Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses

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Overview

Under the aegis of the Goddess of Love, Isabel Allende uses her storytelling skills brilliantly in Aphrodite to evoke the delights of food and sex. After considerable research and study, she has become an authority on aphrodisiacs, which include everything from food and drink to stories and, of course, love. Readers will find here recipes from Allende's mother, poems, stories from ancient and foreign literatures, paintings, personal anecdotes, fascinating tidbits on the sensual art of foodand its effects on ...

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Overview

Under the aegis of the Goddess of Love, Isabel Allende uses her storytelling skills brilliantly in Aphrodite to evoke the delights of food and sex. After considerable research and study, she has become an authority on aphrodisiacs, which include everything from food and drink to stories and, of course, love. Readers will find here recipes from Allende's mother, poems, stories from ancient and foreign literatures, paintings, personal anecdotes, fascinating tidbits on the sensual art of foodand its effects on amorous performance, tips on how to attract your mate and revive flagging virility, passages on the effect of smell on libido, a history of alcoholic beverages, and much more.

An ode to sensuality that is an irresistible blend of memory, imagination and the senses, Aphrodite is familiar territory for readers who know her fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Me apprepiento de los platos deliciosos rechazados por vanidad, tanto como lamento las ocasiones de hacer el amor que he dejado pasar por ocuparme de tareas pendientes o por virtud puritana", ya que "la sexualidad es un componente de la buena sauld, inspira la creatcion y es parte del camino del alma...Por desgracia, me demore treinta anos en descubrirlo.
Washington Post
Like a slow, seductive lover, Allende teases, tempts and titillates with mesmerizing stories and legends about gluttony—sexual and otherwise.
Village Voice
This breezy work has tidbits that titillate and those that inform.
New Yorker
Sex and food, once celebrated as two of life's great joys, suffer a lot of bad press these days. Genuine epidemics, coupled with monthly findings of new things that are bad for us, have pushed otherwise happy souls into programs of agonizing denial and, in severe instances, abstinence. Thankfully, in this sophisticated defense of pleasure, novelist Allende (The House of the Spirits) puts the joy back into eating and loving with all the panache that marks the best of her fiction. Though passionate about her subject, she remains consistently whimsical with this mix of anecdotes, recipes and advice designed to enhance any romantic encounter. As always, her secret weapon is honesty: "Some [aphrodisiacs] have a scientific basis, but most are activated by the imagination." Allende's vivacity and wit are in full bloom as she makes her pronouncements: "There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary."
Denver Post
A thoroughly researched and charmingly candid rumination on the only true and reliable pleasure of life: the sensual....Remarkably timely and delicious.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sex and food, once celebrated as two of life's great joys, suffer a lot of bad press these days. Genuine epidemics, coupled with monthly findings of new things that are bad for us, have pushed otherwise happy souls into programs of agonizing denial and, in severe instances, abstinence. Thankfully, in this sophisticated defense of pleasure, novelist Allende The House of the Spirits puts the joy back into eating and loving with all the panache that marks the best of her fiction. Though passionate about her subject, she remains consistently whimsical with this mix of anecdotes, recipes and advice designed to enhance any romantic encounter. As always, her secret weapon is honesty: "Some [aphrodisiacs] have a scientific basis, but most are activated by the imagination." Allende's vivacity and wit are in full bloom as she makes her pronouncements: "There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill"; "When you make an omelet, as when you make love, affection counts for more than technique." Her book is filled with succinct wisdom and big laughs. Despite sections titled "The Orgy" and "Supreme Stimulus for Lechery," Allende comes down emphatically for romance over sex and for ritual over flavor in a work that succeeds in being what it intends to befun from the first nibble to the last.
Library Journal
Stories, poems, and even recipes on the joys of food and sex.
NY Times Book Review
Me apprepiento de los platos deliciosos rechazados por vanidad, tanto como lamento las ocasiones de hacer el amor que he dejado pasar por ocuparme de tareas pendientes o por virtud puritana", ya que "la sexualidad es un componente de la buena sauld, inspira la creatcion y es parte del camino del alma...Por desgracia, me demore treinta anos en descubrirlo.
Entertainment Weekly
Allende lyrically muses, through memories and vignettes, on the best aphrodisiac of all: love.
Los Angeles Times
After her daughter died in 1995 from porphyria, a rare metabolic disorder, sadness and a "sensation that the world had lost its color" crushed her ability to write and her desire to enjoy life. Her new book, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, a lighthearted blend of memories, recipes and research on aphrodisiacs, is a celebration of the senses and a testament to her recovery.
