It’s a busy week for food: Chinese New a year has given us cravings for takeaways we only want on the one night of the year they’re not available, today is pancake day and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner this weekend. Whilst I think taking a day out every year to celebrate a very delicious breakfast/pudding made from flour, milk and eggs is truly righteous in some ways, the rush to buy ready-made crêpes and batter mixes has ripped the very soul out of the celebration. Pancakes are all about simplicity; a classic act of love to be mastered over the years, topped with a squirt and a sprinkle of your own personality. One of my very favourite memories is the anticipation of the first pancakes Charles ever made me, then scoffing them up with a variety of toppings. That is what food is all about, to me anyway.
Charles insists that Pancake Day is the one day a year you should refrain from making pancakes, and I can see where he’s coming from, but still I think there’s a place for it, as long as you do them well. There’s something wonderful about serving up a plate which can’t fail to raise a smile on a soggy February night.
It’s from a similar stand point that Valentine’s Day passes us by every year. We’re still a long distance couple, and our anniversary is 9th February (although it’ll be superseded by our wedding anniversary after this year) so it isn’t really an obvious celebration for us, but even if that wasn’t the case, we have plenty of reasons to avoid it:
Commercialisation is a somewhat trite story of capitalism exploiting sentimentality, but clichés usually turn out to be true. If you want to pay 3 times over for the same bunch of flowers you bought 2 weeks ago, be fleeced for a novelty box of chocolates or battle for a booking at a cramped restaurant where the food is offered at 150% its usual price and half its usual quality with side orders being upsold with every course, be my guest. But we’ll be staying in, thank you.
The weight of expectation. Much like the dissappointment of Christmas, birthdays and New Year, Valentine’s Day is notorious for falling flat. Let’s face it, who’s in the mood for romance with that weight of the expectation for “the most romantic day of the year” on their shoulders? Inevitably, it’s overpriced, average quality and completely impersonal.
The public displays of “affection”. Show offs are the worst kind of Valentine celebrant. It’s all very well wanting to spoil your girl or man, but really, is a bouquet of 100 roses really necessary? It’s not a competition. And quite frankly if you’re spending £500 I’d rather have a holiday. Or a piece of furniture. Or a KitchenAid. If you need a huge public display like that you need to rethink your priorities, as well as the impact it’s having on everyone around you. Your obscene spending doesn’t make you look big or clever. If your way of celebrating is to make a public show of someone (or indeed to demand roses delivered to your office by cupids) you need to rethink your relationship.
The effect it has on everyone else in the world If you really have to make a grand gesture (or generally be sickeningly happy in public), can you at least spare a thought for the rest of the population? You happiness isn’t dependent on looking better than other people or making others unhappy. Sending ridiculous gifts to your other half’s office or posting multiple smug photos showing “how happy you are” all over Facebook will do more to upset other people than it will to improve your relationship. The fourteenth day in February is just another day: it doesn’t belong to couples and it shouldn’t exist to shame the single. It shouldn’t be necessary to celebrate “Galentine’s Day” with your friends to compensate. And don’t go thinking we’re part of the smug brigade; we always spend it apart (although I should add that doesn’t make us bitter and twisted about it!).
If you can’t do it the rest of the year why get interested for one day? This sentiment rings true for so many of these days (Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day etc); joining in for the sake of it is hollow. If you really meant it you would buy them treats, take them out for dinner and dress up for them at random intervals through the year, “just because”. Taking me out for a meal because your mates are busy with their wives and girlfriends isn’t going to impress me. We want your thought, your time and your effort. If you really want to show someone you care about them, cook their favourite meal from scratch, bake them a cake, write them a letter, learn how to make their favourite snack, and tell them you love them randomly and frequently just because you do. Hug often, share in-jokes, be as sickeningly sweet to each other as you want to, but do it at home!