In my previous post , I went over a few of the theories that attempt to describe exactly why we celebrate Valentine’s day as a romantic celebration:
- Is it to honor a criminal who was executed, messily, for capital crimes, i.e. marrying Christians?
- Is it to honor a man who, when faced with rejection, tried to cut out his own heart and mail it?
- Is it based on an ancient fertility rite which couples nudity, sacrifices, blood and lashings with raw meat?
- Is it because it was invented out of whole cloth by Classical Literature’s Geoffry Chaucer?
The world may never know the truth, at least until we invent an exciting, quantum-theory, nano-robotic, cold fusion based machine that allows us to view history through goggles that plug directly into our spines via a socket installed in the napes of our necks. Our best Hollywood screenwriters are on the case and we should see a badly written Michael Bay movie about this shortly, as soon as he can find an appropriate childhood hero of mine to completely wreck for the sake of a quick buck.
Today I want to talk about how to actually celebrate Valentine’s day with the minimum fuss and money without looking both too cheap or too lazy.
The first mistake that guys make is to go to the local Chocolatier Sompteuex, plonk down a stack of twenties and point to the largest box of red velvet wrapped, gold lamé enribboned chocolate box they see. This is a costly error. With a little forethought, you can get great chocolates, make a profit and even begin Pavlovian training on your favorite lady.
First, wait until after Valentine’s Day to buy your chocolates. Several days (or even a week) after the actual holiday, you can find incredible deals on Valentine’s themed chocolates at almost any store you care to shop. I find Rite-Aid is the perfect one-stop solution as you can also buy personal lubricant, huge jugs of Gallo wine and anti-fungal ointment all in one go! Stock up on these post-holiday chocolates and you can even make a profit: if you buy six or seven extra boxes, you can sell them at a nice markup to idiotic friends who are ‘last minute shoppers’ the following year.
Women may say they love chocolate and in my vast and unbiased experience, this appears to be true. The thing is, during the rest of the year, when there’s no special guilt associated with who bought what, if you put a box of $20 exotic Bon-Bons on the counter next to a Snickers bar, I can almost guarantee that the Snickers will be gone first. They both may taste good, but Snickers tastes commonly good, a flavor ingrained into your brain like a bowl of warm oatmeal on a cold day, or the taste of choked back bile and self loathing most Americans get before clocking into work every day. Chances are good that if she sees really exotic chocolates, she’ll put them aside and forget about them until weeks later when she’s looking for whatever is making the kitchen smell funky and discovers the box buried underneath a moldy half-loaf of Wonderbread. Even if she goes for the stale, year old assorted chocolates right away, if you liquor her up with a glass full of tongue numbing Gallo Merlot, not only will she be unable to taste that they’re stale but she may even be more inclined to apply some of that new salve to some of your harder to reach nooks and crannies. And since there’s no way she’s going to dive into and finish that 3 lb. box of chocolates in under a week, you can blame the staleness later on the box being opened rather than having sat on a shelf in the back of your closet next to your porn stash for a year. If she does dive in head first like a bulimic Oopma-Loopma at a Wonka competitive eating event, you may want to reconsider chocolates as a gift and look into other options, like Yoga classes, a tapeworm or the Witness Protection Program.
Since chocolate doesn’t go rancid as fast as, say, bleu cheese or pop starlettes, last year’s candy should be relatively edible by the time the next Valentine’s Day rolls around. Even the best laid plans can turn out badly though so if you have the time and energy, you may want to try a more complex and immoral approach. Keep your eyes peeled for those really exotic assortments; most super fancy assortments are filled with strange European flavors like Marzipan, Cafe, Dark and Belgian, flavors that American palettes, which are accustomed to Milk, Peanut, Crackle and White, can’t handle. Even better, no matter how expensive, these assortments invariably contain a few candies that have flavors which most Americans would describe as Chalk, Burnt Walnut, and Black Licorice. Twain once observed that a cat which steps on a hot stove lid won’t do so again, but neither will it step on a cold stove lid, a parable less to do with abusing cats than about how easy it is to brainwash loved ones. All you have to do is continually offer a few nice chocolates surrounded by a horrible chocolaty minefield of nasty, unwholesome, and complex European flavors. Eventually, even if your girl knows there are absolutely delicious, ass-clenchingly awesome candies somewhere in the box, they have also developed an almost neurotic distrust of biting into anything taken from a red-velvet, heart shaped box. Even better, if you can manage to fill a box completely with nasty candies and guilt her into eating them all, you can reuse a similar box, year after year, safely knowing she’ll never eat another piece of fancy assortment chocolate as long as she lives.
