Why You Should Make Valentine’s Day Dinner Together (Even if Neither of You Cook)

Oh, hello Internet. It has been a while.

I was looking back through my blog posts and realized that, as much as I have been wont to neglect this blog at other points in the year, I have written a Valentine’s Day-themed post every year for the past three years. And I do not mean to break that trend this year.

One of my favorite hobbies is cooking. I was the girl in high school who would bring a cake to lunch, frosted and all, on a random school day just because I’d had an impulse to bake the night before (Shout out to all my high school friends who I made my guinea pigs.) For me, cooking is a constructive way to relax at the end of a stressful week, and I’m always looking for new recipes to try.

This is my first Valentine’s Day in several years that I’m in a relationship (tee hee.) While going all out for your special someone and buying them an expensive dinner is awesome, the thought of spending a ton of money on a meal you may not even like didn’t appeal to me. So my boyfriend and I made our own V-Day dinner, and it was more special and romantic than anything I could have ordered at a restaurant.

If you’re reading this thinking, “That’s great, Vicky, but neither me nor my partner is exactly Wolfgang Puck/Julia Child/insert celebrity chef’s name here,” I hear you. However, here is my list of reasons to take a step outside of your comfort zone and make your Valentine’s Day dinner extra special for someone you love (Note: It totally doesn’t have to be a romantic partner; cook for your best friend, your roommates, anyone. Or even treat yo’self. Who doesn’t like food?!)

1. It’s a chance to put your Pinterest board to use.

Am I the only one who finds that a good 40% of my Facebook news feed is comprised of cooking videos? I’m not complaining, but I find so many amazing recipes browsing through my various social media feeds that I almost never try. Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to scroll through your Pinterest board to find that one recipe you’ve been dying to try.

If the thought of decoding a big fancy recipe makes you too nervous to eat, don’t worry. There are so many easy and delicious recipes for one-pot or one-pan dinners that don’t require slaving in the kitchen all day. (In case you’re wondering, we made beef wellington using this super straightforward recipe from Tasty, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes.)

There is a recipe out there for every taste, budget, and skill level, so get creative!

2. You can avoid all the crowded restaurants and annoying couples (which are totally not you two.)

If you are somehow gifted in the art of scoring restaurant reservations on a busy night without waiting until 9pm, please teach me your ways. But even if I go out to eat on another night besides Valentine’s Day, I’m not a fan of screaming across the table at my date just to hear them over the ruckus. While I have so much respect for restaurant employees that work as hard as they can during busy hours, I would prefer to have a dinner where we can have a normal conversation and eat on our own schedule. And not have to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a couple in the middle of an argument. Awkward.

3. Your wallets will thank you.

Speaking of restaurants on Valentine’s Day, most of them ain’t cheap. Even if a restaurant is reasonably priced, dinner plus drinks plus maybe dessert adds up. Side note: don’t be that guy who doesn’t tip your server, on Valentine’s Day or otherwise. When my boyfriend and I went grocery shopping for our V-Day dinner, we ended up spending way less than we would have at a restaurant and had a really fun date in the process. Plus, we had plenty of leftovers for our lunches the next week. 

4. It’s an exercise in teamwork.

You know the cliche relationship advice, “You never truly know someone until you travel with them”? Cooking with your partner is a much cheaper microcosm of that theory. When you have a common goal (i.e. a semi-edible meal), it fosters communication, trust, and compromise. You get a glimpse into how your partner solves problems, handles stress, and acts as a leader. And on a much more basic level, you learn what their food preferences and cooking styles are. For example, I learned that while I add salt and pepper to the whole pot of mashed potatoes, my boyfriend prefers to let people add their own seasonings to taste. Maybe I’m just new to the whole personalized mashed potatoes thing, but it was something I never would have known about him had we not cooked together.

5. Even if your dinner burns to a crisp, it’s a memory shared.

No matter how inedible the fruits (and veggies) of your labor are, cooking together to celebrate is sure to be a wonderful memory for you and your partner. And there’s nothing better than laughing about your charred lasagna over pizza and beers. 

No matter what your plans are, whether you’re celebrating romantic love or any other type of love, I’m wishing you une bonne Saint Valentin! 

– À bientôt!

Vicky

Question of the Week: What is your favorite recipe to make and share with others? Tell me in the comments; I just might have to try it!

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‘Old Fashioned’ Hopes and Fears

Who doesn’t love romance? As a culture, we’re obsessed with it. We try to groan every time a new romantic comedy comes out, but we secretly get the warm and fuzzies after we watch it on Netflix … or in a movie theater by ourselves. But Christians looking to pursue God-centered relationships that eventually lead to God-centered marriages don’t have too many role models in modern rom-coms.

