Sunday, February 12, 2017

LOVE, ACTUALLY, IS ALL AROUND....




St. Valentine’s Day evokes and provokes various emotions; different strokes for different folks. 

For many the day summons special actions and/or thoughts of the romantic, heartening kind. For others it generates feelings of negative antipathy.

Unashamedly I sit comfortably contented in the former category.

There are those who believe Valentine’s Day to be an aggravating, in-your-face day, the sole purpose of which is to promote money-making.

Well! Knock me over with a feather!  What’s improper about businesses making money?  What is wrong with job-creation?  Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong in having fun while doing either. 

Perhaps if every day was Valentine’s Day love would be all around, instead of the other way around - lives being frittered away by hate, negativity and lack of empathy. 

There’s nothing quite as heart-warming as a freely-given hug; or in being the recipient thereof.  Why are some hesitant or embarrassed to show innocent affection?  I don’t mean we have to go around hugging all and sundry!  There’ll be no need for you to duck for cover next time you see me out roaming the streets. 

However, it would be a far better world if people were nicer to each other; if they put an effort into building up others, rather than gaining pleasure out of ridiculing and tearing them down; and being eager to do so.

It’d be a worthier world if love replaced anger and violence. If regard and respect for others replaced sneering contempt.

Showing you care (maybe no one cares anymore) is a demonstration, not only of your belief in your own self-worth, but also a belief in the goodness of others; that you recognise their feelings. 

Instead of spreading the light of love too many clowns these days prefer to knock out each other’s light. 

A friend of mine and his wife visited me late last year.  I love it when he, or both, pay a visit.  We don’t get to see each other often - once a year, thereabouts. They live in Townsville, approx., 1409 kms (875 miles) from here where I live amongst the mountain greenery of Tamborine Mountain.  We’re in regular contact, though. The internet, like love, is a many-splendoured thing. 

It’s great when my friend visits because he’s a big, cuddly bear; and, he gives the best bear hugs! Such hugs can’t help but stimulate a feeling of genuine happiness.  His hugs always make me feel I matter; and that matters to me.

When I was married I always created a special three course dinner on Valentine’s Night.  The day/night never passed by ignored. I enjoyed doing so.  

Any excuse for a party...in truth, no excuse was ever needed, really - but when a “special” day arrived it never passed without recognition of some kind – the “special” was emphasised – as was the fun!

When I was cooking in restaurants St. Valentine’s Day candle-lit dinners were memorable affairs for the diners (some of whom could’ve been in the midst f an affair).  I gained pleasure creating  red-letter St. Valentine’s Day menus to suit the mood.

A break from the “norm” in the name of love and fun doesn’t hurt anyone. It adds a bit of spice to life.  Who wants mundane when there are more than 350 spices on offer in the world; not to mention spice blends and herbs. 

Hang on!  I did just mention them.

During the St. Valentine’s Day dinners it was fun watching (eavesdropping) on the smitten couples holding hands across the table, whispering sweet nothings to each other, e.g., “If you insist on having the Garlic Prawns, I guess I’ll have to have them, too!  What?  Garlic bread as well!  Geez! You sure know how to put the kibosh on things! Just when I thought...Well!  Sheeesh!!  There goes that plan, best laid and all...!”

Valentine’s Day is a bit of innocent, light-hearted fun.  We live in a world where, if it continues along its present path the word “fun” will soon disappear from our vocabulary. If that eventuated what a sad plight we would find ourselves in...and then, we really would have something to complain about.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying one’s self.  There is nothing wrong with showing a loved one you care on a special day set aside in honour of love.

Some folk jump up and down while emphatically telling us we should celebrate love everyday, not only on that one day, the 14th February, when dear old Val takes it upon himself to give us a nudge (sometimes a bucketful of cold water) as a reminder for us to do so.  I agree...but I also believe there is nothing wrong in having a day, draped in hearts and roses, set aside.

Hey!  Each one of us has a special day annually – the day on which we celebrate our birthday. On actual fact, we’re a year older as every second, minute, hour and day pass...so, in that case, we should be celebrating every day – all day...and night!  

So what’s the difference with St. Valentine’s Day?   It’s time to shrug off the shackles of apathy; time to sink cynicism. 

I see nothing wrong with St. Valentine’s Day, nor do I see anything wrong with businesses making money from the special day nominated as a celebration of love; from any special occasion; or any day. 

Like love, money makes the world go around. 

Each day should be special; each day should be an occasion. 

Businesses should be praised, not criticised for making profits. There really isn’t a mystical, cream-filled cake in the sky endlessly handing out myriad slices.   There’s no such thing as a free lunch, whether lunch is cake or sandwiches!

Let’s lighten up!  Happy Valentine’s Day for the 14th!

