(all involve food)
Food is synonymous with love. Whether it’s familial love, friendship or romance, no matter where you are in the world, we all seem to express our love in some way or another through food.
Before we hop aboard this whistle stop tour, we’ve been racking our brains around the concept of 'romantic food’. Are some foods innately romantic or are they deemed foods of love due to cultural preferences and clever marketing? Year in year out, we see the same buzz words popping up on our feeds, telling us that the way to win someone’s heart is through a plate of steak and chips. Or, going down the aphrodisiac route, that a shellfish platter is a surefire route to an action packed night — hopefully not the kind of action that involves your head stuck in a toilet due to a round of dodgy oysters.
Are we meant to find certain foods romantic simply because we’re told they are? