Monday, February 25, 2013

The Full Snow Moon

Tonight the Full Snow Moon fills the night sky.  It gets its name from the heavy snows that often blanket the landscape in February. The native peoples of America also called February’s full moon the Hunger Moon due to the fact that the deep snow and inclement weather made hunting and foraging more difficult.

For me a February full moon speaks of longing. It’s a ghost of the moons of spring and summer, wan riding in the deep sky of winter. It can hear spring’s approach but foretells only cold suffering for another month. Only lovers can keep one another warm in desolate February.

by Margret Atwood
Winter. Time to eat fat
And watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
A black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
To get onto my head. It’s his
Way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
He’ll think of something. He settles
On my chest, breathing his breath
Of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, he shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
With a skewered heart in the center.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day, seller of chocolates, herald of cards, day of little heart-shaped candies bearing awkward come-ons. This is the day when florists, card shops, and chocolatiers across the country strive to make it into the black. One story of the holiday’s origin harkens back to a priest in third century Rome. Emperor Claudius II held a belief attachments to home and hearth impeded the performance of his soldiers, therefore he forbid marriage. St. Valentine, disobeying his emperor, continued wedding young lovers, earning himself sainthood and martyrdom in one fell swoop. The problem is there are two additional St. Valentines recognized by the Catholic church and each is attributed in some way with the origins of the holiday we call St. Valentine’s Day. In fact, the only commonality between these stories is the emphasis on their main character being a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure.

As with many Christian holidays, St. Valentine’s day most likely was placed in mid-February as an attempt to Christianize a pagan holiday. Traditionally, February 15th was reserved for Lupercailia, a fertility festival associated with Faunus, a Roman agricultural god and the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus. The History Channel describes the ceremonies associated with Lupercailia as follows:
"To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage."

By the end of the 5th century Lupercailia had been declared un-Christian and banned. It was around this time that Pope Gelasius established February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day, but as with all new ideas, it took some time for the association between the holiday and romantic love to take hold.
 The oldest surviving written Valentine is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He penned it while imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured during the Battle of Agincourt.

Go forth, my hert, with my lady;
Loke that we spare no business
To serve her with such lowliness,
That ye get her grace and mercy.
Pray her of times prively
That she keep trewly her promise
Go forth.
I must as a hertless body
Abide alone in hevyness,
And ye shal do wel with your maistress
In plesans glad and mery.
Go forth

The popularity of Valentine’s Day grew as the centuries passed and the holiday spread around the world. In the 18th Century, the typical Englishman considered February 14th a day for trifling in love and testing the temperature of the waters of romance. A sample of this attitude can be seen in the following excerpt from Poor Richard’s Almanac (1757):

This month bright Phoebus enters Pisces,
The maids will have good store of kisses,
For always when the fun comes there,
Valentine's Day is drawing near,
And both the men and maids incline
To chuse them each a Valentine;
And if a man gets one he loves,
He gives her first a pair of gloves;
And, by the way, remember this,
To seal the favour with a kiss.

This kiss begets more love, and then
That love begets a kiss again,
Until this trade the man doth catch,
And then he doth propose the match,
The woman's willing, tho' she's shy,
She gives the man this soft reply,
"I'll not resolve one thing or other,
Until I first consult my mother."
When she says so, 'tis half a grant,
And may be taken for consent.

By the middle of the 1700s, Valentine’s Day was being celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. By the mid 18th Century the tradition of exchanging small tokens of affection or hand written notes became established and by 1900 printed Valentine cards became widely available.

Thus, the modern Valentine's Day came to be. We've added roses and candy hearts to the mix and modern lovers are likely to exchange Valentine's texts, IMs, and update their Facebook status with cooing, but the traditions have essentially stayed the same. So, crack open the bubbly, warm up the fondue pot, unwrap that Whitman Sampler, and dim the lights - love has come to town!

Friday, February 8, 2013


“One should always be drunk. That's all that matters...but with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.”
~ Charles Baudelaire
 “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
~ W.C. Fields
 “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
 One would expect Gourmet to have a lot to say on the subject of wine.  You could be forgiven for thinking that since the authors decided to go positively biblical from the onset. They pulled a a quote from St. Paul as encouragement to the embiber.
“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake...”
1 Timothy 5:23
Of course, the author cites this as an endorsement of enjoying wine while it appears from the biblical text that St. Paul meant it to be used as a remedy for polluted water. After bungling the quote, though, the Gourmet struck very modern stance in terms of wine pairings. They stated that the right wine for a meal is the one the drinker enjoys. Of course the next 17 pages are devoted to instructions on how you should choose the right wine for any particular meal!
Seventeen pages seems skimpy though. Twenty eight pages were devoted to mixed drinks and nearly fifty to Hors d'Ovres. Baffling that they'd spend so little time with wine when you think about it, but maybe that owes to the fact most people don't make wine. Then again they included recipes for smoked woodcock, potted bison, and woodchuck pie, I'd think a nice chardonnay wouldn't be too much to ask! Heck, if you're serving me woodchuck pie I'm going to need as much wine as I can get my hands on.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Quote for February

February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March.

~ Dr. J. R. Stockton