Lady and the Tramp had the right idea.
A mound of pasta, a glowing candle in an old-fashioned chianti bottle and big, soupy eyes just for each other.
Oh, and no utensils.
That single strand of spaghetti brought them together
in the most delightfully sweet way.
Sharing food is romantic,
especially when you're eating with your hands,
not to mention your muzzle.
That's intimate and primal.
Just like love.
Valentine's Day is Tuesday, which gives you plenty of time to plan the perfect meal a deux. If your heart is set on going out, make reservations ASAP or you may find yourself at the drive-through. Or stay in and orchestrate a cozy meal at your pace and to your own liking. Turn up the swanky music and turn down the lights.
There are foods that have long been considered aphrodisiacs, kindling love with special, mysterious properties. Among them are oysters, figs, chocolate, wine and strawberries. I don't know about oysters and figs, but what's not to fall in love about (and over) chocolate, wine and strawberries?
So there is more to chocolate-dipped strawberries and a glass of bubbly (which, you know, is a form of wine) than commercialism. Those treats speak the language of love, figuratively and chemically, it seems.
When you put together the menu for your sweetie, consider what you both like to eat. That said, this is not the time for a heavy feast. There's nothing that squelches amorous intentions more than a bellyful of chili or something equally weighty. Yes, wings are finger food, but you had your fill of those on Super Bowl Sunday.
Keep the Valentine's Day fare light and communal. Imagine the sparks flying as your hands bump on the way to the fondue pot. You'll need to sit closer together, too. Feed him a truffle; serve her a spoonful of Brownie Tiramisu.
It's getting hot in here.
Shellfish, especially inexpensive mussels and finger-friendly shrimp, are excellent choices for a grownup, romantic meal. My Mussels in Chunky Tomato Broth is a slurpy bowl of deliciousness that can serve as a starter or the main event. Get some good bread to sop up the garlic-tinged broth. Don't worry about garlic breath, because that stinking rose has amorous qualities, too.
Rosemary Shrimp Scampi Broth uses woody rosemary stems as the skewers. Put the earthy herb on the list of aphrodisiacs, too. In ancient cultures, it was considered a token of fidelity and remembrance, both important qualities in affairs of the heart.
Fondue is a classic dish for lovers, and the accompanying recipe from the Food Network is fairly simple to put together and will provide a workout for that fondue pot gathering dust on the top shelf. Use cooked fingerling potatoes, plus French bread cubes and vegetables, to dip into the cheesy goodness.
For dessert, you could buy a variety of mini-desserts that are easily eaten by hand. Many grocery store bakeries have mini-eclairs and other creamy offerings. Or you could buy the best box of dark chocolates that you can afford and serve them with red wine or a coffee drink.
Or do something French. Serve a selection of cheeses at room temperature with a glass of port (but only if you're not doing fondue). In December, the Taste section recommended Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto (about $20 at big box stores and some wine shops). Uncork this lovely and set out a wedge of Stilton or a bold, blue-veined cheese such as Roquefort. If you can find it, try Oregon's Rogue Creamery smoky blue.
Now that should kindle some flames.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.