If the argument that leafy greens are nutritious hasn’t gotten you to opt for salads over burgers at lunchtime, then maybe the sex argument will. That is, if the ancient Egyptians, in all their aroused and lecherous divine wisdom, are to be believed.
Smithsonian Mag reports that lettuce—not chocolate, Champagne, or oysters—was all the rage with Ancient Egyptians looking for a libido boost around 2000 B.C. It was so staunchly believed to increase sex drive that it came to be the phallic symbol of the Egyptian god of fertility, Min, who was invariably pictured with an erect penis, and lettuce, in wall paintings and reliefs. It was believed that the green leaf helped him “perform the sexual act untiringly” and achieve the status of a sex god.
Not bad for a relatively insipid leaf that’s been losing out to kale in the salad wars of late. Egyptologists like Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, supposes the sex symbol status of lettuce had much to do with how it grows—namely, straight and tall. Also, it may have gotten its reputation because it oozed “a sort of white-ish, milky substance—basically it looked like semen,” says Ikram. (Take that Banana; you are officially no longer king of the phallic foods.)
If you’d rather place your faith in the Romans and Greeks—who, you must remember, gave Freud endless fodder for his sexual theories—then stay miles away from lettuce. The Romans thought that the lettuce was tasty, but they believed it would put you to sleep, which is a complete killjoy on a night of planned romping. The unfortunate reputation of lettuce amongst the Greeks was that it could make a man impotent. Greek texts proclaimed that fresh lettuce spelled disaster for the male prowess and there’s evidence it was even served at funerals, probably due to its role in the myth of Adonis’s death. Although, Greeks often neutralized the effects of fresh lettuce with aphrodisiacal arugula.
Modern day medical science says little on the subject of lettuce increasing or decreasing libido, but does assert that it’s great for digestion. For now, let us just stick with champagne, chocolates and oysters.
[via Smithsonian Mag]