Wall Street Journal
After her daughter died in 1995 from porphyria, a rare metabolic disorder, sadness and a "sensation that the world had lost its color" crushed her ability to write and her desire to enjoy life. Her new book, Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, a lighthearted blend of memories, recipes and research on aphrodisiacs, is a celebration of the senses and a testament to her recovery.
San Francisco Chronicle
Aphrodisiacs of every eyebrow-raising stripe are the spicy matter of Aphrodite, a thoroughly charming non-fiction narrative by acclaimed San Rafael novelist Isabel Allende. Engaging, deliciously detailed and something of an aphrodisiac itself, Allende's wide-ranging mediation on the methodology of seduction is sure to excite as many literary appetites as libidinous ones.
Vanity Fair
Aphrodite serves up an erotic banquet of aphrodisiac recipes and steamy stories.
The New Yorker
Sex and food, once celebrated as two of life's great joys, suffer a lot of bad press these days. Genuine epidemics, coupled with monthly findings of new things that are bad for us, have pushed otherwise happy souls into programs of agonizing denial and, in severe instances, abstinence. Thankfully, in this sophisticated defense of pleasure, novelist Allende (The House of the Spirits) puts the joy back into eating and loving with all the panache that marks the best of her fiction. Though passionate about her subject, she remains consistently whimsical with this mix of anecdotes, recipes and advice designed to enhance any romantic encounter. As always, her secret weapon is honesty: "Some [aphrodisiacs] have a scientific basis, but most are activated by the imagination." Allende's vivacity and wit are in full bloom as she makes her pronouncements: "There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary."
The Village Voice
This breezy work has tidbits that titillate and those that inform.
The Denver Post
A thoroughly researched and charmingly candid rumination on the only true and reliable pleasure of life: the sensual....Remarkably timely and delicious.
Leslie Chess Feller
In Aphrodite, Allende turns the joyous preparation and consumption of fine food into an erotic catalyst; it culminates in a collection of serious recipes for your first - or next - bacchanal....Although Allende mentions exotica like shark fins, baboon testicles, eye of salamander and the urine of a virgin, her recipes use ingredients that "can be ingested without peril.
The New York Times Book Review
The Washington Post
Like a slow, seductive lover, Allende teases, tempts and titillates with mesmerizing stories and legends about gluttony -- sexual and otherwise.
Kirkus Reviews
An elegant grandmother ponders the erotic side of food and the most delicious aspects of eros. The noted Chilean novelist Allende The House of the Spirits, 1985; Paula, 1995; etc. now lives in San Francisco. One day she put on dark sunglasses and a brassy wig and went down to a big porno shop in order to begin research for this "memoir." However, it's not a memoir in the usual sense; the graceful Allende doesn't kiss and tell. She is never crude or exhibitionistic, and she does not seek to shock her gentle readers. She aims to amuse, to titillate, and to entertain us with the lore of food and sex, a few choice morsels from her own experience and fantasy life, and occasionally to advise aspiring seducers and seductresses. This volume—part memoir, part research project, part cookbook—seeks above all to charm the pants off us, literally. And Allende has this ability. The tone of her prose is persuasively warm and inviting, but also down-to-earth: "The shells of oysters, those seductive tears of the sea, which lend themselves to slipping from mouth to mouth like a prolonged kiss, are hell to open. They can be purchased in bottles, but there they look like malignant tumors; in contrast, moist and turgid in their shells they suggest delicate vulvae." The tales and anecdotes she offers whet the appetites; and her tidbits of erotic lore are food at least for thought, and perhaps more. In addition, there are many recipes for sensual cooks, provided by her aged mother, Panchita Llona, and by the novelist's Spanish agent, Carmen Balcells. Illustrations, tastefully sensual, are provided by Robert Schechter. Peden's translation has verve and immediacy. Allende's "eroticmeanderings" give pleasure. She has a sure sense of the delicate relations between eros and writing. Her tact amplifies the eros that pornography kills.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930172
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 309,164
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Isabel Allende is the bestselling author of twelve works of fiction, four memoirs, and three young-adult novels, which have been translated into more than thirty-five languages with sales in excess of fifty-seven million copies. She is the author most recently of the bestsellers Maya's Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Inés of My Soul, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She received the Hans Christian Andersen Literary Award in 2012. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.

