Ronnie Paul: The fragrance of love
On Valentine’s Day, as I munched the Grand Marnier truffle that my husband Jeff gave me, I remembered the Valentine’s Day when I was in first grade.
Richard, the eight-year old sophisticate in my life, lived across the street. As an accomplished violinist and pianist and also fluent in Portuguese, he oozed over-achieverism.
During that Christmas vacation, Richard and his family went to Paris, so he could study French and learn about the impressionist painters. On his return, he yammered with excitement about the special Parisian gifts he’d brought me, but which he tauntingly said he’d save until Valentine’s Day.
The day arrived, and my heart pounded when I saw two gifts wrapped in red paper and tied with pink ribbons. My unwrapping revealed a “Curious George” book written in French and a small square glass bottle filled with golden liquid.
I hated Curious George and had no use for a bottle labeled Chanel No 5. My mother, however, gasped and quickly offered to keep the bottle safe for me. As though it were a saintly relic, she reverently placed it in front of the triptych mirror on her dressing table, where the golden image reflected exponentially.
I don’t know what happened to the bottle, but I do remember that my mom always seemed enveloped by a special fragrance.
Perfume still doesn’t grab me, but beautiful home-cooked dinners do. Try these new recipes on your heart throbs.
Luscious Lentil Stew
Treat your beloveds to the ultimate comfort dinner.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup potatoes, cut in bite-size chunks
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup sliced carrots
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups vegetable stock
1 15-ounce can lentils, rinsed
1 cup diced tomatoes with their juice (I used canned)
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and spices, and sauté for 10 minutes.
Add the stock, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the veggies are tender.
Add the lentils, tomatoes, and salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until the stew thickens. If you overdo it, don’t fret, just add a bit of water.
Feel free to sit back and purr as you eat this.
This is my modern interpretation of an old world European dessert traditional served at Easter. Turns out it was also special enough to serve my valentine.
1½ cups cottage cheese
¾ cup thick yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup raspberries
Drain the cottage cheese, then put it in a strainer and press out all the remaining liquid.
Combine the yogurt, honey, vanilla and raspberries. Stir in the cottage cheese and mix until everything’s well incorporated.
Put the mixture in a piece of cheesecloth or a thin dish towel, twist the top closed, and set it in a strainer. Set the strainer over a bowl in the refrigerator and let the mixture drip overnight.
To serve, put the mixture in a glamorous bowl, and serve with a smattering of extra berries.
Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.
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