With Valentine's Day in the air, or at least a prominent theme in the stores, our thoughts turn to ways to show our appreciation to our lovers and other people who sweeten our lives. I have a few ideas for celebration of my own.
In years past, Herr Doktor and I have splurged on a box of Wittamer chocolates delivered straight from Brussels. Or some gourmet chocolates from one of the many local chocolatiers. But this year, in keeping with the frugal tenor of the times, we're going to make some homemade chocolate cookies and drink a good red wine from our cellar. We're hoping to find some time for amorous pursuits as well, although as parents, that can't always be planned exactly--but where there's a will, there's a way.
I hope you have some of your own special plans, but if you're still wondering what to get that special someone, I have one shameless suggestion. How about a trip to Japan, for just a tiny fraction of the cost, with an Amorous Woman? In the past year of promoting my book, I've heard many sweet reactions from readers: that they stayed up all night reading it; that they laughed and learned and were inspired to let their fingers get busy; that it touched them in other ways, too. These words of praise were truly gifts to me over the past year--better than a bonbon (and the delicious flavor still lingers!).
And to go along with that pulpy paperback novel with a heart of gold, why not bake some of my mother's flourless "Chocolate Crispies"? One of you can read the manga orgy scene aloud, while the other stirs....
1 1/4 cups nuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir sugar and butter together in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts and chocolate pieces. Cool five minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Drop by teaspoonful two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375F for 8-10. Watch carefully as the bottom burns easily. Cool cookies thoroughly before moving to rack to cool completely. Makes enough for a very amorous holiday!
By the way, while we're on the subject of fantasy trips to Kyoto, the Japanese have translated our Valentine's Day in an interesting way. February 14 is the day that women give men chocolates, and it's not just to their lovers. There's a very merchant-friendly custom of office ladies or other employees giving giri-choko--or "duty chocolate"--to their bosses and co-workers. The stores are full of cute and fairly inexpensive chocolates in the shape of golf balls, mini-tennis rackets, bandaids, Pokemon or other whimsical, non-romantic shapes (there are some hearts, too). The men are supposed to return the favor on March 14, "White Day," with marshmallow treats, but most of them forget, or so I was told. Still, the Valentine's Day ala japonais custom lives on and the shopkeepers are happy to help young women do their duty!