…and red wine as well!
“And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” — 1 Corinthians 13:13, The Holy Bible
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt” — Charles Schulz
“We all want love” — Rihanna
“Just private affairs in a tighter circle. Large format wines in small settings” — an excerpt of the lyrics from “HappyLove” on the “Everything is Love” album by The Carters (Beyonce and Jay-Z)
“Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions, chocolate understands.”
Love songs and quotes about love (and chocolate, for that matter) have been around since the beginning of time. We all want love. If you’re a child of the 70s like me, you probably remember the phrase “Love is…” that was coined from a 60s comic strip and appeared on t-shirts, mugs, and posters in the early 70s. The timing of its popularity coincided with the quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” a thematic line from the heartbreaking and award-winning movie, “Love Story,” starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. As we approach Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love, especially romantic love, I’m pondering the concept of love, one of those abstract ideas like truth, beauty and goodness. After all is said and done, love means so many different things to different people.
As one trained in mathematics and logical reasoning, what I can say for sure is that, just as there can be no life without death, the joy of love cannot exist without the grief of love. Grief and love are inseparable, because when we allow ourselves to care deeply, we open ourselves up to the hurt and disappointment that inevitably comes with loss. So how do we live in the moment, enjoying life and love without holding back for fear of loss? And when loss occurs, is there a such thing as good grief? I believe there is. Just like we can’t be afraid to love, we also can’t be afraid to grieve. Grief is a natural emotion that needs to be released. That’s why it’s so important to have friends and experts who are willing to listen and help us process our grief without judgment, yet don’t allow us to self destruct over it. Not too many questions in the early stages, please. Humor can help at some point along the way, although timing can be delicate. I don’t even want to pretend to portray myself as a grief expert, but I do believe “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.” Community is important.
“Communes” were popular in America in the 70s, when our country was wrestling with overcoming racism, sexism and economic inequality in an attempt to become a more egalitarian and loving society. “Communion” is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level;” in many cultures, it includes bread and wine. Both words emanate from the Latin word, “communis” which translates to “common” in the English language, and it’s all about love, i.e., finding a way to focus more on our commonalities as a human race than our differences. Although we have yet to find the actual Utopian society, the idea of opening our hearts, minds and homes to others is worthwhile in the pursuit of joy and happiness .
So where does chocolate fit into all of this? Research has shown that despite its reputation for being unhealthy due to large amounts of sugar, fat and artificial ingredients in some chocolate products, pure chocolate has several physical and emotional health benefits which include mood enhancement and decreasing the risk of heart disease. The main benefits of chocolate are found in the cocoa bean which is separated into cocoa solids and cocoa powder that contain flavonoids, and cocoa butter, which, when consumed in moderation, has some beneficial health properties similar to coconut oil, ghee and other plant-based fats. Generally, evidence points to pure dark chocolate (without artificial additives and preservatives) being the healthiest, the lower the sugar content, the better. However, a redeeming quality of white chocolate is the good plant-based fat of cocoa butter, its primary ingredient, and the fact that since it’s not as bitter as dark chocolate, it requires less sugar to attain a sweet flavor. And for those who are into baking art, of course white chocolate lends itself well to the addition of other colors and flavors, as in chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Back to the subject of Valentine’s Day. I learned early on that getting a Valentine’s Day dinner reservation at a NYC restaurant can require up to a month’s advance notice, only to possibly be disappointed with an overpriced cookie cutter menu selection that isn’t executed up to the restaurant’s usual standards. So, I actually prefer staying in for Valentine’s Day. If you decide to stay in for Valentine’s Day this year, here are few menu ideas for a quick, easy and romantic Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day celebration, taken from an intimate dinner I hosted several years ago:
Garlic Lobster Tails, Filet Mignon, French Green Beans (and Twice-Baked Potatoes) are all you need. Star Jones’ recipe for Garlic Lobster Tails tastes like you put some time and thought into the meal, rather than just throwing a plain old broiled lobster tail in front of your guest(s) with lemon wedges and a side of melted butter. Just be careful when selecting the Cajun seasoning and seafood spice to make note of the sodium content. The first time I made this dish, it came out a little too salty. Considering the fact that some of us are on sodium-restricted diets, I think it’s probably best to use an unsalted Cajun spice and maybe even a little less of the Seafood Magic, depending on the size of your lobster tails. You can set aside a mixture of the dry seasoning and offer it to guests at the table to add at their own discretion if they desire.
Pair your Valentine’s Day meal with a pretty pink or red sparkling rosé like the LVE French Sparkling Rosé or low-alcohol sparkling red bubbles like JCB French Kiss (made from the Gamay grape), which comes in at 7.5% alcohol (vs 11% -13%) for most wines.
Santé and Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🖤🤍🤎