Valentine’s Day: Dinner & History

Valentine by Katelan Foisy

Valentine by Katelan Foisy

I’m attracted to reds and pinks, to frilly paper hearts and paintings go cupids with their bows and arrows. I want to take vintage popup cards and hold them close to my chest while dipping my hand into a candy dish of red juju hearts and cherry lollipops. I cherish boxes of candy hearts with sayings stamped onto them. I love the aesthetics of Valentine’s Day without the attachment of the day itself. We can be sexy and romantic for ourselves or others on any day of our choosing and no one should be made to feel guilty or unwanted because they don’t have a partner on a specific day.

Valentine’s Day originated as a pagan fertility celebration which was held from February 13-15th. Lupercalia can be traced back to 6th Century B.C.E and the days of King Amulius who overthrew his brother’s throne and killed King Numintor’s son. He forced Rhea Silvia, Numintor’s daughter to become a vestal virgin to ensure there would be no heirs to the throne. She defied him, giving birth to Romulus and Remus. Rhea named Mars as the father but stories vary from, Mars appeared and lay with Rhea Silvia. Some myths say the father was actually Hercules. However, the author Livy claims that Rhea was raped by an unknown man, but named Mars as she imagined it to be him to cope with the horrors of being raped or because it was less discreditable to have committed an offence with a god.

Amulius demanded the twins be thrown into the Tiber River to drown as punishment for their mother’s broken vow of celibacy and Rhea be imprisoned. The servant ordered to drown the boys took pity on them and placed them in a basket. Tiberinus the river God carried the boys downriver to a fig tree where it became caught in the branches. The tree was located at the base of the Palatine Hill in the Velabrum swamp. The she-wolf Lupa, who had just lost her own cubs found them and let them suckle while a picus (woodpecker) fed them in her den. During this time Tiberinus rescued Rhea Silvia and took her to be his bride.

The twins were eventually adopted by a shepherd and his wife: Faustulus and Acca Larentia. They learned their adoptive father’s trade and became shepherds themselves. One day while they were herding their sheep, they happened upon shepherds of King Amulius.The shepherds began fighting with the twins which resulted in Remus being captured and taken before King Amulius. Romulus gathered fellow shepherds to help him rescue his brother in retaliation. King Amulius, not recognizing the boys did not see his own demise in sight. Romulus freed his brother and killed Amulius in the process and reinstating Numintor as king. The boys then found the cave den of Lupa who had nurtured them and named it Lupercal. The name Lupercalia is thought to give honor to Lupa and to please the fertility god Lupercus.

Lupercalia rituals took place in a few places: Lupercal cave and within the Roman al fresco meeting place called the Comitium. The festival began at Lupercal cave with the sacrifice of one or more male goats for their strong sexual instinct and a dog. The sacrifices were performed by a group of Roman priests called Luperci. Two young people of noble birth were then led to the Luperci, and their foreheads marked with a sacrificial knife dipped in the animal blood. The Luperci immediately after began wiping off the blood with wool dipped in milk. Afterwards the youths were required to break out into laughter. Part of this ritual was to symbolically purify the shepherds and the land and to protect them from evil spirits. When the sacrifice was over, the Lupercipi took part in a large feast at which they were supplied with copious amounts of wine. They then cut the skins of the sacrificed goats into pieces and covered parts of their body in honor of the god Lupercus. The rest of the skins were cut into thongs. With them they ran through the streets of the city tapping and striking women, many of them voluntarily as it was believed to be struck would render them fertile and make childbirth easier. Men also randomly chose a woman’s name from a jar to be coupled with them for the span of the festivities. Many of the paired couples would stay together until the next year or go onto marriage. Over the years, nakedness during Lupercalia lost popularity and it took on a more chaste approach where clothed men whipped the hands of the women.

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Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. There is evidence of a few different people under the name Saint Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred, two on the same day Feb 14th but different years. The most common story though is that of a priest named Valentine who under the rule Emperor Claudius II in 3rd Century Rome had performed secret marriages. Claudius II had made the decision that single men made better soldiers than those with families and made marriage for young men illegal. Valentine deemed this unfair and oppressive and in this conclusion began performing the marriages. When it was discovered that Valentine was challenging the law behind the Emperor’s back he ordered his death. There are other legends that talk of Valentine helping Christians escape persecution and harsh conditions in Roman prisons such as daily beatings and torture. There are a few legends that follow Valentine’s imprisonment and these are what lead up to what we perceive as Valentine greetings today.

