Valentine’s eh? A holiday filled with expectation and commercial horror. Or so seems to be the opinion of my ever-liberated generation. I have celebrated Valentine’s with few of my boyfriends, but only because there haven’t been many to celebrate with. I was either so engrossed in my studies I didn’t look around the room twice to see if someone might be interested, or I had just started dating someone, and it was much too early to make a big deal about it.
Valentine’s is unfortunately associated with this need to buy all sorts of presents to prove how much you love someone. This seems to be the root of the problem for many people. Shouldn’t we be able to express this every day? Of course! Good grief. I’ve always celebrated Valentine’s whether I was with a boyfriend or not. It’s a delightful excuse to eat delicious things with some favourite people and celebrate one of the most important things in this world: love.
Growing up, we always had a Valentine’s day breakfast. My mom would set the table in red and white; there would be flowers in vases, chocolates and cookies beside our place mats, and sometimes little “ I love you cards”. No matter what we had planned for that morning, we always ate together. Scones, coffee cake, cinnamon buns, or anything else delicious would be served with scrambled eggs and strong black tea. Someone would turn on Chicago’s "Make Me Smile" and we’d all sit ourselves down. Being the joyful little unit that we are, we’d all say “Happy Valentine’s!” Wave our forks and napkins around in the air and dig in.
My first boyfriend only wore shorts. Even in winter. This didn’t bother me – I found his long skinny legs charming. He swam, skateboarded, played the bass and ran track. We were sixteen and knew nothing about relationships. As we stumbled through, stealing kisses after track practice and clambering back into our clothes when we heard our parents coming home, we learned a lot about each other and about loving. I remember a rather juvenile conversation we had about what clothes we would look best in. I admitted he would look great in a red t-shirt and black pants. He grimaced of course at the mention of pants and I laughed saying it really didn’t matter, I’d love him anyways, but it would look good…. Valentine’s rolled around that year and we’d been dating for maybe four months. I don’t remember planning anything special, but we both cooked up something on our own accord. I made him a huge heart-shaped “red cake” (a family favourite) complete with cinnamon heart decorations and “I love you Eric” written in the middle. He showed up at my locker wearing a red t-shirt and black pants, carrying a Styrofoam carton with a cinnamon bun in it from my favourite bakery. Huge points.
A couple years later – a far cry from being innocently sweet and sixteen – I celebrated another Valentine’s with a Montreal, tree-planting boyfriend. Looking back, I can’t help but smile. Things weren’t going so well, to say the least, and I used Valentine’s to try and prove how perfect we were for each other. If I could make the perfect dinner, he would know how much I loved him. In the week prior, I scoured the city for ingredients. I bought little cards for our two other roommates and left them little candies at breakfast. On Valentine’s I cooked all day, making yet another heart-shaped red cake complete with cinnamon heart decorations. For dinner, I made a moose tajine (yes, a tajine with moose meat instead of the traditional lamb or chicken – it didn’t pair so well with the spices, I must add). I dressed up, lit candles and waited for him to come home from school. When he walked in the door, he was surprised, but underneath seemed uncomfortable. Why had I gone to so much trouble? Dinner was good, but we said little and ate too much – our full bellies trying to fill our empty hearts. The evening was filled with unsatisfied expectation. It was Valentine's after all! We should be so in love! But I knew it wasn't working and I had no idea how to get out. After dinner we went and played hockey with friends. Skating around the rink, I remember wanting to keep skating as fast as possible, forever, until I couldn’t see anyone anymore but myself. But I kept going in circles.
I made another cake this year. Molly’s Winning Heart’s and Minds Cake. Except I’m calling it the “No Expectation Let Yourself Love and Be Loved Cake”. You can visit her website and read all about it here.
Happy loving folks.
Labels: Chocolate Cake