If food be the music of love, eat on
Please excuse my Shakespeare; Valentine’s Day seems to bring out the cynic in me.
If the way to a man’s heart is a home-cooked meal, is the way to a woman’s someone who cleans up after and does the dishes? It seems that these two basic human needs, love and eating, are so intertwined that they are impossible to extricate. It is little wonder that so many of us seem to have weight issues. If love is food, then certainly food must be a substitute for love.
I bought into this philosophy in my late teens, and still rankle at the memories of desperate attempts to win that perfect man with that perfect meal as promised to me by magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Chatelaine.
I can recall hours spent rolling, cutting, stuffing, and twisting to make a feast of chicken tortellini for some cretin who missed entirely the subtle significance of these perfectly crafted “navels of Venus.”
Then there was that intended candle-lit lobster feast, planned with visions of feeding each other tiny morsels of rich, succulent meat, dripping in butter. A meal—according to Cosmo again—guaranteed to melt the most aloof heart. But the guy stood me up, and after having spent your entire month’s rent on this orgy, you are left sitting in mismatched PJs, listening to Joan Armatrading singing “Love and Affection” over and over. The only thing stopping you from feeding the entire feast to your two cats is the foresight that it would likely all come back to haunt you in the middle of the night, no doubt on your favourite quilt!
An old girlfriend, who had this same thing happen to her, did something rather extreme; possibly even illegal, but certainly effective. (I am not promoting this!) She took the entire meal, even though it constituted her entire food budget for the month, wrapped it up and mailed it to the guy. One hopes that he was there to receive the parcel and that it didn’t sit in the hall outside his apartment for too long. It’s enough to turn you off eating entirely.
It is also entirely possible that my bleak view of Valentine’s Day began even earlier; as far back as grade one. I can remember spending an entire art period making my “mailbox” from a paper lunch bag, and then hanging it on the front of my desk. On that special day, we delivered our little love messages: a honey bee holding a heart that said “Won’t you bee mine?” How shattered I was that the cutest boy in the class skipped over my brilliantly decorated bag. I probably went straight home and consoled myself with a box of Cracker Jacks and a jug of Nestles Quick.
It must have been some divine practical joke that led to my becoming engaged to a guy in the food biz, on Valentine’s Day no less, and now find myself driving around in a cinnamon-heart coloured truck with “Foood” license plates.
I took a look back at what I wrote two years ago in this column, and I wouldn’t change a word.
“So, what would I really like to do for Valentine’s Day dinner? What would constitute the perfect evening? I would love to have a meal with my husband and two sons at home. Everyone would get involved in planning the dinner. We would shop for it together and prepare it together. The boys would bring their girlfriends and no one would be rushing because there was someplace else that they had to be, or a TV show that they just couldn’t miss. Our favourite CDs would be playing, candles lit and perhaps a fire burning. The boys wouldn’t be fighting with each other. And we would talk about great stuff and laugh a lot and enjoy each other’s company.
After dinner, everyone would pitch in to clear without making a fuss. Then we would sit down to enjoy dessert and coffee and actually have conversations just as if we were best friends. And still no one would be chomping at the bit to get away, because there would be no other place that they would rather be than with their family.”
That; world peace; and a large bouquet of flowers.
I know of at least one very good reason for celebration this February 14th; our neighbour Aileen Adam will be celebrating her arrival into Canada from Australia exactly 50 years ago on that date. Now that is one long-lasting love affair worthy of fine food and wine.