If this is Friday, the fourteenth of February, and you are reading this at your desk after a nice turkey sandwich, smugly looking forward to the weekend stretching before you, I hope you have done a little planning. It is Valentine’s Day. It is Friday. Fridays require a little flair, a touch of panache, a little extra effort, particularly if you want to enjoy the weekend. I suggest chocolate.
Homemade, store-bought, ordered from the dessert cart, frozen Sara Lee poundcake topped with ice-cream and chocolate sauce, Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix, Hershey’s Kisses from the convenience store, a Whitman’s Sampler (for irony) snatched up at grocery store. These are realistic gestures of love and affection and true regard. If you are considering carnations garnered at the gas station – don’t bother. They do not sing of love and inspiration – they signal cautionary tales of woe. And don’t go for the over-priced roses that were flown in from gigantic farms in Latin America – they will be dead in under a week. You could use that money to invest in a sizable bower of tulips. Plan ahead before you head home this afternoon.
Mr. Friday and I have rarely spent Valentine’s Day together – it might be a major contributing factor to the longevity of our marriage. Most years he has to attend an annual boat show in sunnier climes, leaving me to my own devices. Though there was the year when he was home, forgot about Valentine’s Day sentiment, and stopped at the grocery store on his way home and snatched up one of the last, limp, cellophane-wrapped bouquets of carnations in the place. You know the ones – already sitting in a shopping cart near the check out lane – not even a full dozen. He arrived home to happy, scrubbed pajama-clad children, a home-cooked meal, flourless chocolate cake, and an extremely well-drawn Valentine. Later, in my fury, I did a painting of the wretched after-thought flowers, and sold it for a lot of money to a woman whom I cannot abide. It was a memorable Valentine’s Day.
This past Sunday afternoon I assuaged my conscience, and baked a batch of Dorie Greenspan’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies for Mr. Friday’s early Valentine. I was paying the Valentine’s Day love forward. This is the best recipe I have found for chocolate chip cookies. I love it because the oatmeal gives it the appearance of health food and I can freeze more than half of the dough, which it feels like money in the bank, knowing there is cookie material waiting for any possible emergency; better than money spent on roses that have an embarrassing carbon footprint.
I use my electronic kitchen scale for this recipe – Dorie calls for 340 grams of semisweet chocolate. I followed the recipe on the back of the Nestlé bag for years, obviously, and just dumped a bag of chocolate chips into the dough. Now I use Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate because I am a grownup who prepares for sentimental gestures, but a bag of Ghiradelli weighs only 283 grams. It is a good thing I finally checked. I have been cheating Mr. Friday and his children for years! Now I weigh out the prescribed amount of chocolate chips. Purists would say that I shouldn’t be using waxy chocolate chips, but should instead be chopping the chocolate – but there are limits to my devotion. (I have a stack of books waiting for me on the bedside table and Benjamin Dreyer is longing to hear what I think about his latest: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.)
But you go ahead and eyeball the amount of chocolate you want to include in your annual show of love. I’m aiming for a little overkill. I also sprinkle a smidge of Maldon salt over the cookies, so they are not cloyingly sweet. This is real life, after all.
Mr. Friday has de-camped for his boat show once again. The happy children are off on their own, and it is just Luke the wonder dog and me tonight. We are going to make pizza, watch It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and read for a while before bed. Life is good.
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.”
― Alfred Tennyson