What’s the best Valentine you have ever received? What’s the best Valentine you have ever given?
Candice Bergen: My daughter makes me something every year for Valentine’s Day. She beaded necklaces, made earrings, and she makes fantastic handmade cards. Also, years ago, she started a little notebook that she would make entries in on holidays or special days for us. She made wonderfully loving, witty entries. And one year when she was 10 or 11, she had a sleep-over on Valentine’s and I made all of them heart-shaped hamburgers and heart-shaped cookies.
My husband is always romantic and generous on Valentine’s Day. This year, we are having a couple over and an ace chef is making dinner for the four of us.
Judith Martin: Whenever I wear my diamond-and-ruby heart brooch, people ask me — with the Aww-isn’t-that-cute expression so often directed at elderly couples — whether it was given to me by my husband, to whom I have been married for 51 years. “I have no idea,” I snap back. “I just happened to find it. On my pillow.”
Joan Ganz Cooney: I feel weird that neither I nor any boyfriend nor any husband I’ve had has paid any attention to Valentine’s Day. I did start sending jelly beans and Valentine’s Day cards to my grandchildren somewhere along the way because it has become such a big deal, thanks to advertising by jewelers, candy makers and greeting cards producers. But it means nothing to me personally.
Julia Reed: The most creative Valentine’s present I think I ever gave was a card onto which I’d pasted tiny identical construction paper hearts that signified the number of different beds the recipient and I had shared together. Ours was a mostly long-distance relationship and we always met in cool places — Dublin, Havana, Key West, London — so they were easy to remember. It was totally romantic, but even then I wasn’t filled with entirely romantic feelings toward this man, and now I pretty much curse the day I ever met him.
I definitely do not curse the day I met my husband, who always gives the best presents ever. (For my birthday one year he gave me four Julia butterflies — one of the rare breeds named after a person — mounted and framed.) This was a pattern established the first Valentine’s Day we spent together, when he showed up at my door with an enormous red box tied with a white satin ribbon. Inside were two cashmere sweaters — a pale grey one and another in charcoal — that were slightly smaller versions of the ones in his own closet that I always commandeered when I, um, “accidentally” woke up in his apartment without a change of clothes. It was a lovely gesture and I still have them — though his over-sized ones remain my favorites. That same night I made him a swell dinner: a filet with an amazing Sauce Medoc from George Perrier’s excellent Le Bec Fin Recipes (it takes forever to make but is so worth it) and my favorite spinach gratin from The River Cafe Cookbook by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray. I’m including the spinach recipe here because everyone should make it for their Valentine.
3 lbs spinach, tough stalks removed
14 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
Beat the eggs and cream together for a minute in a big bowl. Add the Parmesan, nutmeg, pepper and a little salt.
Blanch the spinach in plenty of boiling water for 1 minute and drain well. Chop roughly and mix well with the egg and cream mixture. Pour into a medium sized baking dish—the mixture should not be less than 1½ inches deep. Place uncovered in top of the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Serve hot. The top should be crisp, while the underneath should still be slightly creamy.