Those delectable (disgusting) little treats are hand-sculpted human hearts, made from marzipan and doused in probably too much red food coloring. I made them with friends several years ago for a combination Mardi Gras/Valentine’s Day party which we dubbed Carnivalentines. I had also been reading a lot of George Bataille, who waxes philosophopoetic about human sacrifice in The Accursed Share, so human hearts recommended themselves to me as an appropriate symbol of the lavish expenditures of both holidays.
I didn’t know at the time how much Valentine’s Day had in common with carnivals, but my reading for a recent piece at Table Matters suggested that February 14th was, for several centuries, mostly just another feast day for folks to enjoy a day off with treats and tricks. The association with romance grew slowly and much later; even then, signs of romantic interest were usually conveyed with paper and poetry, rarely with flowers and candy. To my surprise, the history of Valentine’s sweets is short and sweet: valentine confections didn’t really become a thing until the end of the nineteenth century.
All the same, it’s difficult to talk about love without talking about food. Love begs for appetizing metaphors: from sweetness and tenderness to the consuming passions that devour us, the hungers of the heart lend themselves to the metaphors of the mouth. Valentine’s Day is like a holy feast day for food blogs.
Since I’ve spent my Valentine’s Day word count elsewhere, here are a few related links that may be of interest:
On this blog, I posted earlier in the year about some grotesque satirical valentines that captured some of the anti-suffragette spirit of the day. As I mention in my history post, Valentine’s Day has always been a celebration of print culture, and the anonymity of valentine cards permitted a certain amount of license; for some, this invited riddles or simply unsigned declarations of love, while others took the opportunity to send satirical or mean-spirited cards. Brainpicker and Sociological Images both have longer posts that showcase a number of Victorian valentines meant to shame or ridicule women who stepped out of gender norms (especially to vote).
Out in the world, there’s a lot of pressure for couples to go out and have the perfect romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day. At Table Matters, Joy talks about why eating at home is the best way to be sure it’s not a night to remember for all the wrong reasons. At the Spectator Tribune, Chef Alexander Svenne makes a similar case against the romantic dinner out (invoking a couple of hilarious entrée ideas that I hope are fictional). Meanwhile, if you’re persuaded now to avoid all candlelit BYOBs on February 14th, Qdoba is there for you: kiss someone at the register and you can get two burritos for the price of one.
Amusingly, I learned of this promotion because there is a rampant rumor on Twitter that Chipotle is offering this romantic discount on Thursday. Won’t they be surprised!
And finally, for fun, here’s an old post from this blog to brief you on what is an aphrodisiac and what isn’t. (Hint: most foods don’t physiologically inflame the body with passion; rather, they kindle passion through suggestion.)
Happy feast day!