Biography

In Isabel Allende's books, human beings do not exist merely in the three-dimensional sense. They can exert themselves as memory, as destiny, as spirits without form, as fairy tales. Just as the more mystical elements of Allende's past have shaped her work, so has the hard-bitten reality. Working as a journalist in Chile, Allende was forced to flee the country with her family after her uncle, President Salvador Allende, was killed in a coup in 1973.

Out of letters to family back in Chile came the manuscript that was to become Allende's first novel. Her arrival on the publishing scene in 1985 with The House of the Spirits was instantly recognized as a literary event. The New York Times called it "a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present and future of Latin America."

To read a book by Allende is to believe in (or be persuaded of) the power of transcendence, spiritual and otherwise. Her characters are often what she calls "marginal," those who strive to live on the fringes of society. It may be someone like Of Love and Shadows 's Hipolito Ranquileo, who makes his living as a circus clown; or Eva Luna, a poor orphan who is the center of two Allende books (Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna).

Allende's characters have in common an inner fortitude that proves stronger than their adversity, and a sense of lineage that propels them both forward and backward. When you meet a central character in an Allende novel, be prepared to meet a few generations of his or her family. This multigenerational thread drives The House of the Spirits, the tale of the South American Trueba family. Not only did the novel draw Allende critical accolades (with such breathless raves as "spectacular," "astonishing" and "mesmerizing" from major reviewers), it landed her firmly in the magic realist tradition of predecessor (and acknowledged influence) Gabriel García Márquez. Some of its characters also reappeared in the historical novels Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune.

"It's strange that my work has been classified as magic realism," Allende has said, "because I see my novels as just being realistic literature." Indeed, much of what might be considered "magic" to others is real to Allende, who based the character Clara del Valle in The House of the Spirits on her own reputedly clairvoyant grandmother. And she has drawn as well upon the political violence that visited her life: Of Love and Shadows (1987) centers on a political crime in Chile, and other Allende books allude to the ideological divisions that affected the author so critically.

But all of her other work was "rehearsal," says Allende, for what she considers her most difficult and personal book. Paula is written for Allende's daughter, who died in 1992 after several months in a coma. Like Allende's fiction, it tells Paula's story through that of Allende's own and of her relatives. Allende again departed from fiction in Aphrodite, a book that pays homage to the romantic powers of food (complete with recipes for two such as "Reconciliation Soup"). The book's lighthearted subject matter had to have been a necessity for Allende, who could not write for nearly three years after the draining experience of writing Paula.

Whichever side of reality she is on, Allende's voice is unfailingly romantic and life-affirming, creating mystery even as she uncloaks it. Like a character in Of Love and Shadows, Allende tells "stories of her own invention whose aim [is] to ease suffering and make time pass more quickly," and she succeeds.

