Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner but as I’ve mentioned before, my partner is a Buddhist and doesn’t celebrate anything.  As a borderline Pægan myself, I like to celebrate everything!  But here’s the crunch, I don’t like commercialism and refuse to be told when and how to celebrate my feelings for the man I … er… love?  Why stick to just one day of the year when there are another 364 days in which you can express your love?  Thankfully, his highness’s birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day so I get to do my thing whether he likes it or not.  Strangely, he has not once complained!

The origins of Valentine’s Day are somewhat sketchy.  It would seem that there were three chaps by the name of Valentine that made it in to sainthood.  All were martyred on February 14th.  One was in Africa and that is all that is known about him.  Valentine of Terni was a bishop that was put to death in 273 AD and the third, Valentine of Rome was a priest who was martyred in 269 AD.  Legends abound around this man.  He was (allegedly) martyred for aiding persecuted Christians and refusing to denounce his religion, although another story says it was because he performed marriages for young soldiers, going against the ruling of the time.

One legend has him cutting hearts from parchment to remind the soldiers of their vows and the love of God. Yet another states that he fell in love with his jailers daughter and signed a note that he sent to her, “From your Valentine”.

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It wasn’t until 496 AD that Pope Gelasius I recast the pægan festival of Lupercalia, a rather dark pagan matchmaking ritual, as St Valentine’s feast day after one of the martyrs, with some evidence pointing to Valentine of Rome.

Love and romance didn’t become fully associated with St. Valentine’s Day until the 14th century when Chaucer wrote his poem “Parlement of Foules” in honour of the first anniversary of Richard II engagement to Anne of Bohemia.

Commercial Valentines verses and drawings came about at the end of the 18th century but it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that gifts began to be exchanged amongst the general populace, with Britain at the forefront of the commercialisation of St. Valentine’s Day.

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Doesn’t the festival of Lupercalia sound so much more interesting?  No hearts and flowers on the 14th here for us and definitely no drunken, debauched orgies, those days have long gone.  However, on the 15th, coincidently the pinnacle of the festivals feastings, I get to cook up a feast of my own to show my partner how much his day of birth means to me.  After all, if he hadn’t been born, he would not now be in my life. 

I particularly like to accommodate his tastes on his birthday so spiciness will definitely feature somewhere.  He throws mushrooms in just about everything given half the chance so they will feature quite predominantly and if I don’t do something with chocolate for a sweet, I might just as well have not cooked at all.  Yes, he is very much in touch with his feminine side!

Add a few roses and heart-shaped chocolates and the three course meal that I’m cooking up for my partner would work just as well for Valentine’s Day.

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Recipes for Falafel and Eggless Chocolate Cake are in the text

I’ve eaten falafel before but never made it myself so this is a chance to do a bit of experimenting with flavours and spices on something I know we both like. 

I mentioned the Mushroom and Walnut Bourguignon from Carrots & Flowers on last week’s blog and this week I’m going to make it myself as I think this is just the thing for a special occasion.  I’m going to serve it with a butter bean and potato mash, plus some roasted carrots and steamed kalettes.  As it’s a special occasion, I’ve gone for a mix of different mushrooms.  I’m very disappointed in the amount of plastic involved but the only mushrooms that seem to come loose anywhere in Lincoln are the basic white mushrooms.

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Portobello, basic white, shittake, wild and button mushrooms

For dessert, I’m going to be making an Eggless Chocolate Cake and finishing it off with a chocolate avocado ‘butter’ cream.  No butter will be harmed in the making of this ‘butter’ cream, the avocado does it all.  The wife of an old work colleague gave this recipe to me and I’ve tried it several times now.  It’s got to be one of the best homemade chocolate cakes that I have ever had and the ‘butter’ cream finishes it off nicely.  The whole thing is soft, moist and ever so slightly gooey. 

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This was meant of be a picture of the whole cake… oops!

Normally I live on a tight budget but as we don’t exchange presents at Christmas and birthdays and don’t celebrate Easter or indeed, anything much, I feel justified in going a bit over the top for his nibs’ birthday feast.

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