You might have noticed a few ads or point of purchase marketing reminding you Valentine’s Day is near. Skimming over early history of St. Valentine, how Valentine’s Day is celebrated has changed. Let’s face it February 14 is filled with so much anxiety, you need need Tums to get through it, regardless if you’re in a relationship or not.
Valentine’s Day does not need to be like that. One friend asked me to write a post “for the rest of us.” Traditionally February 14 celebrates romantic love; let’s modernize it and take time to celebrate our friendships and self love.
I have two groups of friends and family: Those that live in Los Angeles and Those that don’t. While I have friends that come from such places as Oklahoma or Michigan, most of my Los Angeles friends are from the Northeast. We’re like magnets and simply attract one another.
This past Christmas, one New England transplant friend gave me a gift bag of all foods New England. While I’d like to stare at the New Englandness of it, I know eating and sharing the thoughtfully selected food will bring back great memories, both for me and others.
Since we live in a world of countdown lists, here are some of my top New England food picks for celebrating love on February 14.
Up until the recent opening of Dunkin’ Donuts in Santa Monica, coffee-loving-donut-craving transplants living in Los Angeles had methods to bring back their DnD contraband. We insisted the DnD coffee sold in local L.A stores didn’t taste the same as what was sold in New England shops, so we encouraged loving family members to ship coffee. But now, we can go to DnD on Wilshire Blvd, to get our fix. (It may be necessary to gather loved-ones and make a trip next weekend to get a Boston Kreme Donut.)
It’s available year-round in New England, but during the holidays it’s as common as Salvation Army Santas. I celebrated my first Los Angeles Thanksgiving with other displaced New Englanders. During menu planning we quickly learned Los Angeles doesn’t believe in Bell’s Seasoning. One friend called home, had his mother ship a box and provide the family stuffing recipe. (This happened to be the same family recipe as my family and others’ seated at the table. It seemed everyone’s grandma went to Boston Cooking School and riped-off the stuffing recipe.)
For many, mayonnaise is a natural complement to the sandwich, but for me it’s the pickle. And, when we’re talking pickles, I prefer Mrs. Fanning’s bread ‘n’ butter pickles. They are made from the larger pickling cucumber and have a thickness that holds up to the heartiest of sandwiches. Sandwich and pickles is a great summer weekend lunch, but if we’re going to go a step further in being purely New England, I like enjoying them while taking in a little Red Sox baseball. (Spring training is around the corner, and if I can’t wait I can always rewind my VHS of the 2004 MLB playoffs and World Series.)
To give you some context, Friendly’s is a restaurant. It is really an ice cream parlor meets diner. Ice cream creations are the focus. The meals themselves are good, but you really remember the different ways of presenting and consuming sundaes. The best part about the sundae is the hot fudge. Even though Friendly’s themselves are dying across New England, it seems you can still find hot fudge in many local grocery stores… Thick and gooey. Just the right amount of sweet and bitter to contrast the sweet of ice cream. The hot fudge has a consistency more akin to fudge than to the syrup you can squeeze out of a Hershey’s bottle. (Nothing against Hershey’s, it’s just not the same.)
The rhyme scheme of the company name is just one thing that makes me happy about this company. They have an impressive roster of cakes with various fillings and frostings. Among New Englanders, there is debate about which is the best confection. Since this is MY countdown list, rounding out My top favorites are The Yoddle with a ganache type exterior and creme filling, the traditional chocolate Drake Cake with the whipped center. When I get these, they are a “open in case of emergency” item that I keep on the top shelf in my kitchen. Emergency can qualify as- I need dessert, I’m too tired to make dinner, I need to stay up late and write a blog post…
Let’s get this straight. Liquid marshmallow is not the same as Marshmallow Fluff. When I visit Connecticut I buy a vat to bring back to Los Angeles. I am parsimonious with my Fluff, so the vat usually is enough for my baking and hot cocoa needs until I can go back to CT (or my family ships more).
Like Duct Tape, Fluff is good for everything and can fix almost anything, including a broken heart. It’s also great when you’re happy. I share my Fluff with New England friends (since they’re the only ones that truly understand) and if I deem a new person worthy enough, they may get a spoonful too.
There are a number of recipes that you can make with Fluff: classic Rice Krispy treat, variations of fudge or a new favorite, from Shaken Together Life, a Fluffernutter with peanut butter cookies. Thanks Keri!
2. Prince Pasta
If you grew up in New England, you grew up watching commercials of Anthony scampering through the North End after his mom yelled for him to come home for dinner. (It was Wednesday, and Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti night.)
Apropos of no occasion the same sweet friend that gave me New England food for Christmas dug into her ration and gave me a box of Prince Pasta that her family brought during a visit. (Not only is this purely New England, you and I both know that pasta does not travel well so the generosity felt extra special.)
And the best New England food/brand for Valentine’s Day–
NECCO stands for New England Confectionary Company. It’s the oldest candy company in the U.S and it is responsible for the Sweet Hearts embossed with those cutesy sayings for Valentine’s Day. Some say the candies are filling breakers, but I actually like them, as long as you’re not making me eat the purple.
These sweets are also gluten-free AND Kosher. No IBS for your Celiac or wheat-sensitive loved one. Mazel tov!
*I am not getting a kickback from this, but I want to point out if you’re living away from the brands you grew up cherishing or want to lavish someone with home foods, FAMOUS FOODS is a great resource to purchase regional brands.