Last week I was lucky enough to taste a piece of first-of-the-season Alaskan King Salmon. It was slow cooked over an Alder wood fire to give it a subtly sweet, smoky flavor. It got me thinking about the pink-fleshed fish and how it tends to be undervalued in the aphrodisiac world.
As you know, I’m a proponent of all lean sources of protein for their aphrodisiac gift of sustained energy. But salmon is a bit special. As with all seafoods, it’s considered a plaything of Aphrodite. But beyond the Greek Goddess of Love’s fondness for all finned creatures, salmon is special for both its blushing beautiful color and its libido-boosting nutritional content.
Vitamin-rich salmon is loaded with A, D, B and calcium, all of which are noted for their roles in maintaining a healthy libido. More importantly, the fish is loaded with Omega 3’s, which is proven to elevate serotonin levels and enhance mood. (What’s more important to getting in the mood than being in a good mood?)
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Salmon live to spawn. What could be a more perfect aphrodisiac than an animal that lives to reproduce? In fact, their eggs, tiny orange-colored pearls of the sea, have been considered by many cultures to be among the finest aphrodisiacs of them all.
Salmon plays a prominent role in mythologies of the world. Among many of North America’s indigenous people, the fish was revered and often featured in totems. Salmon were associated with wisdom in ancient Ireland, another region where wild salmon swim in abundance. In the Fenian Cycle of Irish Mythology, the “salmon of wisdom” would impart the knowledge of all things onto the first person to dine on its flesh. As legend had it, the young man who ate the fish grew to become one of the most intelligent, revered and desired leaders Ireland ever knew.
In modern times, the interest in North American salmon peaks in the spring when the wild salmon season is in full swing. This year is predicted to be a particularly exciting fishing season with estimates that the fish have bred in record numbers.
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I prefer the fresh, wild salmon of spring to the lighter pink, farmed version available the whole year through. Wild salmon are higher in both protein and Omega 3’s than the farmed fish. Their flesh is, as a general rule, more intensely colored—sometimes almost red. (There is, however, wild salmon from deep waters whose flesh is entirely white in appearance but it is fairly rare.)
Thanks to its high fat, firm flesh and big flavor, salmon is great served in a variety of ways. I enjoy mine cooked over a plank, which almost replicates the sweet, smoky quality I mentioned earlier. In Fork Me, Spoon Me, I offer a recipe for a version poached in green tea. In my new book, Romancing the Stove, I suggest trying a home version of sous vide cooking, then topping the fish with slippery pearls of salmon caviar. A nineteenth century, American cookbook entitled How To Keep a Husband encouraged serving salmon baked in parchment.
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