Another mistake people make is taking their women out to dinner. Let me present you with a completely hypothetical situation:
You just want to sleep in, curled up in your soft, cool bed with your soft girlfriend or wife. Instead, you are forced to work in a 115° kitchen, dripping sweat on to some guy’s Filet Mignon which you’ve gotten sent back so that you can scrape off the quarter cup of Heinz 57 sauce, fillet it and put it back on the completely full grill to cook it to something called ‘more well done’. As you turn your head shamefully away from watching the destruction of this $50 piece of perfectly aged beef, a single tear rolling down your cheek, the saute guy slips on the greasy floor and hits your elbow with a red hot pan, sloshing Chicken Florentine all over your arm and causing second degree burns. As you unsuccessfully try to wipe napalm-like boiling cream and moltent cheese from your skin, your screams of pain and anger are cut short by your manager, a large and intimidating son-of-a-bitch who is pissed that his whore of a wife is at home screwing their tile contractor while he’s stuck working with a bunch of moronic peons like you. After being dressed down for yelling at one of the only idiots beside yourself who would work the kitchen on Valentine’s Day you turn to the window to try and identify the source of what sounds like a a cat being pushed ass-first into a blender full of thumbtacks. You realize it’s a waitress shouting at you to for a new Filet, ‘on-the-fly’, because the customer is complaining his first Filet is now burned. You twitchingly eye the long, razor sharp chef’s knife before glancing down at your sweat soaked crotch, knowing that your taint has been curdling a rancid sachet of Formunda cheese for the last hot, smelly and unwashed 6 hours. You reach instead for a soup spoon…
Going out to dinner on St. Valentine’s is a guaranteed way to greatly increase the amount of foreign spit, boogers and ball sweat you normally consume.
The alternative to eating out is cooking a nice, candlelit dinner at home, but this can be a daunting and expensive task for people who normally live on ramen noodles and factory second Twinkies. To help, I’ve put together some real pointers to make things easier and cheaper for the lay cook.
If your date is a natural born citizen of the United States, your job is easy. Foreign born and well travelled people can acquire a much different palette from years of eating well seasoned and spicy food made from fresh ingredients and using methods other than pan and deep frying. After lifetimes of being served greasy, grey, beef-flavored patties made from mechanically seperated meat and slathered in Thousand Island dressing, fatty pot roasts floating in salty gravy, corn chips liberally coated with MSG, and vegetables that are either breaded, deep fried and covered in salt or steamed to the consistency of a smoothie and then covered in salt have left most US Americans palattes as numb and idiotic as a Fox News anchor. We Americans like it salty, we like it fried and we like it bland, with very few exception. If she’s from out west, grab some radish sprouts, instant rice and a steamer. If she’s from the south-west, get a nice bottle of hot sauce and some cilantro. Southerners and south-easterners do well with a big bottle of Heinz Chili sauce and a can of okra. Up north, make sure you have plenty of mayonnaise and a bag of sauerkraut. Always have a big bottle of ketchup and yellow mustard. Since this is a special occasion, you might even want to try buying a bottle Dijonaise or Spicy Brown. Lastly, get a bottle of steak sauce like A1, Heinz 57 or, if you want to be truely edgy, some HP Sauce, a malt vinegar sauce popular in Britain and available at import stores, Scottish Festivals and the cabinets of anyone who owns The Complete Monty Python boxset on DVD.
