Risotto with Amarone is as rich and red as a bleeding heart, a perfect indulgence on Valentine's Day. It is a signature dish in Verona, home to two of the most famous lovers ever, Romeo and Juliet.

Valentine’s Day disturbs me and it has for a long time, ever since I read the economic statistics: More money is spent on this holiday than any other, save Christmas. Between this knowledge and the constant barrage of ads to buy buy buy to prove your love, the whole thing makes me mildly queasy. It is easy to get the impression that a woman buys some little something for her beau then sits back, arms crossed, waiting for an expensive proof of love in return. No proof forthcoming? May not be a fun night . . .

And then there’s dinner out: It is right up there with Mother’s Day, though a bit worse, I think. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day–not recently, mind you–and watched miserable-looking couples picking at their food, not talking and avoiding eye contact.

I find it gruesome and sad.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not cynical; I just hate what has happened to this holiday in the public sphere. I have an on-going list–mostly in my head but occasionally I write it down–of happy couples, both from history and from contemporary life. Some are couples I know and they are touchstones to me, examples of true and enduring love. Just thinking about them makes me happy and I love being around them.

Even the ones I don’t know are touchstones of sorts. I always smile when I think of a professor when I was in graduate school talking about William Black and his wife. He lifted his right hand slightly above his head, wiggled his fingers in that way that evokes craziness and said, “He loved Catherine to distraction.” There you go!

I have, over the years, written about the holiday, though not in any typical way. Here are a few of those columns, with recipes, from the Seasonal Pantry archives:


Yeah, it ends badly. But it is still one of the best love stories ever written and it is hard, perhaps impossible, to find a more visually gorgeous film than Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 masterpiece

Valentine’s Dinner and a Movie  How about a tale of tortured love, like Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo & Juliet” or  François Truffaut’s “The Story of Adele H,” accompanied by a delicious Risotto with Amarone & Radicchio? If your tastes run towards something light-hearted, try “Sleepless in Seattle” with cracked Dungeness crab and Champagne. On the other hand, if you’re a darker-is-better sort, how about “Camila,” a sexy and devastating 1984 Argentine film about a romance between a young priest and the wealthy young socialite who seduces him. What makes it worse is that the story is true. It’s perfect with a very rare ribeye steak with wilted spinach, your favorite red wine and a very large handkerchief .

Advice and Sweets For the Lovelorn Broken hearts are like the foam on this beer, a friend said. If you’ve got one, don’t worry. You’ll survive, honest. In the meantime, treat yourself: How about strawberries & ricotta? If you happen to have a copy of Cynthia Heimel’s hilarious “Sex Tips For Girls,” I recommend reading the chapter on broken hearts, too. And then blast your favorite revenge music (recommendations: “The Walk” by Mayer Hawthorne, “Revenge” by The Mekons, “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You” by the Ramones, “I’m Not Angry” by Elvis Costello and “Mental Revenge” by Linda Ronstadt). Do you have a favorite revenge song? Share in the comments section below.

Say It With Red Velvet & Roses  Red Velvet Cake with Rose Petal Buttercream? It’s yummy enough to melt all but the coldest heart . . . See? I’m not a curmudgeon, honest.