Throughout highschool and on my college breaks, I worked at an upscale florist. We had a huge store front and I worked the sales floor, putting together bouquets and arrangements and placing delivery orders for walk-in customers. It was a great afterschool job and I loved it. But after living through year after year of the Valentine’s Day shitstorm, I left that job thoroughly turned off by the holiday.
The clientele during this seasonal rush was largely male, and customers broke down more or less into three categories: genuinely sweet and romantic men (who generally came in up to a week early to plan things out and knew all their lady friend’s favorite things), good-hearted but slightly irritated guys mad about the expectations placed on them by their girlfriend, her mom, society or god knows who else to get something showy and romantic and to shell out a ton of cash, and finally, sleaze bags trying to juggle multiple ladies or get into someone’s pants, buying the cheapest crap possible and all while hitting on little old oblivious high school me. By far, the middle group was the largest. And I honestly I sympathized for them, guys caught in the middle of a high-expectations commercial holiday and forced to prove their love with stuff. My 5-year run working their safely vaccinated me from ever demanding the drippy junk associated with this pink and red stained day of my partner.
Fast forward ten years – (wow, ten years already!?) – change the country (where the commercial intensity of this holiday is at least a bit less) and factor in that I actually have a sweetie now, I’m still pretty detached from the flowers, chocolate, and candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. I will confess, albeit begrudgingly and against all the staunch beliefs of my 17-year-old self, that yes! I sort of do want to do something a little bit special or different each year.
So I’ll let you in on our little tradition. It’s no big thing, just a special meal cooked at home, no candles or fancy clothes, no aphrodisiacs either (I am so sick of hearing about that nonsense!) It’s a different meal each time but with one very important common theme: cheese. In the beginning, it was the modest indulgence in an entire Mont d’Or round for the two of us. Edd had talked it up as a Christmas staple at his parents’ house before I went home with him for the holidays and I had been seriously looking forward to the fabled gooey, spoonable cheese the whole trip. Imagine my disappointment when his mother decided to forego the Mont d’Or that year… Weeks later, not letting Edd live it down, we headed to the market and picked up a stout round box of cheese and consumed it lovingly on Valentine’s day.
There have been other melty cheeses in the years after, including even a cheddary Welsh Rarebit. And there has been one non-cheesy Valentine’s days too, and let me tell you it didn’t hold a candle to our cheese dates. Now, I’ve become quite fond of the tradition; perhaps the one off-year we had cemented that. But also its cold and I’m looking for any excuse to eat hot melty cheese! It didn’t even occur to me what an inadvertent play on words this ritual was until last week when I told Sarah nonchalantly that we always have a “cheesy Valentine’s day, no pun intended.” Ha!
This year we’re continuing our tradition with a fondue savoyarde that we’ll she with Sarah and her man Anthony. And please, don’t tell me that consuming a mountain of hot, melty cheese isn’t appropriate. First off, tell me that cheese isn’t sexy. Just look at that slowly oozing St. Nectaire up there and tell me that. Although I’m sure that anyone reading who has had a good fondue or raclette has also experienced the cheese equivalent of a hangover. But let’s just concentrate on the magic moment before all that comes. It’s drippy and warm and gooey. You use a fancy long-handled fork or other special utensils. You simply must imbibe wine with your cheese, otherwise you’re just asking for a belly ache. And if you drop your bread in the fondue you have to do a dare. Sounds just right for this cheesy holiday to me!
Happy Valentine’s day to you all, be you a romantic or not.