Virginia Woolf said ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’ and George Bernard Shaw said ‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food’. Love and food – two things inextricably and irrevocably linked forever, which is rather fitting seen as it’s Valentine’s Day. So, in the spirit of all things red and lovely – and no, we’re not referring to red roses or red chocolate hearts, we’re referring to juicy red steaks and all the other quality meat Cape Town and Johannesburg N1 branches have to offer – we thought we’d spread the love around and look at how two other nations celebrate Valentine’s Day, and it’s not what you expect.
The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is the Qi Xi Festival – it’s celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (so not in February then) and is based on an ancient fairy tale of lovers torn asunder and permitted to reunite only one evening each year – you guessed it, the seventh day of the seventh month. Over time the day has come to symbolise true love and it’s celebrated in a variety of ways - catching dew drops which represent the lovers’ tears and hiding in pumpkin fields to name but two. The festival also includes culinary delights such as Qiaoguo (sweet fried thin pastry) which has been moulded into different shapes and used as adornments; delicious dumplings; and Honey Pears which are steamed pears filled with dates and honey.
The Welsh version of Valentine’s Day is St Dwynwen’s Day and it’s celebrated on the 25th of January. St Dwynwen (her name means ‘she who leads a blessed life’) is the patron saint of lovers – said to be a 4th century Welsh princess doomed to love a local boy her father would not let her marry, she drank a potion that would supposedly help her forget him. Her wish was that God would help all true lovers and in return she dedicated her life to setting up a convent and becoming a nun. Today one of the ways of celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day is to exchange a lovespoon – a tradition dating back thousands of years, a lovespoon was made from wood and carved by a young man for his sweetheart. And let’s not forget the food, traditional Welsh dishes include Laverbread, a puree made of edible and nutrient-rich seaweed, often referred to as Welsh caviar and served with toast; and Cawl, a soup similar to stew made up of lamb, leeks and potatoes – because nothing says ‘I love you’ more than seaweed and soup.
While both the Chinese and Welsh are said to celebrate the more widely-accepted 14th of February as well, their take on the lovers’ holiday is so much more fascinating don’t you think? Regardless of where you are, what you believe or what you choose to do today, make it a good day and enjoy the best that life has to offer – love and food.