Good To Know

Allende has said that the character of Gregory Reeves in The Infinite Plan is based on her husband, Willie Gordon.

Allende begins all of her books on January 8, which she considers lucky because it was the day she began writing a letter to her dying grandfather that later became The House of the Spirits.

She began her career as a journalist, editing the magazine Paula and later contributing to the Venezuelan paper El Nacional.

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Read an Excerpt

Champagne Tenderloin

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lean beef tenderloins
Salt and coarse black pepper to taste
2 heaping tablespoons large golden raisins
1 garni of assorted herbs
1 dove garlic
1/2 cup champagne
1/2 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes

A bottle of champagne is a lot for two normal lovers. There's always some left over, and once uncorked the bubbles dissipate and the champagne turns to a yellowish liquid with no soul or personality. Use the dregs for this recipe. Since it takes almost no time to prepare, you can have everything ready and--after heating up with caresses, champagne, and assorted hors d'oeuvres--the two of you can whip into the kitchen and make dinner in twenty minutes.

Preparation:

Heat the oil. Brown the beef on one side. Season with salt and pepper. Turn and brown the other side. Add the raisins, herbs, garlic, and champagne. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cook 5 minutes more, and serve.


Sybarite

2 cups fresh figs, peeled
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons ground walnuts
2 teaspoons cognac
1 pinch nutmeg
6 crepes
6 tablespoons creme Chantilly (whipping creme with powdered sugar and vanilla)

Preparation:

Shred the figs with a fork.  Combine with the sugar, walnuts, cognac, and nutmeg.  Fill the crepes with this paste and fold into squares.  Arrange on a serving plate and heat in the microwave for one minute.  Remove and top with the creme Chantilly before serving.

These delicious crepes are true concentrated aphrodisiacs.

Aphrodite. Copyright © by Isabel Allende. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, April 20th, renowned author Isabel Allende joined the barnesandnoble.com live author Auditorium to discuss her latest bestseller, APHRODITE.



Moderator: Good evening, Isabel Allende. Thank you for joining barnesandnoble.com's live Auditorium to discuss your new book. How are you doing this evening? How is your book tour going?

Isabel Allende: I am surviving the book tour, which started last October in Europe because my books are published first in most European languages -- so APHRODITE is already in German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and some Scandinavian languages.


Yvonne from Australia: A basic question: What, personally, were you trying to achieve with APHRODITE?

Isabel Allende: APHRODITE is a conversation in a private, ironic, intimate tone with the reader. I am not trying to achieve anything, just have a lot of fun. This is not an erotic manual, not a self-help book or cookbook, it is a memoir of the senses. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching it.


Sharon from Brooklyn: How do you think your writing style has changed over the years? Do you see an evolution in your work? Where are you going, after APHRODITE, stylistically?

Isabel Allende: Every story has a way of being told -- its own demands and needs. I feel I cannot repeat the formula that was successful once. With every book, I need to invent everything all over again. In the 16 years that I have been writing, I think I have developed a voice that is very distinct. I dont know where I am going, if I am going anywhere. I live one day at a time. I write one book at a time.


Elise from New York City: Your inspirations for your books are often unusual. I know that the HOUSE OF SPIRITS and PAULA began as letters. How did you think of the subject for APHRODITE? Have you always been fascinated by aphrodisiacs?

Isabel Allende: The inspiration for this book started with erotic dreams of sex and food. I think it was a very healthy reaction of my body and my mind after many years of mourning. My daughter died on December 6, 1992, and after that I went into a very dark period of depression and into a writer's block. APHRODITE brought me back to the joy of life.


Betsy from Portland, ME: I am intrigued and fascinated by your research for APHRODITE. How did you set about looking for all the stories and aphrodisiacs? How difficult was it to find the beautiful artwork? Did friends and family give you a lot of input in what to include?