Valentine was set to be judged and sentenced. Oner of the men who was to judge him was named Asterius. Asterius had a blind daughter who Valentine had healed through prayer and devotion. The effect of this was so grandiose that Asterius himself converted to Christianity. In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution. This consisted of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation. He wrote one final note to Asterius’ daughter signing it "from your Valentine."

Writers such as Chaucer who may have written the first Valentine’s poem and Shakespeare who mentioned it in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day 
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

- Chaucer “The Parliament of Foules” 


To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime, 
And I a maid at your window, 
To be your Valentine. 

-Shakespear “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Handmade paper cards became the tokens of affection in Middle Ages. These traditions originated in fourteenth-century France and England. It came from the belief that on February 14, birds began to mate. The tradition eventually made its way to the new world. The industrial revolution made way for factory made cards through the printing press and cheaper postage. Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since. "Mother of the Valentine" Esther A. Howland sold the first mass-produced cards in America in the 1840s. Hallmark cards entered the scene in 1913 and it’s been ongoing ever since.

I love finding the origins of holidays and how they progress over time. I also love celebrating holidaysand making paper cards and dolls to go with them. Whether you decide to dine in or go out take the time to celebrate yourself as well as anyone else you’d like to add in. There have been times I’ve spent Valentine’s eating pizza and drinking red wine with whoever I was dating and there’s been other times where I’ve spent it in the bath eating chocolates and drinking champagne. Whichever way you’d like to celebrate, love yourself and do something nice for you. I’ve compiled some sexy recipes to celebrate. One is for those who eat meat and the other is for vegan and vegetarians. I’m not a chef but have been experimenting with recipes for the past year. These are some of my favorites. All are based on foods of love.

HIBISCUS TACOS

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Aphrodisiacs are named after, Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, fertility, and beauty. They can be enjoyed anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour before lovemaking to intensify the experience. They can also be used to enhance self love, sensuality, and enchantment. In this recipe, corn is for the libido, hibiscus for love and beauty, if you’d like to make salt one use Himalayan pink salt for love and protection. Onions and garlic build sexual energy, chili peppers mimic sexual arousal by raising body temperature. They also plump the lips and add spice to your life. Greeks and Romans used Coriander in love spells and it has been said that it cures impotence. Cumin boosts dopamine, and Aztecs considered avocado an aphrodisiac based on its sensual shape. Cheese, if used include phenylethylamine, or PEA. PEA is believed to be responsible for that hormonal rush during sex, the same as chocolate releases. Oregano stimulates the heart and increases sexual energy and tomatoes also called the "apple of love," contains acids that stimulate blood flow to the lips and mouth. They also enhance sexual performance as well as improve muscle control. I hope you enjoy these recipes I’ve gathered and personalized to make your Valentine’s Day or any day of your choosing the most special yet.

For Tortillas:

  • 2 cups Masa Harina

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • A tortilla press (A skillet or large baking dish will do if you don’t have one.)

  • A large freezer bag cut in half

  • Basket and towel to keep them warm

Add the 2 cups of masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a mixing bowl.

Next one cup of the warm water and stir until all of the water is absorbed. It will look crumbly. When it gets to this consistency you can start adding the rest of the water a tablespoon at a time until you get a smooth dough. If it is sticking to your hands you have added too much water and add a little more of the Masa Harina. I like to knead it with my hands until I have a large ball. From there you can make smaller balls about the size of a golf ball. This should create a tortilla 3.5 - 4 inches across. Place them in a bowl with a damp towel over them to keep them moist.

Place half of the freezer bag on the tortilla press (or on the counter if you are using a skillet or dish.) Put one of the dough balls onto the press and cover with the other piece of plastic. Press down.

I like to heat up the skillet to medium heat while pressing and then placing right onto the skillet. I flip them 10 seconds each side then 25 seconds each side twice. Place it in the basket covered by a towel and go on to the next until you have pressed and cooked each tortilla. Covered tortilla baskets are wonderful as well. I bought mine from Edgewater Produce.

For Filling:

  • 1/2 onion chopped

  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped

  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers

  • 1/2 serrano chili, finely chopped 

  • Salt for tasting

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Avocado

  • Queso fresco (you can substitute vegan cheese or no cheese)

  • Sour Cream (optional)

Take the dried hibiscus and rinse thoroughly then place into a pot with 4-6 cups of water. Allow the hibiscus to boil for 10 minutes and then steep for 1-2 hours until the flowers are soft.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and serrano chili, sauté until fragrant and translucent. Add the hibiscus flowers and a little bit of salt to taste. Some people like to add other spices but I find the flavors are lovely on their own and enhanced by a little salt.

