Chicken as an aphrodisiac.
It’s a tale as old as time—or, at least as old as Aristotle, the Kama Sutra, and the Han Dynasty. Aphrodisiacs have been a staple of dating life long before the dinner date had ever been established as a standard weeknight activity. Today, though, we’re not consuming mint leaves, garlic, or ginseng, with the main goal of getting it on. And we’re certainly not swallowing the rumored 50 oysters that Casanova enjoyed for breakfast each day.
The verdict is out when it comes to science behind most aphrodisiacs, but the placebo effect is strong—and no one can tell you that biting into a sauce-coated al dente piece of penne on a date won’t make you feel some type of way. Our shift away from herbs and onions and all the seafood as the foundations of a lust-inducing menu reflects how we now approach romance (at least, when food’s involved). This shift begins with a chicken. Yes, we said chicken.
Not just any chicken, though. Engagement chicken, made with just four ingredients, plus some fresh herbs, was first mythologized in the offices of Glamour magazine in the 1980s. So the story goes, a fashion editor gave her assistant a recipe for the bird, in turn, she cooked it up for her then-boyfriend, and a month later they were engaged (clearly it was the chicken’s doing, no?). The recipe was passed around for about 20 years through word-of-mouth, and the magazine finally published it in 2004. Since then, Martha Stewart and Ina Garten have tried their hand at it, and Prince Harry even popped the question to Meghan Markle while they were both making the chicken.
But wedding bells aren’t always an end goal. And that’s when penne alla vodka comes in. In 2017, journalist Cole Kazdin shared her recipe for the poetically named “Come Fuck Me Penne À La Vodka”: a dish that had been circulated around the single women of New York City from the mid-90s onward. More deliberately an aphrodisiac than Engagement Chicken, the penne was developed with the express hope of getting people laid (which, rumor has it, it did consistently) in spite of its rich, creamy, sit-in-your-stomach consistency.
More recently, another contender for date-night dinner has swung into play, this time, boldly suggested by the New York Post: chicken parm. But let’s be real: A dish topped with melted cheese is probably best saved for those with strong stomachs. It’s no wonder that the evidence the paper rolls out is admittedly a bit shoddy (and The Cut quickly shot back with a retort that, no, actually, snacks were the best pre-sex meal).
Single, long-linked-up, or playing the field with gusto, anyone hoping to bring things to the bedroom can feel a little more confident in their charms with a classic, indulgent, and impressive-to-prepare dish, be it any kind of chicken, pasta, or even a charcuterie board. The next time you’re setting the mood, think chicken—or, if your dietary preferences dictate otherwise, chick’n.