Food of Love

by Mark R. Vogel

            Valentine’s Day is upon us.  Critics condemn it for being commercialized and corny: an excuse for restaurants, florists, chocolatiers, etc., to temporarily raise their prices and cash in.  The emotionally downtrodden view it as a farce: a Pollyannaish, idealized burlesque of love.  Or an unrealistic carrot, tantalizingly dangled in the face of those who are resigned, dejected, and cynical about relationships. 

             But I say it’s one of our best holidays.  This dire world needs more holidays like Valentine’s.  For me there is nothing more precious than the love of a significant other. And while that person should be cherished all year long, I see ho harm in having a special day to commemorate them.  Even if it is commercialized, even if I have to pay a little more for my dinner, or those iconic roses, the underlying sentiment still rings true.  For those of you without a love interest, my heart goes out to you.  I hope you maintain your resolve, don’t fall prey to the dark side, and most of all, someday find that special someone.

             Hackneyed as it may be, droves of individuals nationwide, will celebrate Valentine’s Day by going out to dinner, or maybe even more romantic—making dinner for someone else.  But there’s a reason why these are such irrepressible customs, and that’s because food is love.  Food is a fundamental venue for expressing and rejoicing in all forms of love, be it romantic or familial. 

             Food has been an integral part of man’s fetes for ages, inevitably since the dawn of human relatedness.  It’s virtually unthinkable to hold any kind of celebration without serving something, at the very least a beverage.  Food is inextricably woven into the fabric of man’s festive cloth.  Even the reverse is true, as when mourners gather for a repast to console the bereaved.  Therefore, sharing a meal with your beloved is a vehicle by which to revel in your relationship: a time-honored means of exultation. 

             Part of food’s role in the observance of life’s milestones is that food is comforting.  Satisfying food imparts a sense of psychological well being.  The emotional warmth that food engenders dovetails with, and accentuates the warmth of our most revered achievements. 

             But on an even deeper level, food is nurturing.  Food is indispensable to our existence and feeds our bodies as well as our souls.  Feeding people is, for all intents and purposes, a means of nourishing their life.  Think of the contentment you feel when your family is well fed, especially when you labored to produce that sustenance.  Making dinner for your loved ones and seeing their gratification is an expression of your love.  Their appreciation is a return of that love to you. 

             This sentiment underlies the motivations of many chefs.  Those who are most passionate about food and cooking are fulfilled, not merely from their skill, hard work and creative ability, but from the delight it brings them to nurture others.  It is inherently rewarding to see your food satisfy others: to bring them comfort, joy, and ultimately, foster their life force.  This is the heart of sharing a meal with your beloved on Valentine’s Day.  Feeding the one you love, nurturing them, indeed sustaining their life, is one of the most meaningful ways to be thankful for the love they have bestowed upon you. 

             If dining out, choose an establishment with some care.  Of course you want a place with reliable food.  But this is Valentine’s Day so ambiance matters more than it normally does.  Select a restaurant that is serene with romantic surroundings—needless to say, an eatery geared for adults, not families.  Yes, this may mean a little more expense but remember what this occasion is really about.  I can think of no better investment than the one you love.  So on Valentine’s Day, celebrate your love.  Be it at a restaurant or a romantic homemade meal, allow the food to be yet another way that you can say I love you. 

           

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