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Those who have followed this space through the years and convolutions know me well enough to know that I often talk about my family and, when it comes to holidays, I regularly regale you with our traditions. This being the “Valentine’s issue”, you’ll find me staying true to form.
A couple of years ago, we started a special Valentine’s Dinner at our house. I had a girlfriend and her family staying with us for a while, and the boys had girlfriends but not much money for treating them. I suggested to the boys that they invite their girlfriends for a special dinner at our house and decided that since there were so many of us, I could go all out and make it really festive.
I asked each of the boys to suggest one dish that they thought their girlfriend would enjoy and then my friend and I filled out the menu with the rest.
In order to make things a bit simpler, we visited the supermarket freezer case for the hors d’oeuvres. We found escargots en croute, spicy marinated shrimp, kiwi mussels on the half shell and a lovely cranberry garnished brie in puff pastry as well. It’s amazing what’s available in the freezer case these days. You’re only restricted by your palate. Give it a try.
We dressed up the table in my best red linen tablecloth, used my china and fine stainless and I made up a table decoration of clear glass containers and red candles of many sizes and descriptions. I had about two dozen all told and set them haphazardly around the table. As well, I had found in the local “five and dime” an assortment of red wicker baskets, oval, round, and square, that were about four inches across and a couple of inches deep. These I lined with white doilies and filled with chocolates, lottery scratch tickets and a special trinket and put one at each place. The table set and ready, we moved into the kitchen to prepare our feast.
Though the numbers around our table have changed a lot since that first dinner, we have kept the tradition going. This will be our third annual Valentine’s Day feast. We reuse the little red baskets and each year I manage to find something new and different to put in them. Last year my then 15 year old bought me a dozen red roses. Brought tears to my eyes.
We’ve done roasts and Cornish game hens and last year we even had a heart shaped meat loaf (that was Vincent’s idea). We’ve gone as fancy as scalloped potatoes or lemon roasted potatoes and as simple as mashed. But each year we try to make sure we have at least one favourite for each person.
I’m not sure what will be on the menu this year but I’m leaning towards cannelloni and maybe grilled chicken breasts. One thing I do know … celebrating Valentine’s Day with the ones you love around you is the only way to celebrate.
So, whatever you do to celebrate and whomever you choose to celebrate it with, I wish for you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day filled with love.
See you all next month; look for a return of the recipe exchange and some of the other features of this column too.