Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Laws of Attraction

Scientists have been attempting to understand what makes one human being crave another human being.  Recently, studies have shown that it’s true; primal instincts and pheromones are a key part to promoting human desire. 

Since I’m in the business of taking care of the end result of a passionate embrace (ahem, birth), understanding human attraction is deeply important to me.  The research behind human attraction is fascinating.  There are well methodized studies and theories to show that scent is a powerful factor in sexual desire and that attractive smells are genetically mediated. 

Theory suggests that people, as well as mice, fish, lizards and birds, are attracted to the smell of those who have different genes for building the immune system (the HLA and MHC system) [1].   This theory concludes that mating with somebody who has a different immune system will create more diverse offspring, hence promoting evolution of a more immunologically robust generation.  Each person has her own “body odor fingerprint” according to a study chemically analyzing sweat of 197 Austrian Alp dwellers, and this is thought to be related, at least partially, to a person’s genetic makeup. [2]

All of the major studies on scent revolve around women or men smelling unwashed T-shirts of those of the opposite sex.  In one fascinating experiment published in Nature Genetics, women smelled T-shirts that men wore for two days without deodorant [3].  They were unaware of what they smelled, and were asked to rank the odors in terms of pleasantness.  Women found the t-shirts to be pleasant smelling, and each woman was attracted to the scent of a different t-shirt whose wearer had a unique genetic makeup similar genetically (but only slightly) to the HLA inherited from her father. 

While important for professional and social interactions, showering is optional in love.  In another experiment, 58 Brazilian students, 29 male and 29 female participants, were allowed to shower but they were only allowed to use neutral smelling soaps while wearing a garment over their sternums for five days.  When smelling the garments, there was again a significant correlation between genetics and attractiveness, but only with women smelling men.  Men’s noses are not quite as attuned [1].    

When it comes to eating, sometimes primal behavior wins too.  Men and women do have some similarities when it comes to basic instincts.  Sometimes you just want to rip into a hunk of flesh (and if you don’t, forgive my vulgar words). 

While this meal might not spark passion between your partner and yourself, it will certainly be an intense relationship between you and your meal.   Here I prepare T-bone steak, medium rare (although tragically I overcooked mine) simply prepared with a tomato-chili relish, black beans, and buttery rice.  It has whiffs of a worn T-shirt, in a good way.  It’s time to turn down the lights to the kitchen and have a romantic evening with the skillet, open your nose, and your mouth.  MMMMM

T-bone steaks with black beans, rice and tomato chili relish

3 long red chilies
1 jalapeno
1 medium tomato
¼ large red onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cider vinegar
½ tbsp salt
Pinch oregano
½ tsp honey
2 tbsp (plus) water

Preheat oven to 425.  In large baking dish place chilies, tomatoes, onion, garlic and bake for about 25 minutes or until skins are peeling on peppers and veggies are fragrant.  When cooked, remove from oven, cool, peel tomatoes and peppers and seed peppers to taste.  To blender add all ingredients, blend until smooth adding water until desired consistency.

Buttery rice
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
½ carrot finely diced
3 green onions using whites and first part of greens, finely sliced
½ tsp salt
1 cup red rice (or other whole grain rice)
2 cups water

Melt butter and olive oil on high heat, sauté onions and carrots until soft, about 3 minutes, add rice and salt and cook rice until starts to stick to pan.  Add water, bring to boil, reduce to low and cover.  Cook until tender about 45 minutes.  Do not stir!

¼ cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic finely diced
1 tsp ground cumin
15 oz can black beans with liquid
¼ cup loosely packed chopped cilantro

With a splash of olive oil on medium high heat, sweat onions and garlic until tender about 5 minutes.   Add cumin and cook for about 1 minute.  Add beans with liquid and cilantro, cook until liquid reduced, about 10 minutes, and mash with potato masher.

2 ¾ lb T bone steaks (or whichever cut you like)
Over medium high heat add splash of oil into skillet, cook salted steaks 3-4 minutes on each side.

1. Santos, PS.; Schinemann, JA.; Gabardo, J.; Bicalho Mda, G. “New evidence that the MHC influences odor perception in humans: a study with 58 Southern Brazilian students.” Hormones and Behavior, v. 47 issue 4, 2005, p. 384-8.
2. Penn, DJ., et al. “Individual and gender fingerprints in human body odour.” Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society, v. 4 issue 13, 2007, p. 331-40.
3. Jacob, S.; McClintock, MK.; Zelano, B.; Ober, C. “Paternally inherited HLA alleles are associated with women's choice of male odor.” Nature Genetics, v. 30 issue 2, 2002, p. 175-9.

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