Ah. Valentine’s Day. What’s not to love about this week’s celebration of love? Well nothing, Silly! Nothing at all, if we do not count overbooked restaurants, the price surging habit of overbooked restaurants and the choice of so many of these many overpriced, overbooked restaurants to play the music of James Blunt.
There are gastronomic truths we hold to be self-evident, and chief among them: The song You’re Beautiful is as helpful to digestion as it is to our ideas about love. Which is to say, not at all. Get this: The guy whines for a full three minutes about a hottie he once saw on public transport. She was “with another man” yet James quickly comes to believe it is his destiny to pine eternally for her because “she caught my eye”.
I have, through no fault of my own, become very familiar with this verse, and conclude that James and the beautiful stranger never “shared a moment”. In fact, Angel-face, who was on her way to a good ramen joint, was smiling only about chashu when James starts checking her out. He confuses this fondness for tender pork with the possibility of eternal love.
And, this brings us to our annual moral Valentine lesson: It is dangerous to confuse our appetites. The desire for a hearty bone broth should be seen as entirely separate from the desire for another human. Nonetheless, the catering cupids of this day try to bring food and romantic love together. This is generally wrong. Of course, if you and your partner(s) find a practical use for each other as dessert plates, I wish you all the luck and whipped cream in the world. I do not judge you.
I judge only the Cupid of Commerce who urges us every year to either dine in public to the music of James Blunt or try cooking a purportedly “romantic” dinner.
The desire for a hearty bone broth should be seen as entirely separate from the desire for another human.
As Michael Pollan is wont to remind us, the science of nutrition is one yet in its infancy. We are yet to learn with any certainty if there are foods that might be considered mood elevators, much less if there are those that will provoke our—ahem—thirst.
You may be a strong and disciplined person able to avoid all these promises of culinary thrill. Or, you may be weak and reckless, like me. You’ll get yourself into a state about the Big Day and resort to pseudo-pseudo-scientific claims to calm yourself down. Please. Take a breath before you plan a “sexy” menu.
We are yet to learn with any certainty if there are foods that might be considered mood elevators, much less if there are those that will provoke our - ahem - thirst.
Simply cook the dish that your person likes the most. Do not feed them so much of it that they become bloated less by lust than by pastry. If you have, ahem, intentions for the evening, feed them only a very little, and serve it wearing an apron. Just an apron.
I speak from experience. That garlicky steak dish advised by a certain ladies’ publication did not end well. That “scientific study” about the electrifying properties of chocolate dessert didn’t either. Sure, certain ingredients may be shown one day to have the power to chemically enflame us. However, a meal of meat and pungent herb for two followed by caramel skillet brownies will put no one in a mood for anything but the telly and/or Mylanta.
It does not make sense that the satiation of your appetite will lead to hunger for another human. We must not confuse a love of noodles for romantic love; the two things are really rather different. You don’t need a nice, open conversation with ramen prior to enjoying it. If only James Blunt had known this, then none of us would suffer his Valentine’s song.
Helen Razer is your frugal food enthusiast, guiding you to the good eats, minus the pretension and price tag in her weekly Friday column, Cheap Tart. Don't miss her next instalment, follow her on Twitter @HelenRazer.