The Food of Love…

Un cuore nel cioccolatoAlmost everyone in the UK knows that the 14th February is Valentine’s Day (well apart from some who leave it too late each year!). However, I wonder how many of us actually know the roots of this celebration of love.

Saint Valentine’s Day itself has a relationship with the advent of Spring, as it’s thought that the date selected in mid-February came from the association with the time that birds and animals started to pair off for the mating season. That certainly has a certain logic to it!

However the Christian religious ‘feast day’ that is now celebrated across the world stems from the story of a martyred Saint, who was imprisoned for conducting wedding ceremonies for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. The first association with cupid and romantic love emerged in England during the 18th century when Geoffrey Chaucer helped it became an occasion for lovers to express their affection for one another, by presenting flowers, confectionary and handwritten cards to the object of their desire.

In France, these cards are called ‘cartes d’amities’ and it’s rumoured that the Duke of Orleans who was held prisoner in the Tower of London after the battle of Agincourt in 1415 is meant to have started the craze to send love letters, after he wrote poetry to his wife in France during his incarceration. It’s also traditional for pilgrims to travel to the pretty village of St Valentin in Indre, France, as the village is named after the Saint, it plays host to events such as ceremonies to renew marriage vows.

However there was once a rather unusual Valentines custom in France, that’s now illegal, which was called ‘une loterie d’amour’ or ‘a lottery of love’. This ritual would put single men and women in opposite houses of a village, and then they would call to each other until they had paired off (rather like the birds of spring I suppose!). If a man was not happy with his chosen partner he could leave her for another. When the pairing off had finished, women who were left single built a large fire and burnt the images of men who had hurt them! Mercifully, these days the French celebrate Valentine’s day like many others, exchanging small gifts and cards; and of course a romantic meal for two. The Retro Bistrot would highly recommend their perfect meal for two, Chateaubriand steak with horseradish – but you won’t catch me sharing the hot chocolate fondant and red currants with vanilla ice cream with anyone…!

Of course we don’t believe that sharing good food with a loved one should be confined to one day of the year. That is something you can – and should – share as often as you can. We also understand the pressure put on the male population to ‘do the right thing’ – so our advice? Book now to avoid disappointment….

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