Yesterday I awoke to a letter telling me I was that same girl from two autumns ago. The letter said it saw me: saw me listless, saw me trilling & giddy, saw me working to the bone. The letter was a tender apology. The night before, I’d skittered up and down the stairs, out into the frigid driveway barefoot in nothing but a slip look, look, looking for my damn phone. I needed the alarm on it. I’m trying to become a morning person, you see. Current status of that project is abject failure. I’ll keep you posted. So I skittered around looking for the phone only to finally find it tucked neatly by the detergent on the laundry room shelf. I’m also trying to do more laundry. It’s one of those ambitious weeks. Still haven’t run yet. But I did 100 lunges, and I can’t walk or sit without almost falling down. I, evidently, succeeded in breaking my legs. So there’s that. Anyhow, I found the phone, crawled beneath the covers shivering the driveway chill off, and then the phone looked at me and wailed my battery is dying! It was exactly 17 minutes before midnight, and I reached for the charger only to remember I’d left it in the living room. It was mostly downhill after that. You can read about it. Or just scroll down to the recipe link at the bottom of the post. I won’t hold it against you.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed about to go back down to the office to do more work (he’s a wise night owl). I looked at him, forlorn. Will you get my charger? He sighed heavily, put out. Which put me out. So I said nevermind (oh the poisonous nevermind!) and made a great display of getting it myself and see-wasn’t-that-easy. Then I crawled back into bed and silently pulled the covers over my head. Just that. What ensued was a labyrinthine conversation of what’s wrong and nothings and my feelings were hurt and can’t I just this and all of that super-happy-fun, good-times banter. Almost an hour had passed, and it was nearing one. I felt dejected, my dreams of bounding out of bed the next morning already dashed.
But then, the next morning, I awoke to a letter on that self-same bastard phone (it was, you see, all the phone’s fault. As are so many things.) He’d sent it in the middle of the night. And it said that he was sorry for sometimes being stubborn (me too), and that I’m that same girl he’d loved so dearly two autumns ago. That he loves now just as much. That I’m his first choice. Through some thick and some thin, that is where we find ourselves today. And that, dear friends, beats all the chalky chocolates, pre-ordained bouquets of stodgy roses, and romantic Valentine’s Day gestures in the world. I’ll take a spat & a genuine make up any day. When you and your partner can see your part and admit it….that is romantic.
We don’t observe Valentine’s Day around here. It wasn’t some decision we made or some declaration; it just bores us both, and we’re usually too busy to remember. There’s also the fact that we both have ideas of love and romance that are categorically antithetical to Valentine’s Day in its present incarnation. But then I discovered Lupercalia.
Lupercalia is, to my feeble Wikipedia fueled understanding, one of the ancient Roman festivals from which this, our bland “Valentine’s Day”, springs. It was all saltmeal cakes and sacrificial goats, vestal virgins and feasting. It was both a time for purification and cleansing of the city as well as a time to honor the wolf-mother, Lupa. The mid-February (etymology, interestingly, Februa after the ancient roman purification festival the pre-dates even Lupercalia) festivals, before they were first Christianized; subjected to the medieval ideals of courtly love; and then that final violence, the Hallmark ideals capitalism—before all that mid-February was a celebration of purification and fertility. Which makes sense; seeing as it’s the last bite of winter before spring births the world all over again. The idea that we would cleanse and purify to prepare for this birth as the crone of winter begins to fade away, this makes sense to me.
And this is something I want to celebrate. I want to take time to reflect on the winter, to cleanse, and to intend fertility for the coming spring: fertile creativity, relationships, and earth. My preference for Lupa over Cupid is a personal one, and I don’t frown upon bathtubs of red roses and champagne if that’s your bag. I don’t really frown on much of anything. I’m all about forming each our own, new traditions. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that traditions that no longer suited a people evolved. But these no longer suit me.
So now I’d like to take a fine, fine Southern tradition, Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, and let it evolve with me. I created this recipe for Free People’s blog, and it’s the perfect cake for the season as we know it today, all beating heart red & rich with cocoa. But along with the canned gestures, an entire bottle of chemical dye in my cake also doesn’t turn me on. This cake, instead, gets its deep hue from earthy beets (you can’t even taste them…not that it would be a bad thing if you did), and the icing is made of local goat cheese. And forget the flowers. I’ll go to the nursery and pick out a little family of succulents for the home we share; they’ll long out live a withering bouquet and clean our air besides. So all natural Red Velvet Cake and succulents are our new Valentine’s Day…nay…Lupercalia tradition. What will yours be?
And in case you’re wondering…I still don’t have a stove. These shots are from my brother & sister-in-law’s house. It’s one of my favorite places to cook besides my own kitchen. Find the recipe here at Free People!
My name is Beth, Elizabeth Evelyn to be exact. A native Tennessean, I was born in the South.
I am the author behind Local Milk Blog.
Local milk is a journal devoted to home cookery, travel, family, and slow living—to being present & finding sustenance of every kind.
It’s about nesting abroad & finding the exotic in the everyday.
Most of all it’s about the perfection of imperfections and seeing the beauty of everyday, mundane life.