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Do They really Work?

April 22, 1998

Do they work? That's the first question most people asked when they heard that aphrodisiac recipes were being tested in The Times Test Kitchen. We'll let Isabel Allende answer that question by quoting a passage from her new book, "Aphrodite."

"We called on volunteers of both sexes and diverse races, subjects over forty years old, since even a cup of chamomile tea turns on the young, which would have skewed our statistics. After inviting our guests to dinner and observing their conduct, we took painstaking measurements and noted down the results.

"They were quite similar to those I had obtained years ago when I was working as a journalist and had to write a report on the efficacy of black magic in Venezuela. Subjects who knew they were the target of voodoo rites began to rave and expel demonic humors; pimples erupted in their throats and their hair fell out. In contrast, subjects who remained in happy ignorance went on as prosperously as before.

"In the case of this book, friends who, as they enjoyed the aphrodisiacs, were informed of their power confessed to delicious thoughts, winged impulses, fits of perverse imagination and secretive behavior, while those who knew nothing about the experiment devoured the fare without visible change.

"Twice it was enough to leave the manuscript on the table, with the title in full view, for the aphrodisiac to take effect; table companions began nibbling each other's ears even before we served dinner. From which I deduce that, as in the case of black magic, it is a good idea to notify the participants. That way you save time and effort."

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