Isabel Allende: I researched the book in the library and in some sex shops in San Fran, where I found very good erotic literature. My mother, who lives in Chile, created for me the aphrodisiac recipes with a list of aphrodisiac ingredients that I gave her. All of my friends acted as guinea pigs trying the recipes and then reporting the results in their sex lives. Many of them also contributed with their personal stories.


Heloisa from São Paulo, Brazil: How much do you see yourself in your books, and how much do you see your books in you?

Isabel Allende: I think that everything that I write comes from an experience that is mine or somebody else's, but it has an echo in my own life. The motivation for my writing is always connected to my life, and although I have only written one memoir, PAULA, many of the characters in my books speak for me.


Kevin from Caldwell College: A few weeks ago, I was privileged to hear you speak about your new book, APHRODITE, at the 92nd Street Y in New York. At this event, you were wonderfully candid about your life and the research you have done for this book. Is this "freedom of expression" rooted throughout all your books?

Isabel Allende: I lived through a military coup in Chile in 1973, where I learned the impact censorship and self-censorship can have on the creative mind. I left Chile then, because I was not willing to accept it. I have made it a point in my life to be candid and defy any form of censorship, including the most pervasive one, i.e., self-censorship.


Lynn from Herndon, VA: What are some of your favorite dreams that you had when researching this book?

Isabel Allende: The one I remember: I placed a naked Antonio Banderas on a Mexican tortilla, I slathered him with guacamole and salsa, I rolled him up and ate him. I woke up very excited and jumped on my husband, who was fast asleep!


Ivone Rosa from Azores, Portugal: My parents left Portugal in 1973, because they were fed up with the fascist president, but they returned in 1983, when our country was free and stable. Do you ever think that you'll return to Chile? Write to me because my familly too has experienced some pain with revolutions after revolutions. Ivone np77uf@mail.telepac.pt

Isabel Allende: I go back to Chile every year, sometimes publicly but most of the time very privately. I do not live there because my son, my grandchildren, and my husband live in the United States. But I hope that I will be able to go more and more often to Chile.


Tina from Chicago: Are all of your original works in Spanish and then translated, or do you write in other languages as well?

Isabel Allende: I can only write fiction in Spanish. Fiction is to me a very organic function, like dreaming or motherhood or lovemaking. I can only do it in my own language.


Cheryl from Palm Beach: Do you have a favorite among your books?

Isabel Allende: I do not have a favorite, but I have some favorite characters that never quite leave me but keep returning in other books with different masks and costumes. I think that the most important book that I have written and will ever write is PAULA.


Dale from Williamsburg: What are some of the most common foods used as aphrodisiacs in this country? Did you find that they differ from culture to culture?

Isabel Allende: In most of the world, everything that comes from the sea is considered an aphrodisiac. Also spices, and some vegetables and fruits that have a phallic shape or suggest female genitals. There are some aprodisiacs in Asia, like rhino horn, live monkey brains, snake blood, and birds' nests, that we don't usually find in the grocery store in the U.S. The aphrodisiac power of these ingredients is very relative. Everything is in the mind. The great sexaul organ is the brain. If you believe that something has the power of aphrodisiac it will work.


Peter from Trenton, NJ: Do you have a favorite among the ancient stories you include in APHRODITE? Is it the "Language of the Flowers"? That passage really moved me. I say we should start a campaign to bring this ancient romance language back!

Isabel Allende: One of my favorite stories in the book is the story of Lady Onogoro, a Japanese courtesan and female erotic from the 11th century in Japan. The story is called "Death by Perfume." I don't think that we should bring back the language of the flowers --it is too complicated!! Can't we simply say what we feel with words?


Cindy from Santa Barbara, CA: You write in the introduction to APHRODITE that aphrodisiacs are the bridge between gluttony and lust. Well put! Do you have a favorite recipe among all those wonderful ones that you include? Did you find that some recipes were more effective -- seduction-wise -- on women than men, or vice versa?

