What does Valentine’s day mean to you? For some, it’s a day to justify being single and loathe all those mushy couples holding hands at the park. For others, it’s a chance to express their love and appreciation for their partner. But most can agree that – much like a heart-themed-Superbowl – it’s about the food.
Since time immemorial people have used food to express themselves and to celebrate joyous occasions. (actually, it happened around the time when Marco Polo came back from Asia with recipes and cooking skills which launched the birth of modern day European cuisine and ended a dark age of burnt meat, and thin stews.) But how do you cook up love?
Even before the days of Marco Polo, primitive cultures had identified the aphrodisiac – any food that could increase, love, libido and fertility. The word aphrodisiac comes from “Aphrodite” the Greek goddess of sexuality and love. The simple practice was to gather and consume any food resembling a phallic symbol or the reproductive organs of virile animals (although almost any food at some point in time has been proclaimed an aphrodisiac by somebody.) It was thought that these foods could impart their aura of love and virility to their consumer. And this practice is still used around the world in many cultures today. However interesting and entertaining this “science” might be, some people may agree with me when I say that it’s really not so much what you’re eating that gives you that power of love, but the person that you’re eating it with – an overlooked factor in all of this! The best aphrodisiac is not an oyster, or a shaving of rhino horn (which may be too dangerous to get to make it worth your while) But is, in fact, your significant other.
Although I could see, especially in cultures of arranged marriages, where you might not get the exact model that you wanted (if you know what I mean) that an aphrodisiac might have to be employed – in this case, it was probably the alcohol or drugs that might have gone along with it that made that night magical – or even just possible.
Although Valentine’s Day has a tradition going back to 500 AD, let’s come up to the modern day North American Valentine’s Day and ask this question; what make the perfect Valentine’s Day meal?
There are generally two ways to look at this. From a woman’s point of view, the perfect valentine’s day meal is something that has been prepared with love. It’s the thought that counts. Meals that remind of first dates, and special times and places. Prepared with careful consideration and artistic strokes that really bring the spirit of love alive. For men, however, there may be more logistics involved; it can’t cause bad breath, gas, or be too heavy. It would be a meal similar to that which you would eat before running a small marathon! So we could compromise and say that the perfect Valentine’s Day meal would take all of these factors into consideration.
Here is my rendition of the perfect meal for the day of love. The meal would start with an appetizer salad comprised of mixed field greens with pralines, heart shaped strawberry sections, and melted brie on an olive oil crouton drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar (the rhino horn shavings are optional at this point). The main course would be king crab, white mushrooms, and sea scallops in a light rose sauce (light cream, tomato, sugar, salt and fresh basil) on buttered cauliflower mash and wilted spinach tossed with some apple wood smoked bacon slivers. Dessert would be a chocolate fondue with various fruits for dipping and Canadian ice wine for sipping. Delicious, elegant, no garlic, no onion, you’re still awake at the end of the meal, and you could still go for a run around the block if you so chose to!
I wish you all a very happy and delicious valentine’s day! May it bring you love and not heartburn.