If you have ever spend a lot of time in the back of the house at a restaurant, you soon understand that what a customer thinks is a nice, personally cooked meal has spent most of it’s life in a metal pan floating in an ice bath before being unceremoniously ladled into a saute pan, quickly heated and then poured onto a plate. Presentation is everything. If you are in the kitchen and out comes the sound of banging pots, delicious smells and, eventually, a nice looking dinner, you have done your job. People taste with their eyes. The most important step is how it looks. Secondary is the actual flavor.
First stop: your local gigantic chain grocery store. These are usually located somewhere between the abandoned, boarded up Mom & Pop specialty shops and the ashes of the local community greengrocer. Even though you will be shopping at an actual grocery store, remember that you don’t have to actually buy fresh food. There are plenty of prepared meals that only need to be put into a preheated oven or microwave and then placed onto a serving dish and garnished. Shrimp cocktail comes ready to eat after a brief thaw. Crab legs and lobsters can be bought precooked and frozen, needing little more than a quick reheating to make you look like some kind of savant Emeril Lagasse. Also remember that some chopped fresh parsley or a little cilantro and a little sprinkle of some grated hard cheese like Parmesan can be that small thing that separates good food from good food that gets you laid.
If you are buying steak, you don’t need to spend a was of bills on Filet Mignon. Most Americans have never had Filet. Most Americans, when presented with an inch and a half thick slab of meat that is oozing bright red sarcoplasm, will make a brief gurgling noise and then faint. Since it’s widely known that Americans hate food that actually looks like an animal, most steaks they eat are cooked until nearly blackened to remove any trace of juices that may resemble blood when the steak is finally cut, giving the meat a texture not unlike well worn shoe leather. Since the steak is now so dry that it’s actually osmosing the condensation off the side of a nearby water glass, it needs to be re-hydrated with some kind of sauce or gravy or it will also have the flavor of well worn shoe leather. What we have now I like to call USA or Unedible Steak of American, a dish in which the texture of the meat has been destroyed by overcooking and the flavor is hidden by the quart of lightly flavored and thickened salt water it’s bathing in. To most Americans this is what a good cut of meat looks and tastes like and therefore it’s quite easy to do steak on the cheap.
You can make a passable steak for well under a ten spot. Buy a inexpensive cut like strip or sirloin and a package of dried onion soup. Fork the hell out of the steak, stabbing it over and over until it’s got more holes in it than a Creationist Museum exibit. Next, make the onion soup with boiling water but using only half the recommended amount. Add a few ice cubes and stir until it’s room temp. Soak the steak in this for a few hours before you cook it. The forking will break up the muscle and the salt will break down the proteins, tenderizing the steak. The onion and salt also add a lot of flavor if you bought a bland cut. Rinse that puppy, pat dry, lightly smear on a little vegetable oil, salt it and throw it under the broiler for about 5-8 minutes a side. When it’s done, let it rest under some foil for a few minutes, plop it on a plate, garnish it and serve. You can use the money you save to buy a really nice steak sauce and a package of steam-in-bag microwave broccoli.
If you are the kind of guy who believes that the way to impress a woman’s panties into spontaneously flinging themselves across the room is by buying into a holiday that has significantly less history and meaning than it does marketting gimicks and special offers in the weekly Super Saver, hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on how to save a little money this Valentine’s Day. But, with tax season here, consider the following badly thought out and inappropriate metaphor: like taxes, if you keep all your romance to yourself, at the beginning of the year you are going to have to pay. But if you give a little romance each week, when the beginning of the year rolls around, you may find out that you don’t actually owe anything and that you’ve got a refund of romance waiting for you. That is, unless you’re dating the kind of girl who pulls an audit, in which case, no matter what you do you’re screwed. And, technically, you actually wouldn’t be screwed, but hopefully you got my point, which is available for in a collector’s edition Box Set for only $19.99.Operators are standing by. Call today.