Isabel Allende: Anything that you serve in a teasing, playful, seductive, and loving mood can be an aphrodisiac. For me, anything dipped in chocolate is aphrodisiac. Men, however, usually prefer more robust food, like seafood, game, red meat. One or two glasses of wine are aphrodisiac for both sexes.


JFran from Huntington, WVA: What is it about chocolate that makes it such an excellent aphrodisiac? Does it have an interesting history you can share with us? Why does it taste so good and do such damage to the hips?!

Isabel Allende: Chocolate, when first brought to the New World from Europe, was so rare and expensive and only the very rich had it; in Mexico it was the beverage of the nobility only. Today, we know that it contains an ingredient that is a mild antidepressant. It can be a stimulant like coffee or caffeine. This is why men offer chocolate to women when courting. It is very unfortunate that it is so fattening!


Berry from Williamsburg: How wonderful that a woman in her 50s can celebrate life by writing a book about food and sex, the basis of life itself! When you first began writing APHRODITE, did you worry that the topic that might raise some eyebrows or bring criticism to your fine literary reputation? Or in fact, that it is too youthful a subject? For the record -- I don' think it is.

Isabel Allende: When I started writing, I was hoping that it would be shocking. Actually, I would be very disappointed if it wasn't. You know, my dear, at 50 women can be really liberated! We don't have to please everyone anymore -- only those we really care for.


Pauline Sams from Memphis: If you had to limit yourself to a few aphrodisiacs that no kitchen should be without, what would they be? And what is their role in seduction?

Isabel Allende: I would have always fresh products from the sea, vegetables, and fruit, and of course all kind of spices and fresh herbs. Honey, chocolate, garlic, and olive oil are also essential! If you can't have any of the above, serve whatever you have with few clothes and a big smile!


Lisa from Florida: I read PAULA six months ago, and I can't let it go. As a mother who is very close to her daughter, I kept on wondering if I could be as strong as you were. Was writing about it and recalling your agony a cathartic experience at all? Did it help you heal?

Isabel Allende: Yes. Writing that book helped me get through the first year after she died. Just the fact that I had to get up every morning to write kept me sane. Writing about her was a way of keeping her alive. The response I got from readers all over the world was incredible. I received thousands of letters. I realized that we all have losses and pains, but the life force is always greater.


Darren from Charlottesville, VA: Do you have a favorite place to write? APHRODITE I assume was written with one leg in the kitchen! Now that you have started writing again, do you keep a writing schedule?

Isabel Allende: I write in a little coach house that my husband fixed and remodeled for me, surrounded by the photographs of all the spirits that accompany me, dead and alive. I keep a strict writing schedule. I start my books January 8th, and I try to write six hours a day, five days a week.


Peter from Vienna, VA: What can we expect your next book to be about? Will it be fiction or nonfiction?

Isabel Allende: This year, I began a historical novel.


Monica from New Orleans: You say that words and stories can be as alluring an aprodisiac as food. But isn't it true that too much talking can "put out the fire" and be distracting especially to men who all too often like to skip foreplay? Can you explain this intriguing thought further?

Isabel Allende: As I said in APHRODITE, a story well told can be very aphrodisiac, IF IT IS SHORT -- we don't want to kill the libido with too much talking.


Amanda from Dallas, TX: In your opinion, what is the most effective aphrodisiac? Are there any aphrodisiacs that you originally thought would "work the magic" but failed?

Isabel Allende: The most effective aphrodisiac is love. When it exists, you don't need anyting else. However, a powerful anti-aphrodisiac is routine. It is important to introduce variety in the games of seduction. Read! Research! Dare!


Moderator: Thank you for joining us, Ms. Allende, and good luck on the book tour for APHRODITE. Do you have any final words for the online audience?

Isabel Allende: Goodbye. It has been a pleasure to talk to you about the only deadly sins that are worth the trouble -- lust and gluttony!


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