Valentine’s Day Is for “Chocolate” Lovers!
By Judy Eichner
Valentine’s Day is observed by many people, in many countries, in a variety of ways. According to a recent poll, chocolate, in any form, is the preferred gift of both recipient and sender when commemorating this holiday. A long time ago someone said “chocolate is the nectar of the Gods.”
The first people to discover the secrets of this nectar were the Aztecs and the Mayans. Mixing cacao seeds with various spices became a favored drink of royalty, and the seeds were often offered to the gods in lieu of human blood.
When the Spanish conquered the natives, they brought the seeds back to Spain in the 1500’s where new recipes were created using the cacao seeds. Nearly a century later, the rest of Europe started experimenting with the seeds and made a variety of different chocolates. However, it remained a royal delectable because sugar and cacao were very expensive.
In the 1800’s things changed when mass production lowered the cost of producing the chocolate. Today, it is readily available in various forms, at affordable prices.
One day while window shopping in Georgetown, I saw a young woman wearing a T shirt that said “Give me some chocolate and nobody will get hurt.” It struck a familiar chord in my mind, because it made me think of how many times I thought that everything would be better if only I had some chocolate! I am not alone. In this country, there are millions of people who feel the same way.
Did you know……..In Europe, Valentine’s Day has many different names:
-Wales, the Welsh people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’t Day )
on January 25th. The day commemorates St. Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.
-France, Valentine’s Day is called Saint Valentin.
-Spain, it is known as San Valentin.
-Denmark and Norway, Valentine’s Day is known as Valentinsdag.
-Sweden, it is called Alla hjartans dag (All Hearts Day)
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystavanpaiva (Friend’s Day)
-Slovenia, the day of love is March 12, Saint Gregory’s Day. It is thought to mark the start of spring.
-Romania, February 24 is the traditional day for lovers and is called Dragobete – named after a character from Romanian folklore.
-Turkey, Valentine’s Day is Sevgililer Gunu, meaning “Sweethearts’ Day.
-Israel, the 15th day of the month of Av-Tu B’Av which usually falls in August, is the festival of love. Today, modern Israeli culture celebrates this as day to pronounce love, propose marriage, and/or give gifts like flowers or cards.
In the spirit of the day and for chocolate lovers all around the world, here are two of my favorite home-made chocolate candy recipes:
Two squares of bitter chocolate
One cup of sugar
One-half cup of butter (unsalted and at room temperature)
One-quarter tsp. of salt
One-half tsp. of vanilla
One-half cup of flour
One-half cup of chopped walnuts, pecans or macadamia nuts
Melt the chocolate with the butter then add the sugar, stirring well. Separate the two yolks from the two egg whites and add. Then add the tsp. of salt and beat well. Add the vanilla, a half cup of flour and fold in the nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 the 30 minutes, or until done. When the mixture has cooled, cut into thin rectangular sticks.
Two packages of prepared caramels
One-half to one cup of semi-sweet chocolate bits, melted in double boiler
One quarter cup of heavy cream which you will add to the melted chocolate.
One-half to one cup of nuts of your choice.
Put the caramel pieces in a pre-heated 325 degree oven until the pieces start to flatten. Remove from oven immediately and press two nuts directly into each caramel. When it is cool to the touch, dip each caramel/nut piece into the melted chocolate/cream mixture. (I find that using wooden skewers works well.) After each piece has been dipped into the chocolate, put them on waxed paper until thoroughly cooled. They can be stored at room temperature or kept in the refrigerator.
This column is reprinted from the February 2009 issue in memory of Judy Eichner. Judy was a contributing writer for several years.