Valentines

heart_tree1327423453.pngIt is, perhaps, telling that my two favorite holidays are a) non-religious and b) associated with the acquisition of large amounts of candy. I love the autumnal, supernatural-tinged crispness of Halloween, and I adore Valentine’s Day’s pink, and red, and sparkles, and lace, and…hearts. I could live forever without the mushy sentiments. When I was single the romantic aspects of the holiday left me anguished, desperate and anxious for the relief that came on the 15th of February. Now that I am old and married, I am largely of the opinion that if you express your love only (or even mainly) because of Hallmark, you have some work to do on the home front. It is not the sentiment, but the trappings that “send” me.

Although real, anatomical hearts are not particularly prepossessing as objects, they are beautiful in their own way. It would be hard to live without one. What I love, though, is the shape as old as the ice age, a shape that probably came from the combining of an ancient symbol for fire and that of the astrological sign Aries. It is, to my eyes, a perfect shape. It combines gentle curves for those who like curves, and they suggest other things that are rounded, erotic, comforting and otherwise love-worthy. For those who prefer straight lines and pointy things, there is everything below the curves, all straight lines and an exquisite point. Pentagrams are nifty, but they have nary a curve if the scribe is sober. The infinity symbol has two lovely, looping curves but what if one needs the crunchy edginess of a line or an acute angle?

Read more ...

ChocTrufflesIMG 1986I was pretty impressed when I cruised one list of Top Valentine’s Day Gifts For Men. But after careful consideration, I decided to go a more traditional route.

See, while the Pickle-of-the-Month gift idea had a certain appeal (pickles are one of Tom’s favorite food groups), when I imagined sitting down to a candlelight dinner on 2/14 and handing him this month’s selection, it just seemed like a buzz kill.

I thought seriously about the personalized romance novel. Called “Blood Lust,” the manufacturer promises the customized book will feature 30 personal details. I’m not sure I have that many personal details (are they gonna discuss my back scratcher? My Necco wafer obsession?), but I am sure I don’t want them exposed in any book, no matter how limited the distribution. (Also, there’s a disconcerting typo in the promo: Cosmopolitan Magazine calls this book “One of the sexist (sic) gifts ever!”)

Another top pick was the Ultimate Stock Car Ride-Along. The giftee gets to ride shotgun, at 150 mph, in a stock car race, with a “professional” driver at the wheel. Now, call me a softie, but I decided I didn’t think it was friendly to gift my husband with an activity that would almost certainly result in his death.

Aside from those choices, I loved the Custom Bobble Head, but it seemed overpriced at $105, and the World’s Largest Gummy Worm seemed like too much of a good thing. So, I decided to head to the kitchen and make Tom some chocolate truffles. (All he really wants is chocolate anyway.)

Read more ...

valentines_day.jpgThat’s the question of the moment. Ads on TV, in newspapers, on line, in magazines, on billboards, buses, subways, just about everywhere you look, make suggestions about what to give your lover to show how much you treasure her: romantic dinners, cruises, hot air balloon rides, diamonds,  earrings, pearl necklaces, chocolates, spa treatments, cakes, pies, tarts, sweaters, and of course, flowers.

Years ago when I lived in Rhode Island I had a friend who refused to buy any of her gifts.  For Christmas or a birthday, she’d knit a gift, create a handmade card, or construct a collage.  Risa was an enthusiastic practitioner of the hand-made movement because she felt that making a gift was a more emotional way of connecting to someone you cared about.  To her, going into a store and plunking down a fist full of cash wasn’t as intimate and personal as making something.

I took Risa’s lesson to heart.  Many Valentine’s Day I baked.  Apple pies with crystallized ginger crusts.  Flourless chocolate cakes with roasted almonds.  And banana cakes with chocolate chips and roasted walnuts, one of my wife’s favorite desserts.

Read more ...

spongebobcard.jpgYesterday I asked my son Sam the question I have asked him every February since he started kindergarten. “Is there somebody you want to get a special Valentine for? We could make one, if you want, or we can pick one out when we buy the regular ones….” This year, he embellished on the six-year tradition of polite refusal by rolling his eyes and saying “no” in a tone that translated clearly into “derrrrrr.”

I am not anxious for my twelve-year-old to be in love, or even smitten. In a twisted knot of irony of the type found only in motherhood, I am simultaneously delighted that he is not interested in girls, and worried that he should be. All around him crushes are blooming, complete with third-party intercession, texting after bedtime, and group movie “dates.” Sam finds the sixth grade romance scene ridiculous, in a benign and pragmatic sort of way. His best friend is a girl, and he listens kindly and without comment to her lengthy, high-volume and rapid-fire proclamations of love for various boys. He is waiting for her to stop talking so that they can do something interesting, like making a video or playing Xbox.

Read more ...

From the LA Times

kellerdessertSo often when people plan Valentine's Day dinners, they want to finish with a big, elaborate dessert. I prefer to go in a different direction. To me, nothing expresses love better than a simple dish that is taken to a new level because you've taken extra care in its making.

A perfect example is the very simple custard tart called Pomme d'Amour that is made by Knead Patisserie in San Francisco. Technically, I suppose this should be called a croustade d'oeuf, since it's nothing more than a custard baked in a crust, but I like Knead's version enough to call it by its name.

There are only two elements — the crust and the pastry cream filling — but by making each as good as it can be, you wind up with a dish that, like all perfect pairings, is greater than the sum of its parts.

There are no special tools involved and it doesn't call for any exotic ingredients. Instead, what makes this dessert special is taking the appropriate care with each step.

Read More...