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Back in elementary school Valentine’s Day was awesome.
Mum would always take my brothers and I to the store to go pick out our Valentine’s Day cards. I remember buying lots with The Little Mermaid, Care Bears, even Spongebob Squarepants. My brothers would always go for the Hot Wheels, GI Joe and NFL cards. We would go home and Mum would give each of us a list of our classmates and we’d address each card. And each card already had a witty little phrase on it so there was literally no thinking involved. Then Mum would help us stick a piece of candy to each and we’d each have our bag ready to take the next day.
At school on Valentine’s Day we would each make our own little mailbox out of paper and cardboard, decorate it with stickers and glitter and then line them all up in a row along the wall. Then we’d get about ten minutes to distribute all our Valentines and then would have to sit anxiously until the end of the day and we could tear through all our new ‘mail’ and take home all the candy. It was like trick or treating on Halloween without even having to leave your house. We always came home with the biggest stash of sweets, of little conversation hearts and heart shaped lollipops. Sometimes one of the moms in the class would go all out and give us something great like heart shaped chocolate covered marshmallows.
Even more important than the candy though, were the cards. After school my friends and I used to sort through the cards looking for ones from the boys we liked. Then we’d try and suss out what they meant. For example, one year when the boy I had a crush on gave me a card with Aladdin and Jasmine on it that said ‘You’ve set my heart soaring Valentine!’ we figured he had clearly picked out that card specifically for me and that we would be married the next day in class and live happily ever after in our Barbie mansion.
I kept so many Valentine’s Day cards, wondering which one would end up being my Prince Charming. But when I still wasn’t living in a Barbie mansion after the end of the year, I figured that maybe I still hadn’t found my Valentine.
In high school Valentine’s Day was nowhere near as fun, no more heart shaped erasers that break as soon as you use them, no more chalky conversation heart candies, no more free for all Valentine’s Day cards. This was real life, you have to go out there and find yourself a Valentine. And in high school, that sucks. Actually that’s not limited to high school.
I don’t remember many of my friends having legitimate Valentines at the beginning of high school but I remember wanting one. Wishing someone would burst in the door during class with a big bouquet of roses like I was Glen Coco.
Sometimes it’s just sad to think back on your awkward angsty teenage self. Other times you wish you could go back in time and tell them it will get better.
That you won’t always be at home listening to love songs on your walkman wishing they had be written for you, fantasizing of the one day you would have a boyfriend show up with a hundred red roses and a hundred pink and white balloons, but really thinking you’ll end up alone because you have braces and untamed hair. Teenage years were so stressful.
Being only three years out of my teenage years I can remember the feelings very well. But they did get better, I have been given flowers on Valentine’s Day, been serenaded by guitar, been taken out to a fancy dinner, been taken to an old school romantic movie shown outside under the stars.
I still don’t know what the point of Valentine’s Day is though. If you’re in a relationship you should be able to surprise the other all the time to show him or her you love them and if you’re not in a relationship it’s a silly reminder of when you were sitting at home in your Little Mermaid nightie looking up at a poster of Heath Ledger wondering when he would come sing a romantic song for you at your high school and then take you paintballing.
I’m not trying to diss Valentine’s Day; I know the Bartender and I will have a great time, especially now that I’ve left all the planning to him. But it will also continue to be a reminder of the day that I wasn’t invited to get married and go live in a Barbie mansion when I was 7. And that is a crushed dream that is very hard to live with.
Avocado and shrimp dip (Course number 1)
1 ripe avocado
1 cup shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and chilled (I just used frozen shrimp that had been precooked and defrosted them)
1 small tomato
¼ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
¼ cup mayonnaise
Juice of half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and take out the pit. The idea of the dip is to serve it in the avocado shell so you want to try and keep it intact. Scoop out the avocado flesh and put it into a large bowl. Instead of mashing it simply run a sharp knife through to cut it into small chunks. Add the shrimp, tomato, onion, coriander, mayonnaise and lime juice. Stir gently until well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the dip back into the two avocado shells. Sprinkle with a little extra coriander and serve with small toasts.
Steak with simple mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes for two (Course number 2)
2 Scotch fillets (the type of steak you use here isn’t super important, if you can I suggest splurging and getting something nice like scotch fillets or sirloin but you could also just get something like minute steak)
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
¼ cup red wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon reduced fat sour cream
For the mashed potatoes:
½ kilo brushed potatoes
1 egg, whisked
¼ olive oil, or to taste
¼ milk, or to taste
Peel and chop the potatoes. Steam them over boiling water until you can easily poke them with a fork. While they’re still hot begin mashing them and add in a slightly whisked egg then add in the olive oil and milk. This is just the way the Bartender does it and it’s always a bit different depending on all the ingredients so if you want to just go for classic mashed potatoes simply mash them and add a small knob of butter and ¼ cup of cream then season with salt and pepper.
Brownie pudding (Course 3)
225g unsalted butter, plus little extra for buttering the dish
4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Vanilla ice cream to serve with
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Lightly butter a 2 quart (9 x 12) by 2 inch oval baking dish. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, lower the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, and cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.
Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out three quarters clean. The center will appear very under-baked, this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.
Allow to cool a little and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Last week's post: Snacks for the Superbowl
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Visit Alexandra's food blog: www.urbanfeast.com