“Woman not supposed to ask for cow cod soup,” said Miss Maggie, the soup vendor playfully chastising me as she stirred the large pot propped up on a firm meshed wire as charcoal smoldered below. It is lunchtime on Kingston’s busy Cross Roads intersection. The temperature is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit under the blue tarpaulin shade, and the sun is blazing.
I smiled and said, “It’s research.”
I carefully take the soup from Miss Maggie’s hand and gingerly stir it to see if there were any bits of penis in there. This was my first time eating cow cod soup, as a Jamaican and a food writer, I was a bit ashamed to admit this to Miss Maggie. “I’ve had cow tongue,” I told her, to which she nods politely and looks past me. I was holding up the line. I moved to the side and watched men line up to get the lunchtime treat. The soup was very hot, but that didn’t deter me from cooling it on my spoon. The light broth was rich and spicy. We Jamaicans eat our soup with lots of root vegetables.
Cow cod soup is actually the penis of a male cow (bull) and is known for its aphrodisiac properties. Since the birth of reggae and later, dancehall, men have lauded their sexual prowess in song. Jamaica has a long list of aphrodisiacs or concoctions to help men perform better in bed. Most of these aphrodisiacs require the use of a blender. Popular dancehall artiste, Vybez Kartel released a song called, “Mmmm Mmmm” whose lyrics included the recipe for “Strong Back” a male vitality drink. These ingredients include oats, Supligen, raw okra, peanuts and ripe banana. Shortly after the song’s release, natural drink peddlers couldn’t keep up with the demand. Supermarkets even offered “Mmm Mmm” packages with ingredients for sale.
Typical Jamaican food evolved from slave food. Our ancestors had to make do with discarded scraps of animal’s feet, intestines, tails, and heads and make them delicious. The recipe for cow cod soup is fairly simple. Dice the bull penis and add in boiling water, add a cup of white rum, a head of garlic, one small onion, thyme and a scotch bonnet pepper and boil for 30 minutes. Next add potatoes, yellow yam, green bananas with skin on, carrots, flour dumplings along with all-purpose seasoning. Simmer on medium-low heat for 40 minutes and season with salt to taste. This rich rum-based broth is what tenderizes the meat. If you are short on time, you can use a pressure cooker for ten minutes to soften the member.
No one really knows why cow cod soup is considered an aphrodisiac in Jamaica. After calling the University of the West Indies for a food historian, I was left with pure conjecture. No-one was willing to go on record to talk about cow cod soup. One suggestion that made sense was; the bull is a formidable animal that protects and impregnates cows. He has many sexual partners in the field and is known for his potency. Perhaps this is where the notion of eating his member originated. If a man eats the bull’s penis, he will ingest its sexual prowess.
Nevertheless, the culinary folklore runs deep among the Jamaican man. I asked one of the men in line if he thinks the soup really works. “Yes, it work! I have six kids that I know of. From I was a teen I drinking cow cod soup.” Does it make you last longer in bed? He smiles broadly, “None of my baby mother them complain.”
At the water cooler at work, I asked a few male coworkers if these concoctions actually help and their answer was a resounding “Yes!”
“So how come mi nuh feel anything when I drink Mmmm Mmmm and cow cod soup? For me, Mmm Mmmm is a protein shake.” I inquired. They said it was because I am woman and those ingredients don’t affect me as they do the Jamaican male. Apparently sexual prowess and desire are reserved for men.
My grandmother used to say, “Belief kill and belief cure” when it comes to the veracity (or voracity?) of cow cod soup, this is definitely in the eyes of the soup eater.