied. It may increase testosterone in sedentary men, but what it can do beyond that is not clear. Poydras is excited, though, because he is the ultimate sedentary man.
So, there is nothing conclusive, though oysters’ greatest romantic effect may be as a starter dish for a candlelight dinner, or for the hedonistic joy that comes with a crispy oyster poorboy and a chilled beer. Meanwhile, Poydras claims that lab rats are drinking more Champagne these days.
My friend tells me that Oysters Rockefeller was invented in New Orleans to honor John Rockefeller who rode as Rex. Is that true?
– Felicia Jane Jones, New Orleans
Only one part of that question is true, Felicia. Oysters Rockefeller was invented in New Orleans, but John D. never reigned as Rex, nor are we sure that he ever came here.
Oysters Rockefeller is a baked oyster dish in which the oyster is served hot on a half shell topped with a green sauce and breadcrumbs.
Antoine Alciatore, the founder of Antoine’s, created the dish in1899 supposedly to provide an alternative for a shortage of escargot. (Don’t you hate when that happens?) The dish gets its name because of the green topping being the color of money, hence the linkage to Rockefeller. Conventional wisdom often has it that the topping is made with spinach, although some Antoine’s insiders, who should know, say otherwise. A 1986 analysis of the green topping by researcher William Poundstone for a food TV show (“Bigger Secrets”) identified the green as being made from parsley, pureed and strained celery, scallions or chives, olive oil, and capers. No spinach, though I suspect that the further away the dish is made from Antoine’s the more often spinach becomes an easy answer. Oh, when done right, the sauce that accumulates in the shell is great for dipping with warm French bread, Ok, I will give in: The sauce tastes like a million bucks.
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