Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?
The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint — is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers.
Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France
CHILLED KUMUMOTO OYSTERS WITH STURGEON CAVIAR & VODKA
We all know that if you eat oysters you love longer and they are considered to be the queens of aphrodisiac cuisine. I top my oysters with caviar and a vodka sauce. In all cultures, erotic and restorative powers have been attributed to eggs and we all know alcohol goes a long way in getting the knickers down their ankles!
12 Kumumoto oysters or your favorite oyster pick
2 teaspoons vodka
One-half teaspoon lemon juice
One-quarter teaspoon grated horseradish
Dash of hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
Pinch of salt and sugar
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon minced chives
Coarsely cracked black peppercorn
1 ounce sturgeon caviar
2 ounces creme fraiche
Mix together the vodka, lemon juice, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, salt, sugar, chives and peppercorn. Open the oysters and place the diced tomato, then a dollop of creme fraiche then the oyster in the shell half. Arrange six oysters on each plate and place this plate on a larger plate covered with crushed ice. Spoon the vodka over the oysters.
PASSION FRUIT SOUP
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup frozen passion fruit puree
2 oranges, peeled, pith removed, and sectioned
2 passion fruits, about 4 tablespoons fresh passion-fruit pulp and seeds
1 mango, peeled, flesh scooped into balls
4 sage leaves
1 egg white, lightly whipped
½ cup fruit sorbet
Mix together 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of frozen passion-fruit puree in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and allow soup to cool. Pour soup into a pitcher and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled (1 hour or overnight).
Brush unblemished fresh sage leaves with a very thin coat of egg white. Dip leaves in the remaining sugar. Place leaves in single layer on a parchment- lined sheet pan. Dry overnight or for several days.
Decoratively arrange the mango balls and orange sections among shallow soup plates. Scatter the passion fruit and seeds over the mango and orange.
Divide the chilled soup among the four soup plates. Place a small spoonful of fruit sorbet in the middle of each soup plate. Top with a crystallized sage leave.
AND FINALLY…. A guy walks into a post office one day to see a middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing "Love" stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them. He then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying scent all over them. His curiosity getting the better of him, he goes up to the balding man and asks him what he is doing. The man says, "I'm sending out one thousand Valentine cards signed, 'Guess who?'" "But why?" asks the man. "I'm a divorce lawyer," the man replies.
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