Valentine’s Day after Beth

by Bernard Brandt


Actually, maudlin thoughts aside, this is more along the lines of thinking about things that I did for and with my late wife Beth, that made Valentine’s Day special, and that any poor schlep (or shlepette) can do for his or her beloved.

Yeh, I could brag that I am, if not a great chef, at least a competent one, and can rustle up some Eggs Benedict or Dover Sole a la Bonne Femme or Boeuf Bourgignon or Quiche Lorraine, and all.

I could. But that would fall into the category of ‘True, but unhelpful.’ What y’all need are some quick fixes. Here are three:


Ingredients and implements of destruction:

-Popcorn (yellow or white). The grains you can find in small plastic bags at just about any supermarket. Leave the microwave or big-bagged shite alone. Y’all can parlay with Orville if ya like. Personally, I find him a bit pricey;

-Oil. Could be veg or corn or soy or safflower or olive or whatev. I prefer olive. Just make sure that the oil ain’t rancid. That’s a deal breaker;

-Butter. A tablespoon or so won’t kill ya;

-Salt, to taste. That can run the gamut from the little useless packets they provide at fast food places, all the way up to the fancy grinders with stuff from the freakin’ Himalayas. Again, yer choice;

-Spices. Once more, yer choice, from Hungarian paprika to chili to Emeril’s stuff all the way up to mignonette pepper or those weird spice mixes that the Japs or the gooks sprinkle on their white rice. Check them all out. But choose one for the evening. Maybe even something she likes;

And now, for the implements of destruction:

-A deep sauce pan or kettle with a tight fitting lid that is large enough to pop popcorn for two;

-A bowl large enough to contain the popcorn (large brown paper grocery bags also work).

Order of battle:

Pour in enough popcorn kernels to make a full yet scant single layer on the bottom of the sauce pan/kettle. Pour in enough oil to make a dry slurry of corn and oil. Add the tablespoon or so of butter. Add salt to taste. Put the pan on an oven burner on low heat, and swirl around until the heat has melted the butter and mixed it with the oil.

Then slap the lid on that sucker, crank up the heat, and just let it set there until you start to hear popping. Then grab the pan handle with one hand, and the lid top with the other (using a kitchen towel or a mitt-glove to keep you from burning yer damn-fool hand) and shake-shake-shake it, baby, until it either stops popping, or is a couple of seconds between pops. Then immediately, pour it either into that bowl, or (if ya don’t have a bowl) a large brown-paper grocery bag.  Sprinkle in the spices, and gently shake the bowl/bag until the spices settle throughout the popcorn. Then enjoy.

Too complex? Then try this:

Champagne cocktail

Ingredients and implements of destruction:

-One bot sparkler (anything on the spectrum from Andre’s to Cook’s to good domestic, to Spanish to French to genuwine Champoo);

-One bot fav cordial or liqueur (spectrum runs from triple sec to Grand Marnier to Chambourd all the way up to la fée verte. As a matter of fact, that quintessential guy, Ernest Hemingway, particularly loved a jigger of Absinthe in a glass of champ. But I digress. Just make sure the cordial plays well with the sparkler. I would recommend against Jäger, guyz.);

-Two glass or crystal champagne flutes (available everywhere from pricy mall stores right down to 99 cent stores);

Order of battle:

Either use a jigger measure or eyeball it to pour an ounce and a half of cordial each into flutes. Then pop the bot of sparkler, making sure that said bot has been properly chilled. Wait after popping until bot has stopped effervescing. Then gently pour contents of bottle into glasses until filled. Enjoy.

Too simple? Jeez, youze guyz are so damn picky. So, let’s try something in between.

Irish Coffee/Coffee Royale

My late wife, Beth, loved this, particularly for St. Patrick’s day, as she was full blooded Irish American (red-headed, and left handed to boot). It’s easy as pie:

Ingredients and implements of destruction:

-Two little bottles of Bushmill’s (or Jameson’s, or inexpensive brandy, rum, or wutev. Yer choice);

-Enough freshly brewed coffee for two mugs or cups (ranging from instant to percolated to drip to French press, and ingredients going all the way from instant to freshly roasted. Again, yer choice);

-Two teaspoons white sugar per cup/mug;

-One can of Reddy Whip or Alta Dena or any pressurized whipped cream which involves actual cream rather than the standard issue dessert topping/floor wax;

-Two cups/mugs;

Order of battle:

Put contents of bottle into each cup. Put in two teaspoons white sugar per cup. Pour enough coffee into cup so as to nearly fill cup. Properly operate the whipped cream container to fill the remainder of the cup, rather than the usual nitrous oxide flatulence and sharting. Then enjoy.

And finally, a Damon Runyonesque note to all you guyz and dollz out there:

Guyz, dollz dig guyz who can do something or someone well, competently, and paying full attention while doing so. In order to win some one, ya gotta BE someone.

Dollz, guyz dig dollz who are willing to pay attention to them. Shit tests don’t count.

Well then, guyz and dollz, enjoy. I’m taking this year off, ’cause I’m not yet willing to enter again into that jovial and merry war between men and women. But please, keep on keeping on. As that eminent philosopher, Benedick, from Much Ado About Nothing put it: ‘The world must be peopled!’