There are an astonishing number of Caribbean beverages and soups reputed to be aphrodisiacs. Mannish water, bull foot soup and creole fish broth will put lead in your pencil. Mauby, ginger beer and peanut punch are good for the wood. Or so they say.
Then there’s bois bandé, popular in St. Lucia, Dominica, Trinidad, and even Paris, France. According to the Caribbean edition of the wonderful Culinaria series of cookbooks, Trinidadian priest Father Michael de Verreuille confirms the pencil sharpening abilities of bois bandé in his book, Scientific Sorties. He also points out the danger of over indulgence, reporting that ”the result of this hedonistic greed is that erections are obtained more permanent that the huts which are thrown up around the Savannah at Carnival time.” There is apparently no treatment for an aphrodisiacal overdose other than “a bed covered with a low tent…and also tolerence for the occasional unsuppressed snicker on the part of attendant nurses or visitors.” Oh dear.
Another stimulating beverage is made from sea moss or seaweed, called Irish moss in Jamaica. Sea moss drink is popular with both men and women and is said to amplify general energy levels in both sexes. I bought some dried sea moss at the Jamaican shop a few weeks ago and thought I’d see if it could raise my energy, still flagging after a bout of flu.
I read several different recipes and the most noted difference between them was that some recipes advocated washing your sea moss in a mixture of lime juice and water before cooking it, while others said that all the good stuff will be washed away if you rinse sea moss after it has been dried. I decided not to rinse, which is probably why my kitchen still smells like the Beef Island salt pond at low tide.
After it’s spiced, boiled and strained, the sea moss liquid thickens into a gel, not unlike grey jello. The sea moss gel is then blended with evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk to make a sea moss love potion. Interestingly, of our three taste testers (Devica, Bones and myself), only Bones really liked it. Devica and I found it went down better with the addition of a shot of rum and a grating of fresh nutmeg. And a dozen oysters on the half shell.
I think sea moss drink must be an acquired taste. Maybe it’s a guy thing. I won’t be making this one again but I’m giving you the recipe in case you’re interested. Or in case you can’t afford Viagra.
2 cups of dried sea moss
8 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
a 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced into 2 or 3 pieces
4-5 dried allspice berries
Put all of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the mixture for an hour. Strain the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. As it cools, it will gel, like jello. To make the sea moss drink, put 1 cup of the sea moss gel into a blender, add a half a can of evaporated milk and a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Add a handful of ice, blend until smooth and serve.