Place mixture into the tortillas and top with avocado, cheese, chili sauce, and sour cream.

New Mexico Chili Sauce:

  • 6 dried ancho chiles

  • 9 dried dried guajillo peppers

  • 2-3 or more dried arbol peppers (Optional)

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly

  • 1 onion peeled and chopped roughly

  • 4 cups water or broth

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp coriander or cumin seed (This depends on what you prefer. I like cumin.)

  • 2 tablespoon lard

  • 2 tablespoon gluten free all purpose flour

  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

  • Small piece of dark chocolate

In a skillet place the chilis without oil. Roast them for a few minutes without burning. They should be fragrant and place them aside. Add the onion, and garlic on the skillet and brown lightly.

Remove the stems from the peppers and slice them open. (Use gloves if using hot peppers.) Remove the seeds and the membranes. Place the peppers in a bowl. Place peppers in boiling water or broth , cover the pot and let them sit for 30 minutes or until soft.

Put the peppers, 1 cup of the liquid, onion, garlic and all remaining ingredients (except for chocolate) in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more of the liquid as needed. If you feel it’s still a little lumpy or there’s skins you can strain it through a strainer or some cheesecloth. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then repeat until you get a smooth sauce.

Some people like to cook the sauce adding 1 tbsp olive oil to a pot and then adding the sauce and checking for consistency while simmering for 30 minutes uncovered. Make it thicker by stirring flour into melted lard (or vegetable shortening) over heat until browned and adding it to the sauce.If you want it thinner add more water. The sauce should be semi thick in consistency like whipping or heavy cream.

Add the chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate you can add a little brown sugar or honey. The sauce doesn't taste good on its own but enhances anything it is mixed with. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.

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The aphrodisiacs and foods de amor for this recipe include thighs and breasts for symbolic means. Potatoes were once considered aphrodisiacs in Europe because they were rare and a delicacy. The high potassium gets everything flowing. Greeks believed olive oil made men virile. Rosemary is good for the heart and is believed to draw a lover. It is also used to heal wounds of the heart and build self esteem. Oregano increases the heart and sexual functions while garlic builds sexual energy and stamina. Black pepper boosts virility and spinach’s folic acid increases fertility and boosts the libido. Blackberries where considered aphrodisiacs by Arab physicians in the 10th century and today still considered one of the most sensual foods. They help with cardiovascular effects that help enhance performance and thought. Cleopatra thought vinegar to be one of the most sensual foods that brought with it sexual bliss. Like chocolate, goat cheese contains phenylethylamine (PEA) and that hormonal rush during lovemaking. Hazelnuts for love and romance, fig and cocoa for their sexy qualities. Figs are filled with potassium and fiber. They are also the inspiration for the poem of the same name by D.H. Lawrence.

Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes

  • 2 chicken thighs or breasts ( I use thighs.)

  • 4 small potatoes cut into wedges. I cut them in half and then in thirds at an angle.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary. If using fresh 2 tbsp chopped or throw some sprigs on the chicken.

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 3 garlic cloves chopped

  • Himalayan pink salt and pepper to taste

  • I added a little lemon pepper to the recipe as well since I had it on hand. (Optional)

Note: These are estimates. When I make this recipe I usually sprinkle the herbs until I feel they are the right amount. If you feel like using more or less feel free to do so. Also be sure to brine the chicken before cooking.

Preheat over to 425 for thighs and 325 for breasts.

Coat chicken with oil and place into a baking pan with potatoes. Pour the rest of the oil in the pan and coat the potatoes. Sprinkle the herbs and coat the chicken both under and on top of the skin. Place into the oven and bake uncovered for aprox 30 mins (thighs) and 40 mins (breast) basting the chicken every often with the oil. Chicken should be 165°F on a food thermometer. You can flip the potatoes every so often.

Hazelnut Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Blackberries

  • Spinach

  • Blackberries

  • Goat Cheese

  • Hazelnuts

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp Raspberry Vinegar

  • 1/3 tsp Dalmatia fig cocoa spread

  • Honey

Mix the greens and blackberries and top with hazelnuts and goat cheese. For dressing mix two parts oil with one part vinegar and add in the spread. Mix thoroughly then add a few drops of honey. Drizzle onto salad.

Stay tuned for Dessert & Charms, part two of this Valentine’s Day series.