, Gloucester, MA

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February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day dinner for me, myself, and I

My teenage daughter alerted me that Feb. 14 is “Single Awareness Day,” or S.A.D. Who knew?

Wikipedia knew. A few clicks to the online resource tells me that Single Awareness Day is intended to remind couples that one needn’t be in a romantic relationship to enjoy life. I’m not sure anyone — or two —has the market on making dinner reservations, what 80 percent of Valentine’s Day is; flowers, chocolate, and often prescription romance being the rest.

S.A.D., according to Wikipedia, may be a response to the Hallmark-ization of the calendar. Common activities during Singles Awareness Day, Wiki says, include single events, traveling, volunteering, treating oneself to popular activities, gathering of family and friends, and gift giving to oneself. One increasingly popular activity is to travel to Brazil and witness the Brazilian Carnival, coupled with the fact that Brazil doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, but in June.

Kinda makes ya wanna be single. I think there’s a “grass is always greener” lesson embedded here, somewhere between Brazil and a table for two. By the way, ask your favorite wait-person how he or she feels about Valentine’s Day. Which would they prefer, one table of eight or four tables of two? Valentine’s Day means greeting the table times four, saying the specials times four, taking the orders times four, including being in four different places at once, because everyone wants to eat at 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, romantically involved or not.

Naturally, a S.A.D. menu would include messy foods with lots of garlic, dishes one wouldn’t dare eat across from a romantic partner. I offer a menu here that’s both single and Valentine worthy. The Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe made famous by Patricia Wells is recast as Tuna Steaks with 20 Cloves of Garlic. Found in my current favorite book, The Food Thesaurus, this recipe hails from the Mediterranean; the tuna and garlic beg for a side of piperade, or onion, yellow peppers and tomato stewed in olive oil. The combination is nothing less than seductive, which makes this dish a magnificent dinner for a Valentine or for just you. The garlic, by the way, browns to sweetness, and is no threat to an incoming kiss.

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