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The Schmuck's Valentine's Day Primer

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Say, fellows, it's nearing Valentine's Day time again. You've been pretty lame about dealing with V.D. the past several years, haven't you? Just admit it.

You've given her gifts like a $10 shopping spree at CVS. You've bought her a fill-up at Sunoco, or a big jug of windshield wiper fluid. A 12-pack of Keystone Light. A subscription to ESPN the Magazine. A tube of Colgate, but with a free toothbrush, which, to your mind, made it pretty special.

Or, you've really been bad. You've gotten her a card purchased on the day of the holiday, a card that scraped the bottom of the barrel. There are no remotely decent Valentine's Day cards left on February 14, just ones with religious themes or with illustrations of rabbits with long eyelashes. Cards that would embarrass a child.

Some years you thought you might get it done with a verbal compliment ("I see you're finally having a good hair day, dear"). Maybe you spent A Whole Day Without Sports Talk Radio, which may have indeed been a sacrifice for you, but let's face it, it didn't cost you a dime.

This year, I'd like to suggest another strategy. Whip up a delicious meal for your valentine! I'll even set it up for you, with different entrée options you can choose from.

Appetizer: Start your valentine's meal off right with the unparalleled treat of peanut butter on crackers. Don't get store-brand; go to the trouble of spreading the Jif, Skippy or other premium brands yourself. Ask her how she likes it: "A hearty dollop for you, my pet, or a fine film spread lightly over the top? It's lady's choice today."

Salad: Tear up some iceberg lettuce, toss with Wishbone Italian, and present it to her with these words: "This is our special Valentine's Day salad: Lettuce Alone." Get it? It's a funny joke.

Entrée choice 1: A steaming bowl of Franco-American spaghetti with potato chips on the side. A nice idea is to let her taste the tomato sauce while you're heating up the spaghetti in the pan. "Does it please Madame? Does it need a hair more Parmesan?" Quelle romantique! Just like on TV.

P.S. Don't scrimp on the chips. Get Wise or Mike-sells, sturdy gents that won't bust when you're dipping into the spaghetti or scraping the sauce from the bowl.

Entrée choice 2: Weiner on bun with fries on the side. Splurge a little and buy Hebrew National Dinner Franks rather than the usual Ball Park stuff. You wrap the dogs in paper towels and set the microwave timer, but give her the honor of pressing the Start button.

You should have already zapped the microwave fries beforehand. Don't serve them in their heat sleeves; pour them onto a plate for a nice presentation. Also, like a waiter at a fancy restaurant, ask your Lady Fair if she wants her ketchup squeezed over her fries, or in a big wad by the side. Very nice!

Entrée choice 3: Jeno's Pepperoni Pizza Rolls with applesauce. If you're a true gourmet, you know that pepperoni pizza rolls and applesauce are a killer combination. For this meal, take the time to bake the rolls in the toaster oven (they get kind of wet in the microwave, plus they leak more).

After baking, divide up the 14-15 pizza rolls--evenly this time, not the usual 12 for you, 2 for her--and pour some applesauce onto the plate. Now the fun begins. Take turns dipping the rolls into each other's applesauce--maybe even feed one another. Nothing like it when the pepperoni hits the apple--there's a taste sensation you'll never tire of.

So bon appetit to you and that lucky valentine of yours. And no need to tell us "lettuce alone" --we know!

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