My gift to you for the day, given in advance to give you chance to use it for inspiration, is a wonderfully kitchy menu from the Café Bova, Boston, on Valentine’s Day 1912. The image of the menu I cannot give - it is too fuzzy, and if the resolution were any lower it would slide off the bottom of the page - so you will have to imagine the decoration of red hearts.
Consommé De L’Amour
A Plaice in your Heart
My Own Sweet Lamb
A Little Duck
You for my Sweetheart
Ice-simply adore You
I’m hungry for your sweet affection
So don’t leave me starving I pray
For the menu I’ve made a selection
Let me dine on the same every day.
The love-struck beau wishing to impress his sweetheart with this romantic meal had to dig relatively deep, for the time. The meal cost $2.00.
From Household Cookery Recipes (London, 1901), I give you a recipe for the fish course.
Fillets of Plaice with White Sauce.
1 medium-sized plaice.
1 teaspoon lemon juice.
¾ pint fish sauce.
Salt and pepper.
Wash and dry the plaice on a cloth, and remove the fillets carefully thus: Take a sharp knife and cut a clean cut right down the middle of the fish from head to tail; then raise the fillets from the bones, keeping the knife flat on the bone and taking long clean cuts (not jagging,
or the fish will be wasted) ; season the fillets and fold them into three, skin side inside, or they will unroll in the cooking ; place them on a buttered baking- tin, sprinkle the lemon over them, and cover closely with buttered paper. They should be kept quite white in the cooking.
Bake in a slow oven for from 7 to 15 minutes, according to the size; dish up nicely and coat over with the sauce. Decorate with red crumbs or chopped parsley.
The bones of a plaice, sole or whiting.
1 oz. butter.
1 oz. flour.
1 small onion.
1 small bay leaf.
1 sprig parsley.
1 sprig thyme.
½ pint milk.
½ pint water.
1 small piece carrot.
1 small piece turnip.
1 small piece celery.
Cut the head off the bones, wash and break them up, put them into a saucepan with the vegetables left in blocks, the herbs and spice ; season and pour over them the milk and water; simmer the stock slowly for 10 minutes ; strain ; dissolve the butter and cook the flour in it slowly for 3 or 4 minutes to make the sauce shiny, then off the fire, mix in the stock, stir to the boil and cook for 5 minutes ; strain the sauce.
Quotation for the Day.
I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.