The Aperitif Guy
7:23 AM 26th February 2022
The Special Days Of Spring
image / pixabay
Perhaps you have spent last week celebrating the love of your life. You might have splashed out on a card, some fine wine, Champagne or dinner at your favourite restaurant, maybe even all of those things. If you find the commercial aspects of St Valentine’s Day off-putting, then worry not. Spring has many special days to look forward to, and any of these might be an opportunity to show your love.
28th February is kept as International Scouse Day,
in celebration of the seafarers’ stew that lends its name to the people of Liverpool. Should your loved one have Liverpool roots, they will appreciate a pot of this easy and hearty stew to ward off the homesickness. Serve it with bread and pickled red cabbage or beetroot. It’s not the price of the meal that makes it romantic but the attentiveness that lies behind it.
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If your family has some Welsh connections, you might well be looking forward to St David’s Day (1st March).
It would be a great time to make pice bach (Welsh cakes) with your children. Wrap them up nicely to give to the people you and they love. Children love to learn other languages, so if your family are from a Welsh-speaking area, learning a few short phrases or a short song could be a fun activity while you wait for the cakes to cool.
I created some St David’s Day cocktails a few years ago that you might like to try. You can find them in my blog, here: http://blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk/2019/03/two-new-cocktails-for-st-davids-day.html
The same day is Shrove Tuesday
this year. While pancakes are a traditional treat, they do rather leave your home smelling of cooking oil for several days after. The tradition of eating pancakes is rooted in the Lenten abstinence from rich and sweet foods. It was the last chance to eat eggs for about seven weeks, until Easter.
image / pixabay
This same practice gives rise to carnival celebrations in other cultures. The word “carnival” comes from the Latin phrase “carne vale,” which means “goodbye to meat.” Many people still give up certain treats during Lent, even if they have no religious connections. If you’re giving up alcohol or reducing your meat consumption this Lent, perhaps you’d like to host a Shrovetide cocktail party or carnival dinner. If you know someone who is giving something up, showing your support is about the most loving thing you could do. There are some excellent alcohol-free drinks on the market, for instance, that would make a nice gift. If your loved one is trying out a vegan diet for the first time, you could offer to take them out for a vegan lunch or tea one day.
Anyone with children in school will know about World Book Day on 3rd March.
Parents will be stressing already about their child’s costume for school. If they’re not, they’ll certainly be stressing on 2nd March! If you’re free of responsibility for little ones, you might want to re-create a meal from your partner’s favourite book, whether that’s a Mad Hatter’s tea party, Babette’s Feast or quails in rose petal sauce from “Like Water for Chocolate.” If you’re looking for a literary aperitif, you could do a lot worse than follow the example of Somerset Maugham’s Fat Women of Antibes and sip a deliciously decadent Martini at 4:00 in the afternoon. I’d steer clear of any of the meals in the Game of Thrones series, though: mass poisonings and such rarely speak of deep love and affection
St Patrick’s Day on 17th March
has become horribly debased in parts of the pub industry. Rather than go out, I’d suggest it’s better to show your love for someone with Irish connections by bringing them a plate of oysters with Guinness, or a glass of Irish whiskey and some cheese, and settling down to a quiet night in with them, listening to contemporary folk music. Children love to bake, and Irish culture has given us a host of cakes for them to have a go at making. Soda bread, needing no proving, is easy for impatient young chefs and tastes great with stew.
International Women’s Day and Mothers’ Day (8th and 27th March, respectively)
give us time to celebrate the women in our lives: not just our mothers and grandmothers, but our daughters, sisters and friends, too. There are many women worth celebrating in cookery, food production and drinks who might inspire a special dinner. One of my own heroes, whom I’ve written about previously in this column, is the great food writer Elizabeth David. The women in your life might admire, for instance, Sophie Grigson, Melissa Cole, Madhur Jaffrey or even Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (the famous “Veuve Cliquot”), and it would be easy to create beautiful food experiences inspired by those women. Alternatively, you might want to use recipes from the women who nourished and cared for your family in past generations. What a way to pay tribute!
Looking forward into April, each of the great Abrahamic faiths celebrate their major festivals that month. Ramadan begins (probably) on 3rd April
this year, and Muslims will fast from all food and drink between sunrise and sunset. The evening meal, after the sun has set is an important community and family occasion. To keep Iftar with your Muslim friends is both a show of friendship and an honour. Both Passover and Easter begin on 16th April this year. While Easter has become synonymous with chocolate, suitable Passover food gifts range from dried fruit and nuts, kosher wine and macaroons to fine chocolates and spirits. It’s important to check the ingredients, though, as flour, yeast and certain common animal or fish products are not acceptable.
St George’s Day on 23rd April
is also kept as Shakespeare’s birthday. Patriots and drama-lovers alike will be pleased that it falls on a Saturday this year. Reading your lover a sonnet over dinner, to my mind, is far more romantic than sending a commercial Valentine’s card. If you haven’t the confidence for that, an early evening meal followed by a performance at the theatre would thrill anyone. The range of traditional English foods you could serve a lover who wishes to mark the country’s patron saint is vast. Think about Whitby crab salad (with English sparkling wine), roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Lancashire hotpot, spring lamb or wild garlic soup.
Offsetting some of the more problematic aspects of English patriotism, an invitation to such a dinner could be the perfect way to show love to your Polish or Goan neighbours.
Paul Fogarty, writing as The Aperitif Guy, maintains a popular food and drinks blog. He is also an accomplished speaker and trainer on food and beverage history and is available as a food & beverage events consultant. You can follow him on Twitter by searching @AperitifGuy, and his blog is at blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk