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A true story: My husband, an Englishman. Me, an American. Most would say "end of story." Despite the fact that we both speak the same language, most of the time we Americans rarely understand the English. Especially the expatriate English who, once they leave English soil, become proportionally more English with every kilometer they put between themselves and Greenwich Mean Time.
On Valentine's Day 11 years ago, my husband claimed that this was an exceptionally important holiday meant for people in love and those hopeless romantics. As I was both, it would be a travesty to leave the holiday uncelebrated. I, on the other hand, believed that Valentine's was a collaboration between Hallmark and Hershey's to find yet another way to sell Chocolate Kisses. Having said that, I was naive and believed that someone with a hoity-toity accent and the understanding on how and when to drink tea was the maven in etiquette, protocol, and secular holidays. Boy, was I wrong!
So out I went. I bought theater tickets, prepared a picnic basket filled with heart-shaped goodies, and even bought the ridiculous present (once more Hallmark-inspired) of heart-shaped cuff links. Every disappointed hopeless romantic could have seen this one coming.
My husband showed up to the theater empty handed, and unapologetic. Once confronted, the excuse was that the Valentine's tradition was in direct correlation with Mothers' Day. Gifts are in fact received by the man only, in order to properly gauge the extent of what should be spent on the following Mothers' Day. And when asked where Fathers' Day plays into this palaver (English for "mess"), I was told that it's all too complicated for my inferiorly educated American brain to grasp. What a load of old tosh (English for "garbage")!
Suffice it to say, as I was trying to get a grip on my uncontrollable rage, a new monster appeared in the mix, the green-eyed kind. As we took our seats in the theater a few minutes before the show was about to start, a very cute, perky and fun girl came running up to my husband, gave him a hug and an unnecessary kiss. Who on earth was this woman and what did she want? And where is the hidden camera? As I began demanding an explanation, the show started, and the explanation didn'tâ€¦
Fast forward 11 years. We no longer celebrate Valentine's Day, otherwise we would be calling it Singles Awareness Day, but in the hope of promoting love among others, here are a few historical tidbits:
â€¢ St. Valentine, who could be any one of three different martyrs, lived sometime between 100 and 300 CE in Alexandria or Rome. The Church recognizes all three different saints. But legend has it that one or three of these men were big on marriage, defying Roman decree as well as Church preference against marriage, for two different reasons. The first: Single men make better soldiers. The second: Single men make better priests.
â€¢ So why celebrate it in the middle of February? To take over the pagan Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was big on purification, fertility, and pairing of singles, by force if necessary.
â€¢ And the whole love letter thing? Supposedly Valentine, while in jail, fell for his jailer's daughter and sent her a letter before his death, signedâ€¦ yesâ€¦ Your Valentine.
â€¢ Today more than one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent worldwide every year. Pathetically, 85% are sent by women (I guess my husband was right about that one.)
So this year, my advice is as follows: Be your own Valentine every day. Create a fan club to yourself. If you are popular enough, others will join you. If not, enjoy time with yourself, as the L'Oreal girls say, "Because I'm worth it".
Happy Valentine's Day!
Chocolate Chunk Cookies
If you do go the "chocolate and flowers" route, try these for a change of pace. If your Valentine is rejectedâ€¦ you can enjoy these all on your own!
Two cook's notes: Margarine and butter work equally well. Although butter will give all food an extra richness in flavor, the texture will be the same.
The higher the percentage of "cocoa solids," the more intense the chocolate flavor. Until now, these higher percentage chocolates were mostly dairy, but just last week I spotted a 100 g. bar of Parve Elite chocolate with 60% cocoa solids, and it tastes absolutely delicious.
2 1â„2 cups flour
1â„2 teaspoon baking soda
1â„4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I find Cadbury's cocoa the "chocolatiest")
1 cup dark brown sugar
3â„4 cup white sugar
220 gr. margarine, room temp.
3 large eggs (if you cannot find large eggs, use 3 medium eggs plus one yolk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (350 grams) bitter sweet chocolate bars broken into chunks
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt and cocoa powder. Mix with a wire whisk and set aside.
In another large bowl, blend sugars and margarine with an electric mixer. Beat until forms a grainy paste. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture and chocolate. Mix until just combined. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, about an inch apart. Bake for about 15-17 minutes.