skull of St. Valentine as displayed in Rome. Credit: Wikipedia.

Valentine’s Day is holiday that is shrouded in layers of mystery.  It is most often thought that it is a celebration of St. Valentine. But which one? The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus. The most known Valentine was a priest, who performed marriages for young lovers in secret when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage. Claudius found out about the secret weddings, and had Valentine killed. Claudius II also killed another Saint Valentine. This one from Terni in Umbria, who helped Christians escape merciless Roman prisons. It is said that Valentine sent the first “Valentine’s letter” to the jailor’s daughter, who he fell in love with when she visited prior to his death which he signed, “From your Valentine.”

“Lupercalia ” by Domenico Beccafumi

Another thought is that, as with many Christian holidays, it was created to counter the ides of February Pagan ritual, Lupercalia. The festival was thought to bring its participants fertility and was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. During the festival, the men would sacrifice sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then skin the goat, bathe it in its blood, and create a loin cloth out of it.  After which they would go into the town, where the women would come out to be “slapped” with the skin. Pregnant women believed that the touch of the goat would allow them to give birth to healthy babies. Women not pregnant, believed that it would add to their fertility. Those women would then place their names in an urn. The unwed men would choose a name out of the urn and they would be married. 

For those who are English poet fans, another theory behind the tradition of Valentine’s Day is that it originated thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer. In his 1375 poem, Parliament of Foules, The opening lines state, “So short our lives, so hard the lessons, so difficult the tests, so sudden the final victory, so tenuous the hope of joy that so easily evaporates into fear – this is what I mean by Love.”

Chaucer continues, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” The poem is written through the eyes of the narrator as he dreams about traveling through beautiful lands and happens upon the temple of Venus. He watches in awe as male eagles attempt to seduce one female. Similar to his most popular The Cantebury Tales, the prose is full of speeches and vulgarity. In the end the female chooses neither of the males. Instead she asks Mother Nature to give her another year to decide on a mate. Mother Nature agrees as she turns to the male eagles and states, “A year is not too long to endure.”

Certain foods translate into emotions or feelings, and there is no other food that screams “I LOVE YOU” more than risotto. As we approach Valentine’s Day this year, we have the perfect pairing suggestion for you to show your loved one exactly how much you care. Risotto and L’Ecole Cabernet Sauvignon.

Like love, risotto needs a little patience. If you provide the care, the rewards are priceless. And just like love, when it is right, you know it immediately. In order to make your risotto perfect, here are a few tips:

1- make sure you use warm stock
2- the magic ratio for risotto is 4 cups of stock for every cup of arborio rice
3- agitate the rice, don’t over stir it. Too much stirring adds too much air and it will be like glue. 
4- slowly add the stock in intervals, allowing the rice to fully absorb it prior to adding more
5- if adding vegetables, make sure they are already cooked, any additions should be done at the end of the cooking process.


We added bacon and parmesan to our risotto and paired with the L’Ecole #41 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. I truly believe that Saint Valentine himself would be happy with this wine. As a lover of weddings, he would approve that the fruit for the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon comes from marriage of twelve vineyards that have been meticulously managed for over 35 years.  L’Ecole specifically picks the older, proven vineyards and hand harvests the fruit . Afterwards, it is fermented separately in 1.5 and 5 ton stainless steel fermenters. The wine was then transferred into small oak barrels of which 25% were new and aged for 22 months.

media sample; all opinions are my own

2017 L’Ecole #41 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

? deep purple
?? pronounced aromas cigar, plum, cassis, rosemary, milk chocolate
? dry, medium acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, medium flavors vanilla, dark chocolate, black cherry, black plum, medium finish
? SRP: $30, sample, 5,600 cases produced, a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak. 



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  1. “Like love, risotto needs a little patience. If you provide the care, the rewards are priceless. And just like love, when it is right, you know it immediately.” This is perfect Lori, well done! PS: I’m planning risotto for Valentine’s Day.

  2. This was fascinating with all the different stories that come together for this holiday.
    I was surprised at your note to not stir the risotto too much or it would be gluey. When I learned to make risotto (an afternoon class at Sur La Table) the chef told us we had to stay and stir the risotto constantly for the entire time it cooked! I’ve been going about risotto all wrong! Your’s looks delicious, by the way, and beautiful in its “heart shape”.

    1. Thank you so much Robin. When we first learned how to cook risotto we were told the same thing, but we read somewhere that you can over stir it, so we stopped the constant (still stay very close and stir on a regular basis) and it comes out so much better.

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