Episode 9: The Love Show
Giambattista della Porta's De distillatione, book 9 (1608).
Please note: In today’s episode we have included more mature content than a typical show.
A Valentine for our listeners, this show is dedicated to the chemistry of love. In today’s show, we explain why passion has always been associated with fire and how the stars can influence your love life. We will also look at the long history of aphrodisiacs, from Spanish fly to chilies to chocolate — but in a different way than one might expect. The Element of the Week: Fire.
And, as promised in the episode, special love recipes for you and your Valentine. Can you figure out which one we don’t recommend trying at home?
“…on the tail of this animal there is a tiny patch of hair which is a love-charm; if the wolf fears that it may be captured, it tears the hair out with its teeth; the charm has no power unless the the hair is taken from the wolf while it is still alive.”
From the Aberdeen Bestiary (a manuscript on animals), written in England around 1200. Aberdeen University Library MS 24, f. 17r.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany’s famous jasmine chocolate
• 4.5 kg ground and roasted cocoa beans
• fresh jasmine flowers
• 3.6 kg dry white sugar
• 85 g “perfect” vanilla pods
• 115 to 170 g “perfect” cinnamon
• 2.5 g grey amber
Place alternate layers of jasmine with layers of ground chocolate in a box, and leave to rest for 24h. Then mix together and add more alternate layers of jasmine and cocoa and proceed in the same way. Repeat the operation 10 to 12 times so that the cocoa really absorbs the scent of the jasmine. Then add the other ingredients and grind this mixture on a warm metate stone. If the metate is too hot, the aroma may evaporate.
From The Chocolate Museum.
00:00 Opening Credits
00:54 Element of the Week: Fire
02:45 Mystery Solved: Aphrodisiacs
05:46 Precise as Pastry
10:03 Quote: Robert Burton
10:31 Closing Credits
Resources and References
On fire: The Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements, from John Opsopaus
On love and chemistry: Jen Muehlbauer, “The Chemistry of Love”
On Spanish fly: Poisonous Plants and Animals article from ThinkQuest
On pheromones: An informative entry on Wikipedia
Special thanks to Anke Timmermann for researching the show.
Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music was provided from the Podsafe Music Network, Andrew Chalfen, and The Bobs. The music for introduction to the Element of the Week is Fire, by Cyclops. At the end of the Element of the Week the music is Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, arranged and performed by The Bobs. The music for both the intro and the outro for the Mystery Solved segment is Super Size My Love, by Lima Charlie. The music for the quotation is Incidental Music 9, by Andrew Chalfen.
This week’s image appears in Giambattista della Porta’s De distillatione, book 9 (1608). Image courtesy of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library at CHF. Photo by Douglas A. Lockard.