The following were written by Sue
for her column in the Colorado Daily. Sue's husband, Neal Donahue served as editor.
By Sue Dubach
Valentine's Day: a day for lovers (or prospective lovers). A day and
perhaps more importantly a night that have been celebrated for many a
year thanks to one Saint Valentine. An exquisite tradition this: We take
a day to appreciate our most loved ones.
While cards, flowers and chocolates are generally associated with this
day of affection, some gifts are popular because they are believed to
possess aphrodisiac qualities. Throughout history, all cultures have
considered various types of foods, flowers and herbs to have properties
capable of inducing love and passion.
Women, for instance, were once forbidden to eat artichokes in France
because of their perceived inflammatory effect. Oysters, caviar and lobster
have all been coupled with stories of incited passion and increased libido.
Folklore surrounding the exotic truffle is a story in itself, one of
legendary powers of licentiousness. Shark fin soup (in China) and eggplant
(in India) are just two foods from other countries that are linked with
love and lust.
In our country, among others, chocolate holds a special place of honor.
Research has suggested that chocolate is able, on occasion, to replace
lacking functions in the body, to instill, as it were, the feelings of
well-being and love. It's a theory, anyway. Chocolate has, however, a rich
past. It is said that in 1519 Cortes and his soldiers encountered
chocolate for the first time at the court of Montezuma. High on his throne,
the great Aztec ruler raised a golden ceremonial goblet to his lips,
while subjects watched in reverence. The liquid in the cup was called
chocolatl. Aztecs believed wisdom and knowledge came from its
Chocolate spread to Italy and France, where it became a scandalous
sensation. It was thought to be "unwholesome" and "the
beverage of Satan" by churchmen, but was served with great
enthusiasm to the French court. To this day, chocolate has maintained
an honored place in our lives and our history. Not a day goes by that
most people are not exposed to chocolate in one of its many forms: mocha
latte, ice cream, cookies, brownies, candy and chicken mole are just
a few ways this ancient ingredient gives flavor and richness
to our lives.
Often paired with chocolate, especially on Valentine's Day, is Champagne.
And, I might add, it's a great combination. The sum is greater than the
parts. This alliance fulfills two needs: the chocolate for its richness to
the palate and smoothness on the tongue; and the Champagne for its
sparkling spontaneity and sense of adventure. The two have been a classic
Valentine's Day gift medley for decades--and will surely endure well into
There are many ways to celebrate Valentine's Day 1994, but food is an
essential part of a sensual evening. Mussels, steamed clams and crab legs
are all appropriate to the mood of the day. They are simple to prepare, yet
require time to eat--with lots of hands-on activity. The meal lingers,
allowing time for conversation and eye-gazing.
If you are planning an elaborate meal, be careful not to overextend
your time or culinary talent. The goal of the evening is to spend
it with your significant other--not to be in the kitchen over a hot
stove by yourself. Succulent lamb or pork chops can be sauteed quickly
and a sauce whisked up in just a matter of minutes--which gives you time
for more important things . . . you know . . . like dessert.
Which I guess brings us back to chocolate. Cakes, pies, puddings, mousse
or candies? Again, simple is almost always the best approach. Chocolate
fondue in front of the fireplace, hot coffee drinks with candies on the
deck, or Champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate (while soaking
in a hot tub?) would be a very relaxing way to add the finishing touches
to a romantic evening.
Restaurants are very busy on Valentine's Day, so think ahead and make
plans for an intimate evening at home. Get rid of the roommates, the kids
and the cat to ensure a romantic setting. Candles, scattered around the
house, provide perfect lighting. Fresh flowers, in vases and floating
in bowls with smaller candles, create special centerpieces. Clothing selection
is up to you, above and below, and it's not my place here to go into the
possibilities. But bring out the good china, the special platters, or the
family silver and dress up your table.
Include friends and family in the Valentine's cards that you send.
Remembering old friends with a card or a small gift lets them know they
are in your thoughts, too. Children like the day because it's a day of
sweets and parties. Start their day off with heart-shaped pancakes or
send sandwiches and snacks to school that have been cut in heart patterns.
Valentine's Day is less than a week away. The last thing your lover
wants to know is that you got something together at the last moment.
Besides, planning ahead helps build a little anticipation. And that, perhaps,
is the most reliable aphrodisiac of all.
