February 10, 2009 | Issue 45•07
Is it Valentine's Day already? My word! How the time does fly. I might have missed the day entirely had I not caught a glimpse of all the young couples walking hand in hand this evening, filling the tables of every fancy French restaurant in town. And what better way to celebrate this fine holiday than sharing a scrumptious, fixed price, three-course menu with your beloved? Lord knows that's what I'd be doing tonight if my head hadn't been severed from my body in the third century!
I'm sorry. I hope all this talk about my gruesome martyrdom doesn't put you off your moules du jour.
On this special day for lovers young and old, few things can top a gourmet meal served by candlelight on small, tasteful plates. It's much more intimate than cards or candy, and it certainly beats meeting a grisly end at the hands of the Church's enemies. So by all means, enjoy your duck confit and chocolate mousse while you stare into the eyes of the person you love. What a romantic way to celebrate the 1,739th anniversary of the day I was bludgeoned to within an inch of my life and then publicly executed!
Go on, have another bite. Savor it.
I bet some of you are on your very first date. Lucky you! The moon is full, and the night seems ripe for romance. Also, I notice you all still have your heads attached to your shoulders. Bravo. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of you little devils snuck out before the last course to do some midnight kissing by the lake. Just don't forget to settle your tab before you go—you wouldn't want to get caught by a police officer or a servant of Claudius II during a time when minor offenses were settled by violent beheadings!
Then how would you enjoy your after-dinner digestif?
Yes, if things had gone a bit differently, I'm sure I would have loved to spend the first Valentine's Day sampling a variety of goat cheese and wine pairings, but alas, I was a little preoccupied by the severing of my spinal cord, which caused my brain-spattered skull to go bouncing down the streets of Rome. Ooh, lobster ravioli, how grand! You simply must try the lobster ravioli, seeing as how you're still alive and not just a bloodied stump of a torso on legs.
My, my, just looking at all those delicious appetizers and delicately seasoned entrées is enough to make me wish I had never been convicted of marrying Christian couples in the early days of the Roman empire, beaten with clubs, stoned, and fed a pan seared sea bass with stuffed artichoke hearts. Oh, wait. That last part wasn't me! That's just how you've chosen to commemorate my painful, unnecessary death. Please, everyone, have another round on me.
Why not try the '97 Bordeaux? I love a good Bordeaux. That's what I would order on a day as special as Valentine's Day or, as I like to call it, "St. Valentine Gets His Ass Handed to Him Day."
I knew the people who killed me, you know. They were the corrupt guards of Emperor Claudius, and they snatched me from my home in the middle of the night. I was dragged through the streets, my legs and arms torn to ribbons by the glass and stones my neighbors hurled at me. I was propped up in the center of town and made to look the fool while large men took turns violently beating me with anything they could find as I slipped in and out of consciousness. I can still hear them laughing.
How rude of me! Blabbering on about myself when this is clearly your special day. Where's my head? Oh, here it is. In my hands. Because it was chopped off by savages who wished to punish me for practicing my faith. That's how I celebrated Valentine's Day—also known as the Feast of St. Valentine, who just so happens to be me. A man who had nothing to do with going out and making goo-goo eyes over an overpriced steak.
After all, it's a little hard for the man of the hour to eat a steak when his mouth is no longer attached to his esophagus.
And what's all this I hear about Valentine's Day getting too commercial? Oh, so just now it's becoming a little superficial for you? I wish you could have seen the second Valentine's Day in A.D. 271, the year after I died. There weren't a whole lot of chocolates or overpriced cruise packages to be found back then. Mostly just my mother crying.
Well, anyway, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Go forth and have fun! Gorge yourselves on succulent meats, put on a Nick Drake CD to drown out the bloodthirsty howls of the hateful who clamor for your execution, and—please, I insist—engage in hour upon hour of the kind of passionate, unbridled intercourse that I never experienced because I took a vow of celibacy.