February usually arrives with a swish of frigid air, sending sweethearts inside to keep each other warm. I adore Valentine’s Day and embrace the cold snowy months. Cozy sweaters to layer, tall fuzzy boots to slip into and long woolen coats beckon to me from my closet.
The frosty air invigorates me as I walk along the New York City streets, side-stepping icy patches. Winter has fairytale magic the other three seasons lack. With each breath out, white wisps escape my mouth and filter into the hustle and bustle the city offers. I think of all those who have walked the same streets I now tread. One of my favorite spots to meander is Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Passing under the park’s marble arch built by Stanford White, a famous Victorian architect, I am transported back in time.
As teenagers in jeans and puffy jackets slide nosily by me on skateboards, it is amazing to think that not all that long ago a stroll in the park would have been quite different. If I had lived in the Victorian Era, I would be tightly laced into a corset, a toasty muff covering my chilly hands. Leather boots with high laces would encase my feet as I navigate the freezing ground. Thoughts of creating and sending beautiful Valentine’s Day cards to family and friends would fill my mind.
Victorians put much thought and love into each valentine they sent. Some were lacy with hand painted cupids, flowers and hearts. Others contained a special trinket such as a little mirror or even a lock of the sender’s hair. Some of the most unusual valentines were “puzzle purses.” These intricately folded pieces of paper contained secret verses. When the receiver unfolded the various sections, love poems would be revealed.
For many years now in Verona, Italy (the famous setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) Valentine’s Day is a week long revelry. Holiday decorations and heart shaped lanterns line the city streets, music concerts can be heard around town, and a love-letter competition is held.
On Valentine’s Day in modern times, you can celebrate all your loved ones. This year my three-year-old daughters will help me make a simple yet decadent treat that is believed to have originated in Naples, Italy…Strawberries with Sugar and Lemon. I bet they will adore this dessert…especially because we will be using a pretty pink lemon. Here’s to amore!
Strawberries with Sugar and Pink Lemon
2 pints of strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 pink lemon
First rinse and pat dry the strawberries.
Then slice off the stems with a knife.
Next, cut the berries in half or in quarters.
Now, in a bowl, stir in the sugar and pink lemon juice. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.