The exact identity of the specific St. Valentine associated with our modern holiday is a a bit hard to pin down since apparently there were a few different men with that name who were saints. Regarding this particular holiday, however, we can connect one man who was tortured and later executed for the crime of assisting Christians who wanted to marry. This was way back in Roman times, before Christianity became legal. It could be that Valentine’s Day was conflated with the pagan festival of Lupercalia, also celebrated in mid-February. Evidence for this is scant; remember there was this period in European history called the Dark Ages. But traditions have to start somewhere. The date alone seems a meaningful connection, don’t you think?
Well, one of the reasons for participating in the Lupercalia was to promote fertility in couples who wanted to conceive, or to assist already-pregnant women to have easier deliveries. This must have been quite the exciting event: goats would be sacrificed, then various men would wear the fresh goatskins, painting blood on their faces, and roam the streets brandishing whips. Anyone with any sort of fertility interests would run along with these men and allow themselves to be whipped.
What a frenzied day, right? Good times…
This festival disappeared around the fifth century, for better or worse, depending on your point of view. Our more modern traditions celebrating Valentine’s Day started up around the High Middle Ages, ca. 1300, or thereabouts. Geoffrey Chaucer brought literary romance to the tradition. We modern people still embrace some of these romantic symbols which keep showing up around February—lovebirds, hearts, Cupid with his arrow. We still give confections and flowers and ornaments as tokens of affection. I do look forward to the holiday as a valid excuse to buy some special chocolate—forget the flowers and jewelry. Just give me some chocolate…
Next time, I’ll give you the recipe for “The Evening-After Salad.” Be sure to put aside about a half-pound of steak to make it. This should leave you enough for two generous servings, along with the potatoes from the last post.
Steaks with Benefits
- 2-2¼ pounds of filet mignon, 1½” thick
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cream sherry
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
Sprinkle half of the salt on top of the steaks. Generously pepper them. Melt the butter and oil over high heat in a 3-quart deep skillet. Place the seasoned side of the steaks down in the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper on top of all the steaks. Fry 5 minutes over high heat. With tongs, turn them all over and fry the other side for 5 minutes.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the steaks. Cover and cook over rather high heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn over all the steaks and cook over high heat, uncovered, for another 2-3 minutes, depending on how well you like your steak cooked. Remove steaks to a plate and cover; let rest for 5-6 minutes. They should be medium-rare. Discard the cooking liquid; set aside one steak for “The Evening-After Salad,” if desired. Serves 2, “with benefits.” Cover and chill leftovers.