De-Commercializing Valentine’s Day
I know it’s a bit late for this, but honestly I’ve been working a lot and doing lots of homework lately, so consider this an admonishment for next year.
My parents are florists, so I grew up with the hectic, crazy, stressful time that was Valentine’s Day every year. I can’t complain too much, because all those dozens of roses helped pay for my college, but these days Valentine’s Day seems to be ALL about spending money. And not much else. And the people got so angry! Men would call at 11 am on Valentine’s Day and want a dozen roses somewhere 20 minutes away by noon and only want to pay $30 for the roses. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen and they would get so angry about it. I was always like – Why don’t you just come and pick them up and deliver them yourself? We could have easily made up a dozen roses in like 15 minutes and had them wrapped, ready and waiting for him. Or here’s an idea – why not call ahead? But no. Instead they were angry men who were getting their significant others a not very thoughtful gift (a dozen red roses with baby’s breath is not exactly original) and spending more money than they clearly wanted to and seemed just so totally dissatisfied with the whole thing.
Who decided that it had to be that way? Whoever they are has probably made a lot of money, but they also made a lot of people not very happy. Single, married, dating, divorced, widowed – Valentine’s Day can make almost everyone feel angry, or excluded, or sad, or otherwise upset at least some point in their lives. What a silly holiday – it was supposed to be about love and romance and instead it’s turned out to be about conspicuous consumption.
I don’t think it has to be about conspicuous consumption. It shouldn’t even really be about conspicuous affection. Why not make your sweetie something special and stay home this year? Or, if you don’t have a sweetie, lavish anonymous affection on strangers (ring-the-doorbell-and-run-Valentines, anyone?) or your pet or yourself. Valentine’s Day should be about caring for others, not for money.
In the past few years, Chad and I have spent Valentine’s Day all gussied up at fancy restaurants. And y’know what? As fun as it is to go out, not only was it ridiculously expensive ($120 for both of us was not uncommon), but often the lighting was terrible, or the food was cold, or not even very good. It was amazingly dissatisfying. So I’ve decided to adopt what my paternal grandparents did for everyone’s birthday when I was growing up – have pizza at home.
Of course, they usually ordered out, but when you can buy fresh pizza dough at the grocery store for a few bucks, why not make your own? I read recently on another blog about a tradition of making homemade, heart-shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day and thought it was just the cutest thing ever. So that’s what we did.
I also made a green salad with pears, feta, and a pear-walnut vinaigrette (it’s our new favorite salad); rosehip cream cheese pastries; bought some out-of-season cherries on sale (not as good an idea as I was hoping – yet another reason to only buy in season); and some Kristian Regale sparkling pear cider. Oh, and I bought Chad some tulips (but in my favorite color – of course). I bought the flowers because Chad bought me Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, which I have wanted FOREVER, as my Valentine’s Day present. I’ll write a review eventually, because I’m not quite finished with it yet, but suffice to say that it’s AMAZING. Yes, it deserves capital letters. If you love someone who loves food and cooking, you will not be remiss in buying them this instead of fancy jewelry.
Speaking of – do you really like diamonds? And gold? Because I don’t. Soft burnished gold is nice sometimes. But diamonds are ubiquitous and artificially inflated in price and mining them is not very nice to the environment or people. Ditto gold. And those red roses? Also ubiquitous. The flowers I bought were pink and white variegated tulips. Can’t wait until they open. Right now they are reposing comfortably in a milk glass vase that is just a bit too tall for them. Cost? $14 for two bunches.
And that dinner? I spent about $35, including the tulips, so like $20 for pizza, salad, pear bubbly, and cherries. For two. With leftovers.
Way more manageable than $120 for dinner and lord knows how much for roses and diamonds and limos and whatever else it is people do for Valentine’s Day these days.
We at FarmHouse are all about doing things authentically, especially if that means you also get to be frugal.
Chad & I would be cuddling right now, except I’m writing this post and then I have to do some homework. So he’s playing a computer game, which I totally don’t mind in the least. After an hour of homework though, I’m going to demand some cuddles.
First, here are some recipes for you.
This gets ridiculously easy if you buy premade-crust. I’ve never made it from scratch, but feel free to use your own recipe if that’s your thing. Or use Suz’s recipe. Also, I find that a very hot oven helps the pizza cook evenly and quickly.
1 bag pre-made, uncooked pizza dough, room temp
approx. 1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
If you have time, let the dough rise a little. If not, just shape it. New York style pizza demands the use of flour instead of oil for baking. Sprinkle flour on the dough as you roll it out (also helps if the dough is sticky) and then sprinkle a little on the baking sheet instead of greasing it. Shape the dough into as close of a heart-shape as you can (trickier if you don’t have a round pan). Use a spoon to spread the marinara sauce on, then sprinkle with the shredded cheese, and top with pepperoni.
Bake at 475 degrees F for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is hot and bubbly.
I riffed this off of a pastry Chad’s mom makes with apple butter and powdered sugar icing. I use a different, but fantastic dough recipe. It’s also ridiculously easy. This recipe makes enough for half sheet baking pan (13×18″), but you could cut the recipe in half and use a jelly roll pan. You can also skip the cream cheese and just use whatever jam you like. Or be like Chad’s mom and use apple butter.
1/2 pound butter, softened
1/2 pound ricotta cheese or cottage cheese drained overnight
2 cups all-purpose flour
rosehip marmalade (or any fruit jam)
1 box neufchatel (16 oz. light cream cheese)
cherry juice or milk
confectioner’s/powdered sugar for icing
extra rosehip marmalade (or whatever jam)
sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour the sheet pan.
Cream butter and ricotta together, then mix in flour and knead until it forms a ball and all the flour is absorbed. Pat into a ball, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
While dough is chilling, mix cream cheese with rosehip marmalade or other fruit jam. Mixture may be runny, but that’s okay. You also might not need all of it for the filling, but it should be close. Any extra makes a lovely topping for pancakes or toast.
When dough is chilled, divide in half and roll out on floured surface until large enough to fit the sheet pan. Lay/press dough into sheet pan, pressing up the edges. Smooth filling over bottom crust. Roll out other half of dough to cover bottom crust. Cut slits or, for Valentine’s Day, hearts in the top for venting. Cover filling with second crust, pinching together at edges. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until top crust is golden brown.
While baking, make an icing out of fruit juice and confectioner’s/powdered sugar. If no juice is available, make the icing with milk. When pastries are done baking and cooled somewhat, drizzle icing all over the top, then garnish with sliced almonds. Wait for the pastries to cool entirely and the icing to thicken/harden before slicing into squares and serving.
What do you think? How did you spend your Valentine’s Day? Did you go out or stay in? Did you spend a lot of money and if so, was it worth it? Skipped Valentine’s Day altogether?