Valentine’s Day is a bit like Xmas for some, one of those days we just don’t want to know about, whether we’re single, sad, lonely or in a long term relationship where the romance just ain’t what it used to be. The truth is Valentine’s Day isn’t for all of us. It also has a mixed history.
The original St Valentine is said to have defied the order of Emperor Claudius and married couples so men wouldn’t have to go to war, which greatly inconvenienced the emperor as there was a shortage of soldiers at the time. Keeping the Roman empire going has its expenses. Another version has it that Valentine refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. With both stories he ended up in prison and was executed, leaving a note, signed: Your Valentine.
But before that there was the Feast of Lupercalia, February 13-14, where the ancient Romans had a good old time sacrificing goats, drinking and dancing naked in the hope of increasing their fertility. With the advent of Christianity, as was the way, the pagan festivals were taken over by the Christians, and Pope Gelasuis merged the Feast with St Valentine’s Day, which celebrated the matyrdom of the aforementioned St Valentine, to make the day less about lust and more about love.
During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired-bonded in mid-February, a romantic notion that attached itself to February 14. Our good friends Chaucer and Shakespeare did much to grow the romance of Valentine’s Day through their writing.
And then there was the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 where seven mob associates of Al Capone were gunned down during prohibition America.
One can agree that it’s a great day for flower sellers, chocolate makers, card manufacturers and restaurants. But for the rest of us it can be a day of deep disappointment, of feeling let down by your loved one, who just isn’t romantic, or not getting your hints. Like Christmas, it can make you feel worse about your partner, your relationship, your whole life! You’ll feel resentful because you want them to do something but if they don’t do it of their own accord all the flowers and chocolates in the world become utterly meaningless. So, don’t be disappointed – do something yourself, don’t wait for your partner to take the initiative. If you want something romantic to happen on the 14th February, then you do it!
So in my house, this year it’s been a day of success – new job for eldest daughter, passed driving theory for youngest, first day of half term pour moi and all round ‘life’s not too shabby’ for all of us. I decided we’d have a celebratory dinner, something low key, but where we chatted, laughed, enjoyed each other’s company and were happy in our bit of the world. I bought a couple of modest gifts for my household and prepared a lovely, but simple feast. Yes, there were bubbles, yes there was chocolate – but no flowers. And there was a meal to thrill the tastebuds and do easily for your next special occasion. Outside the world stormed and swirled but inside we feasted and then repaired to finish our season of Breaking Bad. We had a lovely evening and I might do the same next year.
Appetizers: Olives, Strawberries, Doritos and tasty chicken bits – oven warmed. Served with long cool glass of Bacardi and Coke. Yes, dear Ozzie mates, not Bundy, because over here it is one of those lesser known brands. Indeed, how can this be????
Main course: steak with onions, bacon and mushroom ‘sauce’, French potatoes and peas.
French potatoes – adjusted from a recipe I read somewhere recently. 400-500 g of Charlotte or New potatoes, lardoons/bacon, chives or spring onion green bits. Boil potatoes until tender. Set aside til cool. Heat large pan, using oil and butter mixed, brown the potatoes, add the lardons and cook through but keep soft, not crispy. Add greenery and serve warm, make sure you spoon the oil and butter liquid over the spuds
Steak: choose a cut you like – rump, sirloin. Saute onions in pan first to give more flavour to the steak – cook on high heat to sear the outside. Turn only once, otherwise tenderness is lost. Keep your eye on the time, especially if you’re going for medium-rare, as we prefer. Serve sauted onions, bacon and mushrooms over the steak.
Desert: tonight it was chocolates, and mint ice-cream.
Ah, me, it was easy, simple, cost effective and very-very lovely.
Be happy, feel the love. Enjoy half term. (Images from Private Collection)