Look around. There are mounds of snow and potholed roads everywhere. It’s cold and slippery. Nothing says “Be My Valentine” like a yearning for rock salt and Icy Melt.
Let’s face it. Cold hearts don’t melt in February. The pagan origins of St. Valentine’s Day refer to the time of year when the birds start to mate. But this month I haven’t seen any birds mating. I’ve only seen birds freezing. They’re hungry. They’re miserable. They’re wondering when the snow and ice will clear and the frozen ground will once again offer up wormy breakfasts.
Most of us know the feeling. Valentine’s Day would be better if it were moved to the summer. Possibly August, which has no national holiday. Days and nights of August in Rhode Island have the sensual, languid quality one would like to see in a Valentine’s Day. If I am overemphasizing the passionate and romantic aspect of the occasion – what the Greeks called “Eros” – it’s only because I feel as if I’m drowning in a media flood of florists and wineries, candy makers and chocolatiers, barbershop quartets and restaurants advertising candlelight dinners, all of them banking on Valentine’s Day as a lover’s holiday.
Maybe there’s a reason why every year Valentine’s Day is considered the holiday most overrated and least anticipated by a majority of Americans. At least locally, Providence just isn’t as sexy as Miami or New Orleans in February. Perhaps we would be better off downplaying “Eros,” and emphasizing the various other aspects of love – “Storge” (familial), “Philia” (friendship) and “Agape” (selfless love for others). I mention this even knowing that reducing love to four chambers of the heart is inherently problematic. Google “kinds of love” and you’ll see links numbering them at 4, 5, 3, 9, 7 and 8 varieties on the first page scroll.
Adding to Rhode Islanders’ Valentine’s Day angst this year is the news that wild oysters are “functionally extinct,” meaning that the world’s most popular aphrodisiac is going the way of the Dodo. For those of us who would prefer a platter of Moonstones, Watch Hills, Rome Points and Ninigret Cups to a chocolate box of nuts, fruits, nougats, caramels and creams, the worry that wild oyster extinction will endanger love on the half shell is almost paralyzing. (It’s an irrational worry; but aren’t they all?)
At least in Rhode Island, valentines and oysters are members of the same species. But don’t take my word for it. New York City’s Aquagrill considers Rhody oysters to be the best on the market. Here’s what the owner had to say about Moonstones in an article on “26 Oysters You Should Know This Valentine’s Day” for The Feast:
I’ve had these since I opened. Some of my favorite oysters. It’s almost like a meal, a perfectly balanced oyster. Sweet, salty, bitterness, but everything comes together in your mouth. Rhode Island is one of my favorite states for oysters.
The proof is in the shucking. He also carries Watch Hills, Rome Points, Ninigret Cups and Potter’s Moons, which he describes as his “second favorite oyster.”
The other benefit of combining oysters with Valentine’s Day is that, if you find the right kind, you won’t have to spring for pearls.
What is your Valentine’s Day ritual?