Enter “Old Fashioned,” a new romantic comedy from Skoche Films hitting U.S. theaters Feb. 13, the same day as that other big-budget “romance” about glorified domestic violence.

OK, short synopsis: Antique store owner Clay was a chauvinist frat boy until he found Jesus and developed his own Joshua Harris-style ideas about love and courtship. Will o’ the whisp Amber moves into the apartment above his store, and … you can guess where this is going.

I’m a Catholic Christian, but I’m not obliged to like or support all forms of media marketed as “Christian” (for a further explanation, check out this awesome video from Blimey Cow.) I’ve recently started to watch more Christian films, and in general, they range from the harmlessly mediocre to the downright offensive — don’t get me started on “God’s Not Dead.”

However, after watching the trailer for “Old Fashioned,” my cold, cynical, secular heart began to feel the same warm and fuzzies I used to get from romantic comedies. I’m a sucker for love stories, but when two characters in a romantic comedy share a few shallow lines of dialogue, hook up and then suddenly have a long-lasting, healthy relationship, I scratch my head. There is definitely a need for romantic comedies that show women and men taking dating slowly and treating each other with respect and dignity. However, Christian films also need to rise above the level of “good … for a Christian movie.”

With this in mind, “Old Fashioned” could restore my faith in Christian films if …

1. … the script doesn’t feel like it was cut-and-pasted from the pastor’s Sunday sermon notes.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the work that pastors and priests put into their sermons. However, many Christian movies I’ve seen have deserved the label “preachy.” An audience doesn’t like to be talked at. After watching these films, I feel reprimanded rather than entertained. I’m not saying that a film’s sole purpose is entertainment or that churches shouldn’t use popular media to connect with their members. However, Christian artists should focus on producing quality content just as much as spreading their message. Christian films don’t get a pass on screenwriting guidelines; they still need to develop plot and characters to their full potential, which brings me to …

2. … the characters are relatable and well-rounded; not all Christian characters are saints, and not all non-Christian characters are demons, or worse, “projects.”

Any practicing Christian will tell you that they are not perfect; anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Following Jesus Christ is not easy, and faith is a life-long journey that can’t be completed in the span of a two-hour movie. So why, in so many Christian films, are all Christian characters automatically “good guys” and all non-Christian characters automatically “bad guys”? Real people aren’t as black-and-white as that. Judging from the trailer, “Old Fashioned” could be taking a step in the right direction, as Amber, by all indications, is not a Christian. My only hope is that the movie doesn’t make her a pet project for Clay to convert. If the filmmakers want the audience to believe in these characters, they need to write them as real people who struggle and sin but also dust themselves off and try again.

3. … it has other selling points besides being countercultural or “non-secular.”

Once “Old Fashioned” was acquired by Freestyle Releasing, the same distributor of “God’s Not Dead,” it was pitched as a squeaky-clean alternative to the BDSM-filled juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Freestyle even planned to release their film on the same day. Its tagline: “Chivalry makes a comeback.” While this is a smart marketing move, the film needs to stand on its own as a well-made movie. If you want people to have faith in your product’s message, you need to put effort into the product itself. Again, see the Blimey Cow video I mentioned earlier.

4. … it doesn’t preach to the choir.

Last year, I had the great privilege to lead a Christian women’s retreat at my college. That same weekend, one of my best friends from high school was planning a visit. Though she doesn’t really practice any religion, she came on the retreat like the wonderful and supportive friend she is. When I asked her how she liked it, she said some parts, like our praise and worship hour, made her feel out of place, but that she really enjoyed listening to the testimonies of the retreat leaders and meeting some of my friends. Christian films can’t get their message out if their filmmakers are only concerned with adhering to religious dogma. There need to be elements of the story and characters that anyone of any religion can identify with.

5. … you wouldn’t know the difference if the film was made by a secular production company.

HOLD IT BEFORE YOU UNFOLLOW THIS BLOG. Just hear me out. When I say that there should be no difference between a Christian film and a secular film, I don’t mean that Christian filmmakers should jeopardize their values to appeal to the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, they should use their God-given talents to produce quality entertainment that has a Christ-centered message. The trick is finding God in secular media. Themes such as love, sacrifice, friendship, courage and community do exist in Hollywood. It may take a bit of digging, but there are good values in many secular films. Well-made Christian films have the potential to show the film industry that we don’t need to watch sex and violence all the time … and that a popular book series doesn’t necessarily deserve a cinematic adaptation. *cough*

“Old Fashioned” isn’t being released internationally at the moment, but if you’re in the U.S., find a screening near you and check it out this Valentine’s Day weekend!

This time, you get TWO questions! 1) What are your thoughts on “Old Fashioned” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”? 2) Do you know any Christian films that fit the above criteria? Seriously, guys. I need my faith restored in Christian cinema.

Bon Saint Valentin!

– Vicky