Robb Report Vices

Amorous Affairs on the Half Shell

Are oysters really aphrodisiacs? I’m asked that question every time I present an oyster-and-wine-pairing seminar, host a group of oyster lovers out at the farm, or train a restaurant’s staff. I am far from the first to opine on the subject, but I do have my own take on what I consider to be the most interesting, storied, and—yes—arousing of all foods and rituals.

For years we’ve known that oysters are loaded with zinc and amino acids that support brain function, and since the brain is the largest sexual organ (aside from the skin), it stands to reason that eating oysters will turn us on.

Oysters are among the most virile and fertile creatures on the planet. Not only is most of their body mass dedicated to reproduction, but these bivalves also dedicate most of their time and energy to the production of sperm or egg in the summer spawning season—their sexual organs can produce both. Will eating fertile or virile things put you in the mood? Science can’t prove the connection, but I believe that an undeniable psychological effect does take place.

Also, eating oysters, in my opinion, suggests that you are daring, taboo, or wild, willing to consume things others are not. Don’t misconstrue: “I’ll try the Kumamotos” doesn’t translate to “Yes, let’s get undressed right after dinner.” But at the very least, oysters are indulgences and the act of indulging oftentimes can help to set the mood.

Finally, we can’t ignore the consumption itself. Choosing your oysters, dressing them, delicately slurping them from the shell, savoring them... it’s all foreplay.

Kevin Joseph is an oyster aficionado, a cofounder of New York Oyster Week, and the director of sales and marketing for the Blue Island Oyster Company.