As I walked the stairs I wondered about this holiday. Heading for the attic door, I picked up the stuff that lined the attic stairs - a box of satin bows, a bag of Santa napkins, the gingerbread door sign. I looked out on the roof. Still looks like Christmas to me. But, oh busboy, I'm heading to the attic to retrieve the Valentine's decorations.
Returning to the kitchen, I begin to tape the cardboard hearts on the back door window. They are looking a bit frayed. I'm feeling a bit frayed.
Valentine's Day. I must send funny cards to the kids. I must make chocolate cupcakes with cherries inside for the grandchildren. I need to get little stuffed animals and boxes of candy to drop at their door before school.
Hold it, now, just hold it. This holiday is about "romance." Where do those kids and grandkids come in? The little kids in school send Justin Bieber and Winnie the Pooh little cards to each other that say, "Be mine," "Forever yours" and "I love you." Now, what would you give for your significant other to drop one of those cards on your desk?
Somewhere we have lost the whole point. I think Valentine's Day was strategically set in February to save relationships. It comes just at the time when the weather and the holidays are too much for us and we need a little amorous action. We need to be involved with all those psyche terms: to bond, to connect, to associate, to link, attachment.
Our relationship deserves a night alone. We want a night just for each other. Our relationship requires a romantic respite once a year. (And if your "partner" doesn't agree, just hand him or her this article.) And, oh busboy, there must be food involved.
Now, like a good relationship, a special dinner, breakfast or lunch doesn't just happen. It requires personal attention, caring and planning. I am going to give you some of my suggestions, but you can ad lib anything else to add a spark.
Romantic Dinner 101
Make a plan for the kids. Get a babysitter to take them, send them to a friends or put them to bed very early. If they have to be home, then involve them in the conspiracy. Help with the decorations, surprise or plan and line up three or four good movies and shut the door.
Plan ahead. Have a meal that is hassle free or do some pre-prep if you must. Keep it simple. Nothing kills romance like work. This is about together time, not slaving in the kitchen.
Keep it neat. Hard to be romantic in a mess.
Change the location. If you eat every night in the same spot, eat somewhere else. Set a table in the living room. The bedroom might work.
Have a centerpiece. This takes the dinner from drab to delirious. It says, "This place matters." Personal centerpieces are the best. Flowers are OK if they have a personal significance: the ones you had at your wedding, her favorite, pictures of fun times stuck inside, etc.
Prepare the food together. Stir, taste, talk. Cooking can be very romantic.
Prepare/order food that will not interfere with romance. If you must have garlic, cook it well.
Share. Only make one plate for some of the food items then share 'em. Strawberry tiramisu is like super-rich strawberry shortcake and is a perfect for sharing. I guess you could feed each other but I think I'll pass on that.
Keep the conversation light and focused on each other. This is not the time to discuss your mother's upcoming visit.
Take a long time to eat. Savor the time together. Plan several small courses to lengthen the evening, but don't get too complicated. This is about enjoying time together.
Don't eat or drink too much. My granddaughter calls it "Hitting the wall" when one has eaten so much it stops the ability to move...very romantic.
Don't drink too much. Nothing kills romance like a slurring or sleeping spouse.
Don't ever mention the money spent. "You shouldn't have!" Oh yes he/she should. Why not prepare the filet that you wouldn't buy for a whole family. It's only two people so it's OK, but not necessary, to splurge.
Forget the dirty dishes. Keep the dishes to a minimum or leave them in the sink. You have better things to do after dinner than dishes.
You can make reservations. You can still make that special. Keep the location a surprise. It looks thoughtful. It doesn't have to be expensive or even different. To help make the meal special, do something, anything, ahead: preorder the meal; order flowers to be delivered there and on the table; slip a gift on the table before he/she sits down. It's very nice when restaurants give out flowers but they are from the restaurant, not from you.
P.S. If you are looking for romantic menus suggestions, visit www.divinedinnerparty.com and click on Valentine's Day. This is a delicious website. You will not be disappointed with the menu/recipes.