By Sue Dubach
El Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, combines pre-Hispanic
Indian beliefs with the Catholic traditions of Medieval Spain. The ancient
religions of Mexico saw death as but one state in a continuous cycle of
being. The line between life and death, so stark and clear to many North
Americans, was softer and slightly blurred. Then, in the 16th century, the
Spanish arrived in Mexico, bringing their heritage and the customs of
The early Middle Ages were very dangerous and tumultuous times, inducing
the French poets to create the image of "Danse Macabre"--Dancing
Death in the form of a cloaked skeleton. "Danse Macabre" came
to take all away, regardless of their status in society. While the Church
taught its followers that salvation would come from leading faithful pure
lives, purgatory was where most were headed--to suffer for an extended
period of time. All Saints Day became the day followers prayed for the
souls of those gone before, hoping to shorten their stay in purgatory.
All cultures adapt customs and rituals, and in Spanish-Indian Mexico,
All Souls Day transmuted to Day of the Dead. Instead of praying for souls
in purgatory, Mexicans celebrated with their loved ones who had gone
before them. Fiestas welcomed their spiritual travelers home for a visit.
Octavio Paz, the poet and writer, said a fiesta allows us to
"throw down our burdens of time and reason." In the fiesta of
Muertos (the Dead) time no longer keeps spirits from the living. On the
morning of Oct. 31, the souls of los angelitos--the innocent ones--
return. Altars are placed in homes and filled with favorite sweets, toys,
flowers and candles. By the time the noon arrives on Nov. 1, the child
spirits have left and adult souls come to visit and feast at the altars.
The belief of many Mexicans is that the dead wish for the things of
life. Celebratory fiestas in all regions bring together brightly colored
flowers, costumes, fireworks and candlelight. Cemeteries are filled with
families tending to tombstones; washing them, then decorating them with
portraits, refreshing drinks and garlands of flowers. The yellow-orange
zempasuchil, or marigold, is one of the favored, traditional flowers.
Life is spiced with many smells and colors. The Day of the Dead bridges
the gap between life and death, and allows our loved ones to return and
share in worldly pleasures once more. It is a day designed to feed both body
There are many traditional foods served during "El Dia De Los
Muertos." According to Patricia Quintana and Carol Haralson in
"Mexico's Feasts of Life" (Council Oak Books), the menus vary,
but there are always a number of special treats served. The "bread of
the dead," for instance, while taking many shapes, is common to most
celebrations. Some loaves will have painted porcelain heads embedded in the
dough while others will be decorated with braids or painted with bright
Tamales are prepared for both the living and the dead. Some tamales are
wrapped in banana leaves and left on the altars to give the dead a taste of
life. A yellow "mole" is made, the color of marigold flowers, to
help souls find their ways home. Green "mole," used year around,
is also present as an offering at the alters for "el Muertos."
Adobo, a marinade for meat, is a thick paste or sauce made of chilies
and spices with a little vinegar. Rabbit Adobo is a popular offering. As for
sweets, Quintana notes, "Candied pumpkin is a typical sweet served
around the Day of the Dead holiday. The tradition dates back to pre-Hispanic
tims when it was originally sweetened with honey or the sap extracted from
the maguey plant. Today it is placed on the altars as an offering to the
dead." Likewise, chocolates and flowers are always found on the
Toy skeletons and such, as well as marzipan skulls that are enjoyed
by children and adults alike, fill stores prior to the Day of the Dead
celebration. The fiesta is truly a family day.
Like all customs, interpretation is part of the ongoing process. I have
adapted this holiday for my own family. Since we no longer live near the
graves of family members, we have changed some of the customs. On the Day
of the Dead, we plan a dinner and all pick someone we wish to honor. The
table is set with a place setting for the honoree and a few mementoes from
their life. We cook some traditional foods along with some of their
favorites. We sit down and enjoy the meal together and use this time to
talk about the person and what gifts of life were given to us by them.
It's a time to remember, and to share their love. It's a wonderful way to
help children remember their families, and to keep your family stories alive.
It's also a time to evaluate your life and rededicate yourself to enjoying
it to the fullest.
"El Dia De Los Muertos" is a fiesta, a holiday of tradition--
or one you can adapt to your own needs. Take a little time, think about
someone beyond the earthly plane that you would like to honor with your
thoughts and your food, and, for a day, "throw down . . . burdens of
time and reason."
"Mexico's Feasts of Life" can be found at the Peppercorn on
the downtown Boulder Mall.
Sue Dubach, Chef Owner
Sage & Savory Catering
6325 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
Phone & Fax: 303-673-9899
Sage and Savory Catering is a catering business owned by Sue Dubach and located in Louisville, Colorado. Sage and Savory Catering is a catering business owned by Sue Dubach and located in Louisville, Colorado. Sage and Savory Catering is a catering business owned by Sue Dubach and located in Louisville, Colorado.
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