We’re quietly big on Valentine’s Day here at Sussex Born & Fed. We usually get each other a card and a present (something small, quirky, chocolate or cheese-based). We’re not into flashy presents (and I think I’d call divorce over a teddy) but unsurprisingly we usually make a big effort with food.
Over the years we’ve eaten in and out, with varying degrees of success. If I’m honest, eating in is usually better. Is it me or does anyone else find restaurants on Valentine’s a bit awks?
Whoah, this wok is on fire!
For our first Valentine’s Day, I invited The Boyfriend (now The Husband) over for a romantic dinner. Homemade curry and chocolate pudding. We’d been together for 4 months and these seemed to be his favourite things to eat.
I planned it all meticulously. One of my friends, a chef, had been over the week before to teach me how to make naan breads and chocolate soufflés. The deal was that he taught me to cook and I’d buy some booze and we’d eat the trial run together. It went swimmingly and we had a fab evening drinking mead (mead seemed alternative and dare I say cool), eating perfect naans, curry and soufflés. Valentine’s was going to be great. I was definitely going to impress.
The big day arrived. I made sure all the ingredients were in the flat so I could get going as soon as I was home from work. With the curry on and the naan dough together, everything was looking 👌🏻.
Perhaps I was overly confident. Needless to say, events didn’t quite run to plan.
The Boyfriend arrived part way through the cooking and with nothing to do, engaged me in a conversation about politics.
It got heated (the discussion), I took my eye off the cooking and suddenly the flat was filling up with black smoke. The wok handles were on fire (don’t ask why I was making curry in a wok); the naan breads were looking suspiciously not right; the rice was just about hanging on in there.
The curry was singed but edible, the rice was fine, the naans were not like any naan you’ve had before. Think concrete boulders. No-one without heavy machinery was going to cut or bite through those. We opened all of the windows to help the black fog dissipate and ate what we could. It was not delicious. It was not the showstopper I’d planned.
Onto pudding. Looking perfect and risen to perfection I proudly took the soufflés over and served them with homemade warm chocolate sauce. They were amazing. So, amazing he declared them the best chocolate muffins he’d ever eaten.
Excuse me, what? Muffins? Oh no, these are not muffins, these are soufflés. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t miffed. The word cretin may have sneaked out at one point, in a totally jokey way (I wasn’t joking).
After the muffins, we watched Grand Designs. We were obviously destined to be. Rowing over dinner, name calling over pudding, reconciliation over a shared love of property programmes. Hopelessly romantic. Well, more hopeless than romantic.
Tears and Crap Pasta
A couple of years later, we ended up having a huge argument that he hadn’t arranged anything. And I mean a really spectacularly, overly dramatic row.
As we lived in the North Laine we had a plethora of restaurants on our doorstop. We ended up the road at Carluccios as a very last minute compromise. They had a table; they had food; they had wine. Plus Carluccios seemed safe.
The food was awful. The Valentine’s Effect. The atmosphere cringe. The wine more like paint stripper. You could have cut the air between us with a knife. Needless to say, we spent the next few Valentine’s eating at home and not really caring as intensely about displays of enforced love and treats.
The next year he made a really delicious bowl of moules marinières (one of my favourites) with lots of buttery crusty bread. It meant more than any meal out or gift. A really thoughtful dinner.
Dinner For Three
We spent our first Valentine’s Day as parents, sleep deprived, with the non sleeping babe à table. He made steak and chips. It was really good but, sad times for me, intercepted by a clingy baby-led weaning baby who went all tiger cub and gummed the steak into submission. I think I ate chips and a small piece of steak that hadn’t been covered in our infant’s slobber.
I’m not sure what happened on the Valentine’s between 2015 and 2017. That’s life with 2 very small children for you. 😴.
Last year we went to The Ginger Fox. My parents babysat. It was the perfect cosy, romantic spot with incredible food. No pan on fire (that we knew of, anyway). No sulking. No rows. No children. No inedible items. And most importantly, no awkwardness at all 👌🏻 A complete success. And my recommendation if you’re looking to eat out in Sussex on Valentine’s Day.
This year, it’s my turn. I’m making curry (again).
I’m a much better cook these days and a honed multi-tasker. I can cook, debate politics, resolve squabbles, organise family-life and tweet all at the same time. Total skillz. Plus, I don’t cook curry in woks and none of my pans have wooden handles. Do you blame me?
I never did master naan breads. So, I’ll buy them instead and we’ll enjoy something edible this time. Our non-sleepers are finally great sleepers. We’ll light some candles, put on a favourite album or radio show and set the table. I won’t be making soufflés (he doesn’t eat dairy now) but a tried and tested Nigella vegan chocolate cake instead. And with age comes mellowness; it’s unlikely I’ll call him a cretin or cry or row. I can’t promise that our dinner won’t be followed by something trashy and non-romantic on telly. Some habits will never die. And we’re scheduled to see our architect in the morning, so I imagine conversation will turn to property and renovating during the course of the evening. But that’s us all over. Home and food. It’s where our hearts are at.
However you’re spending Valentine’s may your love burn brighter (or at least as brightly) as those pan handles in 2007, your food be more edible than my concrete naans and the mood more romantic than Carluccios 2009.
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you stay in or go out? Is cooking for your other half or being cooked for something you enjoy? Have you had any complete disasters or triumphs in the kitchen? What’s your favourite date night supper?