Once in awhile these food holidays make perfect sense, and today is one of those occasions: it’s Valentine’s Day, and also, National Cream-Filled Chocolate Day. The two go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say. (Forrest was also known to enjoy a box of chocolates every now and then, making the analogy especially appropriate).
Today’s history lesson is a little different. You’ll get the story behind Valentine’s Day, and how chocolate came to be associated with it.
There were no fewer than three Catholic saints named Valentine, making that name the “John Smith” of ancient times, I suppose. Most people believe the holiday honors the saint who defied Roman emperor Claudius II’s orders outlawing marriage for single men, who were forced into the army instead. Valentine performed the marriages in secret and, when caught, was sentenced to death. While languishing in prison he fell for the jailor’s daughter, and before his execution sent the girl a letter which he signed “from, your Valentine” – a phrase that has been around ever since. Because of his sympathy toward those in love, and his own romantic gestures, St. Valentine was given his own holiday, one that has come to symbolize love. By the 15th century, lovers were presenting gifts to one another to mark the occasion; these included flowers, sweets, and greeting cards. Why chocolate? Because it has long been a symbol of love thanks to its, ahem, “mood-enhancing” properties (read: it’s an aphrodisiac, yo). Even the Aztecs would give cocoa as offerings to their gods, as a sign of appreciation. Appreciation for not smiting them with bolts of lightning, I guess? Anyhoo, the tradition persists to this day. More than 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold on Valentine’s Day, and it’s a good bet that many of those chocolates are filled with cream!
I have often said that if anything trips us up during this challenge, it won’t be something tricky like Peking Duck or Chocolate Souffle. It’ll be something deceptively simple, like cream-filled chocolates. Sure enough, I found myself digging frantically through nearly-empty shelves of Target today on my lunch, searching for a box of chocolates. We had all kinds of chocolate in the house, but none of it contained cream in the middle, and truffles don’t really count. Fortunately, I happened upon one overlooked box of Russell Stover – the last one in the entire store. Whew! I had a piece of coconut cream, and Tara indulged in butter cream. Good stuff. Happy V-Day!
- Happy St Valentine’s Day to you all . . . are you in the mood for love AND chocolate? (freernutrition.typepad.com)
- Japan’s Sweet Valentine’s Day Twist (abcnews.go.com)