If you are one of those people who dread Valentine’s Day or out and out don’t believe in it and boycott all things hearts and flowers: you’re right, we DON’T need a day where we throw all of our love gestures for the year into one single box of chocolates. BUT, if the point of life is to love, and I completely believe that it is, what an opportunity to work our heart muscles a little extra and celebrate the ones who mean the most to us.
Some people have the same beef with Thanksgiving being the only day that amplifies gratitude, and I say, if a little bit of turkey reminds you to be generous with your thanks, then take 2 helpings. If a construction paper heart makes you feel a little bit closer to your Grandpa, your husband, your doorman, your crush, your child, your puppy, then get yourself to a craft store ASAP. The most important point of any day on the calendar is that we feel things. Good things. Like feeling grateful, mindful, soulful, and best of all, heartful.
My computer keeps underlining that word with red, which makes me think it’s not really a word. My heart does so much more than pump blood and keep me alive, it keeps me heartful. It helps me feel connected to what and to whom I value. It reminds me to have compassion, to be kind, and to believe in myself.
I’ve been doing a little inventory of my heart lately, recognizing my past loves and thanking them. It has been humbling, as well as inspiring. I’ve been sitting in meditation and prayer readying myself for what and who is next in my life. I recently have adopted the idea that chanting, prayer, and meditation are like sweeping the steps of our hearts. We practice keeping a clean ‘house’ in our hearts for the special people we love. How about keeping the doorway to our hearts tidy and welcoming for the love we have yet to receive?
Recently, I learned a friend had passed away in January. This friend taught me so much about food. Cooking in his kitchen was like going on a culinary field trip. I am sad about this, but the thought of his wife losing her lifetime Valentine just dissolves me. And then, I was blessed with holding two new little babies this week whose tiny hearts have no blemishes. They are only little sponges absorbing the love of the universe right now. And lastly, one of my favorite people in the world, my 97.5 year old Grandmother Rose Romero, has a heart that is hanging on by a thread. Heartful. These things make me heartFULL.
February 14th may hold nothing or everything for you. For me, it’s always been one of my favorite days of the year. I LOVE pink. I love chocolate and flowers. I love how Victorian I feel writing and receiving Valentines. (A little Hallmark research shows that in the 1880's the illiteracy rate was still high, so people communicated their amorous feelings through pictures of flowers, hearts, and cupids on their paper greetings.) I love this opportunity to love people even more fiercely than I already do. Yes, it is just a day and on the surface it may have all of this commercial tradition on top of it, but I invite you to go deeper. Be heartful. Sweep the doorway to your heart. Hooray for love!
Oh and these pancakes – they don’t need a special occasion or some big romantic morning to eat them. But your loved ones will get the message loud and clear that you are crazy about them if they wake up to these. No Valentine? More pancakes for you!
Buckwheat Pancakesphoto by Cheryl Stockton
with Grand Marnier Caramel Syrup
From 'The Joy of Cooking'
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup buckwheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter is melted, then let cool to between 105 degrees and 115 degrees. Sprinkle with the yeast, and let it stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- When the batter has risen, the pancakes can be made immediately or refrigerate the covered bowl for up to 24 hours. If the batter is refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before stirring the batter to deflate, then whisk in the eggs. Preheat the griddle. Generously wipe the griddle with butter between each batch. (That's what makes the edges crisp!) Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake, leaving room between each for spreading, and cook until the top of each pancake is speckled with bubbles and some bubbles have popped. Turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Grand Marnier Caramel Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Heat sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and syrup is clear. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, occasionally washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let syrup boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until dark amber.
Remove from heat; whisk in orange juice, Grand Marnier, butter, and 2 tablespoons water. (Caramel will steam and spatter.) Serve warm.