No one will be giving me a box of chocolates, a bunch of roses or flowers of any description; or taking me out to dine, but that doesn’t mean I can’t gift myself with some delicious dark chocolate-coated ginger, or a block of dark chocolate with almonds or whatever else takes my fancy; nor does it mean I can’t pick some flowers from the garden and hand them to me...a gift from Remy and Shama and me to me. 

There is nothing wrong in doing so just in the spirit of the day. 

If, like me, you’re alone...there is also nothing wrong in preparing yourself a special dinner....just for the hell of it – for the fun of it – in the spirit of love and happiness.  
Let’s not massacre the joys of love, understanding, empathy and kindness on St. Valentine’s Day – or any other day - instead let’s rejoice in the power of love.
May Cupid’s arrow have a soft place to fall.   Let’s ensure we don’t end up how poor old Valentine did!   


Wikipedia says.....

(The Catholic Encyclopedia[ and other sources speak of three Saint Valentines that appear in connection with February 14. One was a Roman priest, another the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) both buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city. The third was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day with a number of companions in the Roman Province of Africa for whom nothing else is known.

Though the extant accounts of the martyrdoms of the first two listed saints are of a late date and contain legendary elements, a common nucleus of fact may underlie the two accounts and they may refer to a single person. According to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna and while on a temporary stay in Rome was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred there on February 14, 273. His body was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.

Τhe Roman Martryology, the Catholic Church's official list of recognized saints, for February 14 gives only one Saint Valentine; a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia
The feast of St. Valentine of February 14 was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius.
Valentine was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner. However, when Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. 

He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate)


Not much love shown there to poor old Valentimus!   

I guess that's one way to lose one's head over love!

Put a little love in your heart; but don’t be selfish; don’t keep it to yourself. Spread the love around. 

What’s love got to do with it? Everything! 

All together now...let’s sing some silly love songs....

Garlic Prawn Fritters: Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in pan over med-low heat. Add 1 finely chopped onion; cook until softened. Remove from heat. When cool, place in bowl with 2 thinly sliced spring onions, 450g green prawn meat, chopped, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and1tsp paprika; season. In another bowl, combine 1c chickpea (besan) flour), 2tbs plain flour and 1tsp baking powder. Gradually whisk in 310ml water until batter is thick and smooth. Stir in prawn mixture; rest 20mins. Heat 120ml olive oil in pan over med-heat until hot. Work in batches; add 2tbs mixture per fritter to hot oil; cook, turning once until golden and cooked through; serve with garlic butter sauce or sweet chill sauce.

Garlic Dijon Prawns:  Preheat oven to 230C.  In a small saucepan over med-heat, combine 260g butter, 2tbs Dijon mustard, juice of half lemon, 2-3 chopped garlic cloves and half a bunch of parsley, chopped. When the butter melts completely, remove from heat. Arrange1kg peeled, tails intact, medium green prawns in shallow baking dish. Pour butter mixture over the prawns; cook for 12 to 15mis or until the prawns are just pink and opaque.

Tamarind-Orange Duck Salad: Preheat oven 220c. Wash 1.2kg whole duck, neck removed, inside and out under cold water; pat dry. Pierce breast all over. Cut ½ orange into 6 wedges; place into duck cavity. Tie duck legs together; season all over with salt; place duck, on its side, in roasting pan. Roast 20mins; remove from oven; drain excess fat; reduce heat to 190C. Combine 1/3c honey, 2tbs fresh orange juice and 2tbs tamarind concentrate in saucepan; bring to boil over med-high heat; simmer on medium, 2-3mins. Brush duck all over with honey mixture. Turn duck breast side up in pan; arrange 4 ripe pears around duck; roast 1hr; baste with honey mix every 15mins, until duck is cooked. While duck is roasting, place 1/3c walnut halves in a pan; cook over med-heat 2-3mins; when cool, coarsely chop. Cut the pears in half. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Place in bowl with 80g baby Asian greens. Whisk together 2tbs orange juice, 1tbs soy sauce, 1tbs peanut oil and crushed garlic; season. Drizzle pear mixture with dressing; gently toss to combine. Arrange over serving platter. Remove string from duck. Cut duck along either side of the backbone. Discard backbone. Cut duck halves into 3 pieces. Arrange over pear salad; sprinkle with walnuts. Serve immediately. 

