Every year we look for heart shaped things to give and sugar coated trinkets to convey to those we love that we, well....just love them I guess.
Every year I tell myself that I won't buy into all that enforced romance or expect flowers and sweet nothings. Yet as the day draws near I find myself hoping that Nick has been overcome with the need to prove his love to me in a flowery way, or spent long hours unseen with a quill, scratching out passionate stanzas in a garret, wearing a billowing flounced shirt and looking at once slightly wasted with TB and yet terribly handsome and wistful.
Because somewhere in all of us lurks the need to be adored, to show the world that we love and are loved in return. Yet the distillation of all this expectation into one little day can crush the fragile tissue of romantic feeling, by squeezing the spontaneity out of it.
This year I decided to speak plainly about my desire to be celebrated on valentines day and told Nick that I really (I mean, really) like ranunculus flowers and wouldn't be at all upset if he bought me that vintage rose glass cake stand we saw in a new second hand shop. Then I left the outcome in the hands of fate, wrote my own valentine poem and made a little felt badge to give to Nick on the day.
Yet every day when I cycled through town I would glance into the shop and see my cake stand still there, un-purchased by Nick. Ah well, I thought indulgently - he's a busy man. By Friday with one day to go, I saw the cake stand in the window and felt a little sigh escape. Still, I told myself that Nick loved me every day, not just on Valentine's, I should count myself lucky to be so fortunate in my choice of husband.
Valentine's morning broke with Finley's appearance at the bedroom door, barely suppressing a huge amount of seasonal excitement. When myself and Nick finally made it to the kitchen, looking less than polished, he handed us each a heart shaped piece of paper initiating a valentines treasure hunt - the prize for which was ten hugs and kisses each. On the wipe board was written the legend, 'happy valoom times day Naomi and Nick! x x x'.
When I had presented my felt badge and poem wrapped in pink tissue and ribbon, I turned expectantly to Nick. He passed me a flat package that most definitely did not contain a cake stand or flowers. In it was a hand made card bearing a picture of a cake stand. Feeling like Eeyore and trying not to show it, I propped up the card in a prominent place and we had a three way hug that started with me kissing Nick and ended with Finley somehow smooshed in between us with his small cold hands on our backs.
Later, Nick disappeared into town for a while saying something about going to the office. On his return he produced a round looking object wrapped haphazardly in white paper and set it in front of me with a rakish smile, while his eyes danced behind their fringe of black lashes.
Not only had he been to the shop six times that week, each time finding it closed, he had looked for ranunculus and found that they were out of season and couldn't be got for another few weeks.
My heart leapt at the thought that all week, somewhere in the back of his mind Nick had been thinking about me and what I would like for Valentine's day. I felt more cherished than if I had been woken with breakfast, flowers and a serenade.
That evening we sank our teeth into some delicious local ribeye steak, sweet, crisp squash chips and handfuls of dark leaves to mop up the juices.
When Fin was in bed I made this cocktail, because I had been doing my own bit of cherishing as the days ticked down to Valentine's and we were now the proud owners of three different kinds of aromatic bitters, orange, peychauds and angostura. Nick has a very special feeling for anejo tequila and the old fashioned really does it justice.
Even if you think you don't like tequila, you might be persuaded by this one. Grapefruit peel gives the drink a sherbet scent, like a breath of summer each time you raise your glass. Orange bitters lend a floral, cardamom note that flirts with the smokey, woody hit of aged tequila. Peychaud's bitters give a subtle aniseed and coriander warmth that sings with grapefruit - and turns your drink a little pink! Agave syrup sweetens the whole thing up, making it easy to drink, but not nursery-ish (for the SCD version, use honey in place of agave syrup - orange blossom honey is good).
It was sweet but not too sweet, for my sweetheart, for my soul's reflection. How could I ever have doubted you?
Anejo Old Fashioned (with SCD version) makes 1 drink
Double Measure (50ml) Anejo Tequila (Herradura or Conmemorativo)
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes peychauds bitters
1/2 - 3/4 tsp agave syrup
Long Strip of Grapefruit Zest and one small extra bit - no bitter pith
1 rocks glass (tumbler)
Place your rocks glass in the freezer to chill and measure alcohol, bitters and agave or honey into another glass with the grapefruit peel. Stir until the syrup/honey has dissolved.
Get your glass out of the freezer and half fill with ice, adding the grapefruit peel to the glass attractively as you go. Wipe the spare bit around the rim of the glass to flavour it.
Pour in your drink and add more ice if you think it needs it - or take some out if it won't all fit.
Alternatively, make it as a martini, swirling the drink and ice in a shaker (don't shake!) and straining into a martini glass with a curl of grapefruit peel in it.
Sip slowly, gazing into the eyes of the one you love (or at George Clooney etc). If you follow SCD don't drink more than one of these in an evening and definitely don't attempt until your symptoms are well under control, 6-9 months into the diet. The bitters are not strictly legal unless you actually make them yourself because they have a small amount of caramel colour in them, but in my opinion two dashes is not really anything to worry about if you're at the stage of tolerating alcohol.
For the round up of this month's 'Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free!' pop over to the Spunky Coconut at the end of the month.