So Valentines Day is upon us and this year our options for celebrating our somewhat reduced. There will be no fancy restaurants, trips to the theatre or weekends in Paris. Instead, we are gazing down the barrel of an M&S dine in deal, a takeaway from the local curry house or having to cook something ourselves.
Back in the days before husband and children, I clearly remember the excitement of celebrating Valentines with my first boyfriend when I was naïve and misty-eyed enough to not care that he took me to TGI Fridays to celebrate. Less memorable were the ones I spent alone, drinking wine with a takeaway and watching Bridget Jones, bemoaning my single status.
Latterly with marriage and children I have found that I have become increasingly resentful of the commercialisation of Valentines Day where restaurants expect multiple sittings, letting you know you need to vacate your table by a certain time, dining at small tables, packed in like sardines and feasting on the chef’s hand selected creations (otherwise known as a massively overpriced and reduced menu offering).
Opportunities to eat out are rare in our house and involve military planning with babysitters and work schedules and when they do come along I definitely want to have a happy dither over which of the many tempting menu options I am going to choose rather than having an option of meat, fish or vegetarian main.
This got me thinking about what constitutes a romantic meal, is it the menu, the venue, the ambience, the company, the wine or all of the above?
My 9-year-old (and her 6-year-old sidekick) declared she wanted to ‘assist’ with the Valentines planning starting by stating that a special meal should involve all your favourite things. I applauded this idea whilst at the same time unsure how my romantic evening seemed to morphing into a family affair.
There were many arguments and it was a very close-fought competition and although for a while it seemed like fish-finger sandwiches might get top billing our final menu is decided. It is a nod to all the food we love as a family, it’s fancy enough to be a special treat but it won’t have me stressed from juggling too many pots and pans and who cares that it seems to involve not one but several puddings.
As we talked, I realised that that is what romance has become for me, it is sitting with my family, eating together, drinking wine (not the kids obviously) and catching my husband’s eye over their heads and smiling as we realise it is only 10minutes until their bedtime and we can finally have some time just the two of us.
So, however you are celebrating Valentines Day; alone, with your partner or altogether as a family, eating takeaway, M&S deal, home cooked feast or pot noodle delight, I hope you have a wonderful evening.
Pringles (BBQ flavour)
Duck breast with a port and redcurrant sauce
with parmentier potatoes (or square chips as the kids call them)
Pudding (there is no such thing as overkill)
Salted caramel & Daim bar ice-cream
served in brandy snap baskets with squirty cream and peanut brittle and shortbread hearts