It’s the time of year for talking about the foods of love. The Valentine season brings out countless articles and commentaries: food gifts that are traditional for the holidays; dishes to prepare for a Valentine’s celebration; recipes that will increase your chance of romantic success; food events to share; all geared toward the February 14 celebration of romance and love. This year, the big day is a Saturday, making the celebrations all the more focused and elaborate.
Chocolate looms large as a sweet and delicious gift, usually in a heart- shaped box that declares the affection of the giver. The best ones are hand-made. (Chocolate Rain is excellent.) Champagne is a favorite Valentine’s wine: special, expensive and consumed together as romance builds.
There is much ado about Valentine’s foods, traditional and innovative, elaborate meal or romantic snack, sweet or savory, homemade or store bought, all an expression love and affection.
The New Canaan Library is offering a lecture discussing “everyday aphrodisiacs” like strawberries, honey, figs, artichokes, chili peppers, edible flowers, chocolate and coffee, and how to include them in your Valentine’s celebration. It’s only one of many events happening this week about the connection between food and romance.
The Oak + Almond restaurant is hosting a lunchtime cooking class on February 14, where you and your honey can work as a team to create and enjoy a lunch of Heart Beet Salad, Lover’s Meatloaf, and Apple Cake washed down with some bubbly wine.
The Connecticut wine trail has a list of winery Valentine’s events that add chocolate, music, picnics, dinners and flowers to their wine tastings. Favorite restaurants like Harbor Lights and Strada 18 are offering special Valentine’s menus.
But that’s not what I’m talking about.
What’s on my mind today is the kind of food, everyday or special occasion, that makes my wife’s eyes light up. When she says, “I love you for your ____,” I know I’ve hit the jackpot. This reaction is not limited to mid-February; it happens year round, either by design or by fortunate surprise. Sometimes my intention is deliberate, aiming to please, rewarded by her reaction; sometimes her delight is unexpected, which is even better.
I’m not talking about exotic, expensive or difficult dishes. On the contrary, these “foods of love” are remarkable for their everyday style and simplicity. They’re unique because the particular recipe or preparation tickles her fancy, harks back to her past, or just tastes good. No Cheese Souffle, Beef Wellington, or Baked Alaska here.
Tangy Coleslaw from a restaurant recipe, cornbread with a touch of sweetness, just the way she likes it, improvised shrimp and grits (or grits in almost any form for that matter), are among the everyday dishes that bring that special smile. I try to make her favorites often enough to please, but not so regularly that they become humdrum and lose their special appeal. It’s a fine line. Look for some of the recpies on www.franksfeast.com
She makes things for me that have the same effect. “Will you marry me?” is my reaction to dishes from her repertoire that light me up. Fudge (I get to scrape the pot), the family recipe sugar cookies, and her special slow-cooked apple sauerkraut served with sausages, Bauernschmaus, or in a Ruben sandwich, all make me happy!
There are other times when either one of us may react with love to a dish made by the other. Sometimes it’s the circumstances, the right food in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s a new effort that will be added to the standard repertoire. Sometimes its a one-off that pleases because of the effort or thoughtfulness involved. I once spent three days making an elaborate coconut birthday cake, an effort much appreciated at the time, which lives on in family lore, but will likely never be made again.
I like chocolate and Champagne as much as the next guy, probably more and so does my wife. But its the special dishes, planned or unexpected, connect us year round.
You never know when something will be added to the list. (We don’t actually keep a list, but you know what I mean.) An old standard can get a great and unexpected reaction or a new experiment can hit the jackpot. When that happens, it’s like Valentine’s Day, regardless of the time of year.
New Canaan Library
Oak + Almond
Connecticut Wine Trail