Luscious Flourless Chocolate Meringue Cake: Preheat oven 160C.  Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch spring-form pan; line base with baking paper. Put 180g each chopped, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in bowl set over saucepan of simmering water (don’t allow the bowl to touch the water). Stir until choc melts; then remove bowl. Put 6 large eggs, 3/4c raw sugar and pinch salt in mixer bowl. Set bowl over same pan of simmering water; whisk until mixture is warm, about 2mins. Transfer the bowl to mixer; beat with whisk attachment on med-speed until tripled in volume, about 5mins. Bring 1/2c Guinness stout and 1tsp vanilla extract to a low boil in a saucepan. Reduce mixer speed to low; beat in the stout mixture; then the melted chocolate, until combine, about 2mins. Gradually beat in 1-1/2c (113g) unsalted butter until all incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs, about 35mins. Cool in the pan on a rack 1 hour, then run a knife around the edge of pan and remove the ring. Let cool completely. Make the meringue: Melt 55g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, 2tbs unsalted butter and 1tbs light corn syrup. Whisk 1c granulated sugar, 3 large egg whites, 1/4tsp cream of tartar, pinch of salt and 1/3c water in a heatproof bowl. Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; beat with a handheld mixer on low speed, then gradually increase the speed to high; beat until soft peaks form, about 5mins. Remove the bowl from the pan; continue beating until meringue is cool and fluffy. Fold in 2tsp vanilla extract; then fold in the melted chocolate until swirled. Spread the meringue on the cake.  Next....damn the calories and all the “experts”....bog in and enjoy!!!   

The Lover:  In a shaker of ice, pour 15ml each of Limoncello, vodka and Cointreau; shake for 20 seconds (the shaker, not you!).  Pour into tall, fluted glass. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled Prosecco; add a touch of grenadine; stir gently; drop a maraschino cherry into the glass. 



20 comments:

  1. Snort about the garlic matter. Ah, it too a while to get to the reason for the defence of Valentine's Day, "but that doesn’t mean I can’t gift myself with some delicious dark chocolate-coated ginger".

    I think many people, perhaps myself too, see it just more American culture arriving to our shores. Be assured though, I make sure at least a card and warm wishes are given. My life is worth living.

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    1. Hi Andrew...I really couldn't give a damn if America took over St. Valentine's Day and turned it into a day of fun. Sure beats beheading! We'll leave that to some in the Middle Eastern countries.

      I'm not defending St. Valentine's Day...just airing my own thoughts about it. As I've said...I see absolutely nothing wrong with it...whether the US has grabbed it and run with it or not; or whether we've chosen to do similar. In my opinion...it does no harm.

      Spreading the love is far less harmful than spreading the hate and violence. :)

      Thanks for coming by...I hope you have a Happy St. Valentine's Day...and I hope there are some chocolates somewhere thrown into the mix! :)

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  2. I mostly forget about Valentine's Day until I'm in the shops and there are hearts and flowers all over. 44 years ago I was in labour on Valentine's Day, but she wasn't born until the next morning.
    I love garlic prawn fritters.

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    1. Hi River...you have a momentous occasion to remind of Valentine's Day...the birth of your daughter the following day. That's better than all the roses and chocolates in the world!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. Too many people I know are still wounded from elementary school valentine exchanges. It was sad for those of us who received 1 or 2 in our decorated boxes while popular kids got tons.

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    1. Hi Annie....there was nothing like that in Primary school aka your elementary school...not in my day, anyway. It just wasn't the thing back then, not with us little kids. I remember I was given a conversation lolly once and tossed it away. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. My Retired Man asked me last night what I would like to do on Wednesday, Valentine's Day. I am not sure if I will tell him that he will be a day late. It will probably be easier to get a reservation on the 15th anyway.

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    1. lol You could tell him you'll be out buying him a 2017 calendar, Arleen!!

      Enjoy...as I wrote in my post...the date doesn't matter, but make sure your date on the 15th does...and have a great time.!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. Yikes. They were pretty rough on poor ole Val. Couldn't torture and stone him to death so they beheaded him? That's cold.
    VDay can be celebrated as much or as little as an individual wants. They may spend a bunch on their honey. Or just do special things for them all day without spending a dime.
    I'm a VDay fan too, Lee.
    Hope yours is great!

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    1. Of course, Sandra...I agree with you re the day. Spending a fortune doesn't necessarily bring the greatest happiness or have the greatest of sincerity. Spending a little can mean so much more. Spending nothing at all...but picking a bunch of flowers from the garden (or someone else's) or writing a little poem can express more than grandiose expenditure.

      It's just a fun day...let's have some fun for a change, I say! :)

      I hope you have some fun on Val's Day, too, Sandra! Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. Love is everywhere. Sometimes it could get messy though, but true love will see it through. :)

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    1. I gets messy only when the chocolate melts, Lux!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. Sending you a Valentine's Day hug, my friend! xo

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    1. Backatcha, Lynn! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    1. Backatcha, Mr. Ad-Man!

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  9. I tried to follow your advice and spread the love around in our local pub but all I got was a blonde woman whacking me with her handbag and yelling at me, "Gerroff you pervert!"

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    1. When will you ever learn, Yorkie? How many times have I told you that's not the way to go about it??? :)

      I hope she whacked you good and proper!!!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. I agree with you entirely, Lee! What a fantastic cocktail that sounds!

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    1. The world these days is lacking in light-hearted fun, Jenny; in fun of all weights! I see absolutely nothing wrong with having some Valentine's fun on Valentine's Day. Even if it's just treating me, myself, with some delicious chocolate (which I did)! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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