Like any red-blooded American, I grew up observing Valentine’s Day, albeit casually. I traded candies with classmates, chocolates and stuffed animals with crushes, and used to take my wife to “romantic” dinners at crowded restaurants.
It was not an enjoyable experience, especially the latter. A few years after marriage, my wife and I started eating Valentine’s dinner on another day the week to beat the crowds, but that didn’t feel right either.
Then one day nearly 10 years ago, my wife proposed a radical idea: “Why don’t we stay home and cook a nice candlelight dinner with the kids and celebrate all kinds of love, not just romance?” By this point, I didn’t really care since nothing seemed to work. “Sure,” I said.
That Valentine’s Day, Lindsey made everyone stay out of the kitchen and dining room while she prepared dinner. Then she invited us all in. The lights were dimmed. Candles burned on the table. There were several opened bottles of the finest 2011 Welch’s red grape juice. And an enormous spread of cheese fondu with French bread, sausages, vegetables, fruits, and all kinds of little candies and love notes on a red table setting. During the meal, Lindsey then asked us to go around the table to express what we loved about one another.
This was a revelation. Instead of celebrating the holiday as general society, local customs, or cliches said we should, Lindsey transformed Valentine’s Day into something entirely her own. We’ve been celebrating it that way ever since, capping off each night with homemade molten lava cakes and fresh whipping cream. I look forward to it each and every February.
Although the dinner isn’t always as elaborate as it was that first year, it’s always filled with love, gratitude, mood lighting, gooey cheese, and indulgent dessert. Even as a helpless romantic and lover of eating out, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Valentine’s Day.