What’s New Valentine plus… Seven Seductive Encounters with Food

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Ruby Chocolate Hearts

Fortnum & Mason have a pleasingly sophisticated range of Valentine’s treats, from a wallet-busting hamper for £350, a tin of Secret Admirer iced biscuits (£28.95) to this charmingly old-fashioned, affordable, Ruby Chocolate Heart lolly (£8.50)


Biscuit Hearts

Gails’ Christmas bun was a winner. It’s now been superseded by their  Valentine’s chocolate sourdough loaf (£3.80) and trays of heart-shaped  biscuits dipped in white and dark chocolate, decorated with edible flowers for the loved-up or love-lorn

Heart shaped biscuits, £1.30 each or four for £5 from Gails Bakery, gailsbread.co.uk

China Hearts

Words of love on a plate – Royal Doulton’s quartet of Joy Plates dispense suitable messages for romantic diners

Royal Doulton set of four Joy Plates, £32 available Dunelm, dunelm.com

Seven seductive encounters with food and one recipe for solitary heartache…

Ulysses by James Joyce

‘For Gerty was womanly wise and knew that a mere man liked that feeling of hominess. Her griddlecakes done to a golden-brown hue and queen Ann’s pudding of delightful creaminess had won golden opinions from all because she had a lucky hand also for lighting a fire, dredge in the fine self-raising flour and always stir in the same directions, then cream the milk and sugar and whisk well the whites of eggs though she didn’t like the eating part when there were many people that made her shy and often she wondered why you couldn’t eat something poetical like violets or roses…’

Brideshead by Evelyn Waugh

Charles describes the perfect summer picnic

‘On a sheep cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together.’

The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon

St Agnes Eve by John Keats

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,
While he forth from the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.
These delicates he heap’d with glowing hand
On golden dishes and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light.—
“And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake!
Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite:
Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes’ sake,
Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

Rebecca is explaining to her grandchildren how she first met met their grandfather Joe at a party held in his parents’ house
‘Your great grandmother… was carrying a ham on a platter and I guess we took her by surprise. because when she saw us she said, Oh! and stopped short, and the ham continued on without her. Slid clear off the platter and landed at my feet. You never saw such a mess… I didn’t know what to do. I was just a big dumb college girl! And I was worried to death about my shoes, powder blue pumps dyed to match my dress. There was this icky pink glaze all over them… Meanwhile your grandpa was going back and forth with with hot water and cloths, cleaning up … and finally he squatted down on the floor and started wiping my shoes off, right while I was standing there.’
After all these years she could still feel the heat of that damp cloth soaking through to her toes and Joe’s strong sure dabbing motion…
‘In a way it was love at first sight’ she told the children

Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Titania, in love with Bottom in his ass’s head, commands her fairies to feed him
Be kind and courteous to this gentleman.
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes.
Feed him with apricoks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
The honey bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glowworms’ eyes
To have my love to bed and to arise.
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.

The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Edmund is seduced by the White Witch
“My poor child,” she said in quite a different voice, “how cold you look! Come and sit with me here on the sledge and I will put my mantle round you and we will talk.”
Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey; he stepped on to the sledge and sat at her feet, and she put a fold of her fur mantle round him and tucked it well in.
“Perhaps something hot to drink?” said the Queen. “Should you like that?”
The Queen took from somewhere among her wrappings a very small bottle which looked as if it were made of copper. Then, holding out her arm, she let one drop fall from it on the snow beside the sledge. Edmund saw the drop for a second in mid-air, shining like a diamond. But the moment it touched the snow there was a hissing sound and there stood a jewelled cup full of something that steamed. The dwarf immediately took this and handed it to Edmund with a bow and a smile; not a very nice smile. Edmund felt much better as he began to sip the hot drink. It was something he had never tasted before, very sweet and foamy and creamy, and it warmed him right down to his toes.
“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?”
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.
The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.While he was eating, the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive….
At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking’ for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves. But she did not offer him any more. Instead she said to him.
“Son of Adam, I should so much like to see your brother and your two sisters. Will you bring them to see me?”
“I’ll try,” said Edmund, still looking at the empty box.
“Because, if you did come again — bringing them with you of course — I’d be able to give you some more Turkish Delight. I can’t do it now, the magic will only work once. In my own house it would be another matter….”

And one recipe for solitary heartache…

From Heartburn by Norah Ephron

Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter, and methodically adding a thin cold slice of butter to every forkful. The problem with mashed potatoes, though, is that they require almost as much hard work as crisp potatoes, and when you’re feeling blue the last thing you feel like is hard work. Of course, you can always get someone to make the mashed potatoes for you, but let’s face it: the reason you’re blue is that there isn’t anyone to make them for you. As a result, most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it’s almost always at the wrong time.
And here’s Ephron’s recipe…
For mashed potatoes: Put 1 large (or 2 small) potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and place the potatoes back in the pot and shake over low heat to eliminate excess moisture. Peel. Put through a potato ricer and immediately add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and as much melted butter and salt and pepper as you feel like. Eat immediately. Serves one.