Well for someone who was questioning the whole idea of blogging, I'm not doing too badly this week with what... 3rd or 4th blog of the week.
It's that time of year again! Roses will be 'man-handled' into blacksacks or carried, nonchalantly, under the arm. Sneaked into carboots as if they pose a threat to the nation's safety. I speak from personal experience as a florist and owner of 'The House of Merlin' up until two years ago. From a floristry point of view, this was my busiest time of the year. It was extremely rare to see a man walk out of the shop with a bouquet for his beloved without some degree of embarrassment or self-consciousness. While I am amused, I really don't get it...flowers are beautiful! I have mixed cement and laid bricks and blocks, dug out channels for central heating pipes, varnished floors etc. etc. and relished every second of going to the hardware shops to collect tools, tiles, gadgets, scouring architectural salvage yards for whatever.
Some (mostly men) say Valentine's day has become too consumerist, too materialistic etc.etc. and maybe it has all been taken a little too far, not unlike the Christmas hype, but it cannot be a bad thing to make an extra effort to acknowledge the feelings we have for that special someone in our lives. Yes, of course, we should be doing that every day of the year, but come on we are all dealing with the'stuff' of life, and guilty of being just a wee bit self-absorbed at times. That said, a fortune does not have to be spent saying 'I love you'. A cup of tea in bed, a certain look or smile, a picnic or bike ride... whatever turns you on! Nor should it be all about the boys doing for the girls.
Apparently, the feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine on a list of martyrs of whom very little was known. The first representative of
Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle, (1493). The text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. Legend has it that Valentine was a doctor and gastronomist, who made his medicines more palatable by mixing them with herbs, spices, honey and wine. He was asked to treat the blind daughter of one of the Emperor's guards. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians was considered to be a heinous crime at this time. However Claudius took quite a liking to him, that is , until Valentine tried to convert the Emperor, himself. The priest was condemned to death and was beaten with clubs and stoned. They finished him off by beheading him outside the Flaminian Gate in 269, 270 or 273 AD. It is thought that the doctor, priest and martyr fell in love with the young blind girl and his final act was to send a note to the girl, signed 'from you Valentine.' Apparently her sight was restored as she read his last words.
Some historians believe that the holiday derives from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on 15th February. This was a fertility celebration of the Roman god Faunus, the god of flocks and fertility. It was to ensure fertility and easy births for the women of the community.
Given the apparent connection between St. Valentine and food, cooking a meal for your loved one, or indeed, cooking together might just be the ticket, that's provided you don't end up killing each other in the process. Perhaps some of the following foods might be included on the menu because of their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.
Asparagas was a 19th C favourite. 3 courses were served to bridegrooms! Apart from the obvious phallic shape of the banana, they do contain the enzyme bromelain, which is said to enhance male performance. Caviar is high in Zinc, which stimulates the formation of testosterone, which maintains male functionality. Champagne is pretty good! Lowers inhibitions, but drunk by the bottle has a sedative effect, which would not be conducive to romantic tryst. Chocolate (my favourite... one for the girls) sets off happy chemicals in the brain and stimulates a desire for physical contact. It was banned from monasteries in years past. Figs (divine with cheese) were celebrated by ancient Greeks in a frenzied copulation ritual and radish was considered a divine aphrodisiac by the Egyptian pharaohs. Of course, the best known aphrodisiac of them all is oysters (yuck!). Some oysters repeatedly change their sex from male to female, giving rise to claims that the oyster lets one experience the masculine and feminine sides of love. (That's one experience I will most definitely have to skip!)
Some love quotes:
When love is not madness, it is not love. Pedro Calderon de la Barca
You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love, the running across fields into your lover's arms can only come later when you're sure they won't laugh if you trip.
Jonathon Carroll, 'Outside the Dog Museum'
We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatile with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
Henry Van Dyke
We don't believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack.
Marie Ebner Von Eschenbach, Aphorism
The eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.
Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy
Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
For twas not into my ear you whispered
But into my heart
Twas not my lips you kissed
But my soul.
As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
A big, big 'Thank you' to Paddy, a farrier from Bansha, for fishing me 'facedown' out of the mud yesterday and then wiping my hands on his fleece. The age of chivalry is not dead! He pulled my leg for almost an hour, calling me 'Mrs' and 'veteran', and I watched with admiration as he worked miracles on Mel's hooves. What great fun and banter we had! I was reminded again, of just how much I love living in Ireland. Hope you and Margaret share a lovely Valentine and Wedding Annniversary dinner tomorrow night, Paddy! You are still a romantic, whatever you might think!
Wishing friends a day filled with sunshine, love and laughter... whatever you find yourself doing!