Health & Gastronomy 03/12/2012

On the table and in the bed. It is a pleasure affair

The “oyster game” was so successful that sometimes it got out of hand. Oysters heedlessly crept in to the necklines of ladies or even lower then the décolleté, where the mystery made the hunt and the catch more exciting


Sexual pleasure is for the soul what good food is for the belly.

This association is the leitmotiv of the worldview and the lifestyle of the voluptuary libertines of the XVIII century. Sex and food: everything must pass through the mouth to satisfy the body and the soul. Frequently one after the other; sometimes at the same time.

The most famous of all libertines of that time was for sure Gian Giacomo Casanova. Born in Venice from artists, he was endowed with an innate instinct for physical love and was able to make an art out of his urges. Both on the table and in the bed.

“The chief business of my life has always been to indulge my senses. I felt myself born for the fair sex, I have ever loved it dearly, and I have been loved by it as often and as much as I could. I have likewise always had a great weakness for good food (…)” wrote Casanova in the preface of his famous memoirs “Histoire de ma vie”.

He didn’t disdain any food; and in the same way he loved to couple the best pleasures from food with the ones from sex. And his lovers appeared to enjoy this mixture of sensations, given by Casanova in great abundance.

Some of the funniest and legendary episodes of Casanova’s life are linked with a particular food: oysters. It is worth noting that since old times this shellfish was considered as a powerful aphrodisiac food, able to fire Venus’s passion up and to swell Priapus’ vigor. But it is from the XVIII century that oyster became the aphrodisiac food par excellence, necessary excuse to drink gorgeous wine and champagne and the prelude to something else. Hence, it was not rare that in orgiastic banquets, guests, warmed up by liters of wine, were able to swallow hundreds of oysters. And this normally was the preamble for the proper lunch or dinner.

As a matter of fact, oysters represented the opposite of meat. Meat was abundant on the table of rich people in the XVIII century, as well. However, the lightness of oyster was the opposite of the heaviness of meat; its transparency was exalted by the opacity of pork meats and the ocean scent counterbalances the smell of chickens.

Then, the lightness and delicacy of oysters induced the ardors of Casanova and prepared senses to pleasure. Apparently, Casanova was used to ask for a dish of oysters every night before going to bed, independently from what he did in the night. He did it in Amsterdam, for example, to recover after a sledge race on the frozen Amstel; he eat with eight friends more than three hundreds oysters with liters of champagne one night in Milan and once, in Rome, he used them to pervert two charming ladies, Emilia and Armellina, to any kind of pleasure.

An oyster is, for Casanova, like a kiss. The melting of the living shellfish in the mouth is like a fragrant host. Thank to Casanova, oysters become also pleasantly blasphemous: he used them in 1754 to seduce a religious woman in a petite maison in Venice. “We amused ourselves in eating oysters”, wrote Casanova. “We sucked them in, one by one, after placing them on the other's tongue. There is no more lavish game on earth”! The scene was made even more provocative by the fact that it was taking place in a room next to the one of the Ambassador of France, Pierre de Bernis, official lover of the religious woman. She clearly had some confusion between loving God and men.

In the following years, Casanova repeated this game infinite times, naming it the “oyster game” and he used it more as a way to seduce the most reluctant women then as the climax of a game between lovers.

At this regard, it is famous a dinner that Casanova had in 1770 in an inn in Rome, when the libertine was trying to seduce two young ladies, Armellina and Emilia, with oysters. Fifty paoli for one hundred oysters; this was the price that the libertine emphasized with calculated proud to his guests, eliciting even more the sinful taste for their foregone assent. Moreover, Casanova asked, together with champagne, another hundred of oysters to take home as a dessert, urging the innkeeper not to trash the delicious water where oysters live.

At that point, the function of oysters was essentially recreational and charged of refined eroticism, which the three consumed with reciprocal delight. They enjoyed it so much that they laughed about it, in the languid embrace of pleasure. This won every resistance and, as Casanova wrote, “I agreed that the oyster game was difficult. Hence, I taught them how to keep the oyster with the water in the mouth, by using the tongue as a barrier to prevent it to be swallowed. Then, I taught them how to introduce the oyster and the water in someone else’s mouth, introducing at the same time the tongue in all its length. Laughing about this, we agreed about how innocent this game was”.

The oyster game was so successful that sometimes it used to get out of hand. Oysters heedlessly crept in to the necklines of ladies or even lower then the décolleté, where the mystery made the hunt and the catch more exciting.

Leaving the memoirs of this incredible libertine of the XVIII century, I regret the fact that nowadays these innocent games between lovers are out-of-fashion. At the end of the day, we must adapt to the changed times. Nowadays very few fortunate people can effort the frequent consumption of loads of high quality oysters. Nine or ten at the most, if we want to make the best out of a dinner together with our loved person. And this even more true for champagne, sort of liquid gold, everyday more and more precious and sought-after.

On the other had, I wonder if the aphrodisiac missing on the tables and in the beds of lovers nowadays is something else, i.e. fantasy. Or possibly, what is really missing is an authentic Casanova, an intriguing, elegant, clever and amusing lover, faithful, in love and exclusive for every lady that deserves and returns its attentions.

With or without oysters, that powerful aphrodisiac won’t be second to none!