February 25, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Heart to resist

By |2018-04-20T15:16:45+02:00February 9th, 2018|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Why not wait a night, dodge the revelers, and celebrate Valentine's Day on the 15th?

elcome to the month of love. Well, aren’t they all? But February is particularly poignant to me because I’m a hopeless romantic who found an equally mushy mate and we married on February 14th. Forgetting to celebrate the thrill of the day was suddenly out of the question.

Every year, however, we ponder the same question. Where to go?

And every year we pick out some lovely restaurant in whatever city in whatever country we happen to be in, and say, “Oh yes, let’s go there, I’ve heard so much about it,” which is when we invariably discover that on February 14th the place we’ve chosen offers a Valentine’s Menu and that’s it.

No ordering off the menu, no substitutions, just that one night’s planned feast. If your favorites are not on the list, so be it. Find another place that suits you better.

The other problem is being aware from the start that all couples seated around you are also “doing” Valentine’s, which can be a little weird. It always sort of feels like you’re under orders: you’d better have a good time, or else. A little like New Year’s Eve, right? And you’d better like the menu, or else, too.

As a result — and it’s funny, really — Valentine’s Day almost always finds us at home in front of a nice little fireplace with some cold bubbly and maybe a couple of jars of salmon caviar or some smoked salmon to spread on toast with caper butter (lots of capers mashed into soft butter). Then we find an excruciatingly lovey-dovey romantic comedy, preferably with lots of smooching and wisecracking, usually on the theme of boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, boy- loses-girl-but-gets-her-back. The getting her back part makes for more smooches, and all grows mushy and maudlin. We sip our bubbly and get teary over True Romance and thank the love gods we found it.

Does that sound too simple? I hope not. We have had our share of celebratory restaurant dinners with beet-filled tortellini that turn pink and heart-shaped feuilleté filled with reddish something-or-other and carmine raspberry mousses decorated with little heart-shaped sprinkles (well, maybe not sprinkles, but you get the picture), But none of those elaborate festivities were half as much fun as what we finally came to see as the solution: Go out for a Valentine’s Day dinner on the 15th!

Everything will be fresh, because the 14th’s dinner was planned down to the last spring onion, with all the ingredients bought for just the right number of clients. What that means is that the 15th is a back-to-business night, no need to eat pink food if you don’t want to.

Speaking of Valentine’s, the first year it rolled around, which was also our first anniversary, we went to out local mega kitchen shop and shopped. My husband, realizing that my wealth of peelers, spatulas, sifters and knives lacked an equally rich array of cooking pots, wandered off to find them.

As he tells the story, a tall, attractive, savvy-looking salesperson approached him and asked what he had in mind (hmmm…). “Well, my honey is a very serious cook, and I thought I might get her a set of copper pots.”

To which she replied, “Oh, no, I don’t think so! She’ll be polishing copper for hours. Doesn’t she have a Robot Coupe that chops and dices and purées and more?”

“Not very romantic,” my observant husband replied, “and she is a purist. She cuts and chops everything by hand.”

The statuesque savvy creature arched an eyebrow, drew herself up to her full six-feet and exclaimed, “Don’t you realize that with a Robot Coupe, the time your wife saves in the kitchen, she will spend in the bedroom with you!”

Best Valentine’s present ever.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.