On February 14, millions of people send cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts to the ones they love, or hope to love. Restaurants make a special event of the day, linking love with food. But there is plenty of discussion as to whether Jews should join in the celebrations.
February 14 was named by Pope Gelasius 1, in 496 CE, as the day to commemorate the martyrdom of a priest called Valentine. But the story was based on legend, so much so, that in 1969, the Pope removed official recognition of the festival.
Even earlier, there was a pagan festival called Lupercalia, described by Plutarch, the Greek biographer and philosopher, as a fertility ritual celebrated around the first century BCE, in which young men ran through the city naked, hitting women with their loin cloths.
It was believed that any barren woman struck with one of these cloths would become fertile, while pregnant women would deliver easily.
Later academic works have disputed the connection between Lupercalia and Valentine's Day, but neither pagan nor Catholic origin would recommend the festival of love to Jews.
Another argument against Jewish involvement is that on Valentine's Day in 1349, 2,000 members of the Strasbourg Jewish community were burnt to death after having been accused of starting and spreading bubonic plague.
It is true that some rabbis forbid any celebration of Valentine's and some suggest using Tu B'shvat as an event substitute. However there are many us who have decided that giving presents of chocolates and flowers and telling your loved one you care, is indeed an intrinsic part of being Jewish and has nothing to do with worshipping gods, or pagan or Christian rituals .
And how better to express love than through food. After all, haven't we always associated food with love?
We begin our lives with our mothers' love and her food, and from then on food is linked with love and comfort throughout our lives. We date with food; we celebrate with food, and commiserate with food.
With that in mind, I have decided that a wonderful way for you to show your love is through a chocolate brownie heart
It would be ideal if you have a heart-shaped tin or dish, otherwise you can make it with a standard 8 ½ inch round cake tin.
The recipe is straightforward but you can make it your own by adding chopped crystallised ginger, grated orange rind, extra chopped chocolate or a little finely chopped chilli, a very fashionable ingredient at the moment.
Chocolate brownie heart
● 275g, 10 oz 70 per cent cocoa solids dark chocolate
● 275g, 10oz margarine
● 170g, 6oz chocolate chips
● 325g, 12oz soft brown sugar
● 1 teasp baking powder
● 175g, 6oz plain flour
● 4 large organic free range eggs
● 1 teasp vanilla essence
● Grease and flour heart-shaped tin or standard round 20cms x 30cms x 3.5cms, 8 ½ inch tin
● Heat oven to 170°C, gas 3
● Put chocolate and marg in large bowl. Place over a saucepan of hot water. Take care water does not contact chocolate. Leave to melt.
● Sieve flour with baking powder. Add sugar to melted chocolate mixture plus vanilla essence. Add choc chips and maybe chopped ginger, chilli or grated orange.
● Leave to cool slightly. Beat eggs lightly. Add to choc mixture and fold in flour mixture.
● Pour into prepared tin and bake for approx 20 -30 mins - middle should be firm but slightly squidgy underneath.
● Leave to cool and decorate.
● Share with loved one in soppy manner.