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The English Major Diet: Valentine’s Day Edition

Like many of you, I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. I’m all for telling our loved ones that they are…well, loved. But needing a special day to do it is kind of like needing New Year’s to make a resolution. Mostly, the whole day is a commercialized fiasco that wastes a bunch of paper, feeds kids too much sugar, and makes single people feel like they are missing something. All the while, real and lasting love dissolves into Hallmark processed cheese, and all the sparkly princess garbage that I hate. I think my neighborhood grocery store said it best with this display…

Nothing says 'I Love You' like scary-ass mannequins and 80's trellis from the Golden Girls' lanai...

While I’d like to think this bit of decorative flair was devised by a smart person with a brilliant sense of irony, I’m pretty sure it was just a floor manager who is missing an aesthetic filter. Anway, much as it scathes my eyeballs, it pretty much sums up What Valentine’s Day Means to Me.

That said…whether you are single and happy, single and bitter, newly in love, or old married people, I’m pretty sure there is one component of this blessed day that we can all get behind. DESSERT. Chocolate. Decadence. Indulgence in something that might be forbidden fruit on any other day of the year (except maybe Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or your birthday…OK, i love dessert).

Anyway, in keeping with my English Major Diet series, here’s a run-down of the best sweet splurges on the planet. If you are single, it will make you feel better. (And if you are in love, you might want to spend the evening by yourself, just so you don’t have to share your dessert). These are in no particular order:

Opal’s Homemade Hot Fudge Cake (Opal being my Mamaw) I don’t have the recipe, but i do know the sauce involves a whole can of EagleBrand, and really, what more do you need to know?

Opal’s Strawberry Pie A little slice of summer–with crust! There’s a light, fluffy, cheesecakey-layer, topped with berries–preferably from her garden, if there are any left from making jam–and a sugary gel. This particular dessert will be featured in another ‘best meal ever’ post to come later…

Opal’s anything else.Because really, doesn’t everything taste better on your Mamaw’s porch?

Good *Kentucky Horse Race* Pie (because, you know, there’s a copyright on even desserts these days) made by somebody who knows what’s up. My mother-in-law’s is my favorite. Many Kentucky restaurants make a great one too, but if you’re in some other state, you’re better off just making your own. I do mine with a splash of bourbon. Serve with whipped topping. You can even go so far as to make BOURBON whipped topping. If a dessert can be R-rated, this is it.

Rasberry Chocolate Cheesecake at the late Flag Fork Herb Farm in Lexington. Breaks my heart that place closed. I hear that you can still get some of their stuff at the Good Foods Coop, and the Liquor Barn, but i don’t know if this is one of the items they carry. This dessert is so good, you could talk even your most figure-conscious girlfriend into sharing a slice at lunchtime.

Coconut-Chip Ice Cream from Graeters Ice Cream.Kentucky friends living in California say you can by it at the Kroger affiliates out there, but the westward migration somehow skipped the desert.

Tiramisu from not just an Italian restaurant, but a restaurant in actual Italy.  Your life will never be the same.

Real, homemade from scratch, chocolate cake, with chocolate buttercream frosting.No part of this endeavor can come from a can or a box.

My mom’s chess pie How many desserts can you think of that involve a healthy dose of vinegar? This one makes the list just for being strange but to-die-for.

Homemade Shortbread   The fewer ingredients, the better. It’s basically lightly sweetened butter with some flour to hold it together.

Church Lady Blackberry Cobbler Preferably said church and said lady hailing from the Bible Belt.

And finally, I challenge you to find something better than a fresh-out-of-the-oven Homemade chocolate chip cookie. If my Valentine is reading this, he knows how i feel about carnations, princesses and crowded restaurants with pre-fix menus. However, I hope he also knows the power of a hot cookie. And no, that’s not a euphemism. I mean an actual hot cookie.

Notice something about these desserts. None of them are super easy to come by. They are seasonal, or regional, or in some cases, unique to one person’s kitchen or company. Suppose I ONLY EVER ATE DESSERT when it was one of these very specific times/places/occasions. I’d be so skinny, you’d hate me. I don’t know that i will set the challenge that high. I mean, i have 2 small children and a full-time job. Some days, a king-size bag of Peanut M&Ms will just have to do.

However…well, i can remind myself that the rare, the memorable, and the good-prose-making desserts are the real thing. They are the love that endures change and disappiontment, the love that produces children (though more often is just for fun), love that finds its own lasting rhythm; they are the love of friends and family that sustain us through transition, give us a lift on bad days, and welcome us home, even when we’ve been impossible to live with; the love that challenges us to be our better selves, every single day. With those kinds of indulgences in mind, the Twinkies and the Oreos start to look like…well, like a Cinderella mannequin gracing a carnation display. A little ironic, in poor taste, and presenting no real temptation.

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3 comments on “The English Major Diet: Valentine’s Day Edition

  1. Erin, I LOVE this sieres you are doing on the English Major’s diet! It is so spiritual and whole person related and it speaks to me.
    A thought I had aobut Valentines day that I wanted to share with you…Last year I got a board book for Abbie about the story of St. Valentine, and I was reminded that the reason he is the saint of eros love is because he married young couples in secret when the Roman Emperor had outlawed marriage for all young men so that they could be soldiers in the Roman Army. As the board book version of the story continues, the children were sad that Valentine had been imprisoned, so they sent him cards. His sainthood was based on a blind girl who visited him in prison and after his prayer for her she was able to see. After the girl was able to see, Valentine sent her a card and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” While I am sure you are well read enough to know this story, I share it because it got me thinking about a saint who married people who were in love when it was against the law. And while I know the Catholic church would not appreciate a woman in ministry suggesting that a Catholic Saint be associated with marriage for homosexuals, it is where my thoughts went. And on this Valentine’s day because of your blog, I think I will pray for a day when all couples who are in love can openly and legally be married and have their marriages blessed by God and by the church.
    I agree with you about all the commercialism and the rediculiousness of needing a special day to honor the one that we love, not to mention how it makes us feel, in a relationship or not, but thanks for the opportunity to think about all of this. And now, maybe I should share in my own blog… 🙂

  2. Just now catching up. (But, since your blogs always go to my email now, I can read them in batch!)
    Two thoughts:
    1.) Your mother always says one of your traits is that as soon as you get a visitor, you immediately start planning the menu. Love it.
    2.) I think I’ve had about every one of these desserts mentioned above. And if I haven’t, I’ve heard you wax nostalgic many-a-time. Church lady _anything_ is always the best ever. But since I’m fresh out of church lady desserts, I’m pretty sure there’s some Chocolate Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Graeter’s downstairs in the freezer that I suddenly find calling my name…….

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