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.

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  1. Veronica Bowers

    Mmmm… the risotto is exactly what I’ve been craving lately. Thank you for the motivation to make it! Just a couple of little substitutions to make it veg. and I’m all set!

    February 14th, 2012 11:20 am

  2. Ellen Skagerberg

    Adele does pretty darn well on “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It.” If a Cockney girl isn’t mean enough, go to the deep South and you’ll know why “The Girls from Texas” get Ry Cooder so righteously nervous.

    Even better, Loretta Lynn nailed first-person revenge in “Fist City,” and I think I’ll keep my mitts off HER man.

    But for movie revenge, at the end of 1988s “Dangerous Liaisons,” just sit back and watch John Malkovich destroy Glenn Close!

    February 14th, 2012 12:36 pm

  3. MicheleAnna.Jordan

    Thanks, Ellen. This is the first recommendation that has motivated me to see “Dangerous Liaisons.” Destroy Glenn Close? I can’t wait . . .

    February 14th, 2012 12:41 pm

  4. Tiffani Beckman

    Red Velvet is my fav cake! You can make it with beets instead of red DIE #40: http://bakecakery.com/2011/03/16/red-velvet-cake-with-beets/

    Red risotto is pretty sexy, too, though!

    February 14th, 2012 1:05 pm

  5. Robin Doran

    A recent favorite song of mine is “Trailer for Rent” by Miranda Lambert and I am not much of a country music fan. Puts a smile on my face with the imagery.

    February 14th, 2012 1:34 pm

  6. Natalie Freitas

    I’ll bite!

    Movie: Bringing Up Baby. I don’t think I could eat while watching it because I’d choke while laughing. It’s a timeless bit of lovestruck fun, tho’.

    Song: Herzeleid by Rammstein. Herzeleid means heartache in German. Favorite line — Sex is a battle, Love is war.

    For some time now my husband and I don’t eat out; we stay in. We often cook something together. I even made a card for him and have many times. I don’t like to buy into this Hallmark holiday.

    As for what we may eat this year — nothing like a nice garlic-laced bit of spaghetti with some salad and more garlic on bread. Why not? Share and share a like in the breath zone. And it keeps the vampires away. ;)

    Chocolate something for me and ginger cookies for he for dessert.

    February 14th, 2012 1:43 pm

  7. Karen Pierce Gonzalez

    Yes, Valentine’s Day has become commercial.
    For me it’s not about romance, it’s about caring for myself and for others.
    So I stayed in bed a bit longer this morning.
    Am planning to have dinner with my sweetheart at his favorite fish ‘n chips place.
    And he’s going to watch a movie this afternoon with our daughter (he made sure to have her favorite: p’nut butter cups).

    February 14th, 2012 2:27 pm

  8. Lynette Kronick

    Probably the first romantic movie that I ever remember watching is The Music Man. I love the music and the story, and to make it even better, The Beatles sang “Till There Was You” on their first album. This morning, my nineteen-year-old son serenaded me with this song while playing his ukelele. It didn’t cost him anything, but in my mind, it was priceless. That is what Valentine’s Day should be about.

    February 14th, 2012 5:20 pm

  9. Joe Manthey

    Valentine’s Day Snub Prompts Boyfriend AttackCops: Knife-wielding Ohio woman exploded after not receiving gift
    FEBRUARY 15–Angered that her boyfriend did not buy her a Valentine’s Day gift, an Ohio woman last night attacked the man, who barricaded himself inside a bedroom as she threatened to stab him with a kitchen knife, police allege.

    February 15th, 2012 12:17 pm

  10. Nicolle

    A great romantic movie that isn’t your usual love story is “Once,” set in Ireland. Love love loved it. Great music too. And I love the scene with the vacuum cleaner.

    As for revenge songs, I’m not sure it counts but Tom Waits’ “Who Are you?” certainly has some venom in it. I don’t understand the lyrics but I love the song…

    February 20th, 2012 9:02 am

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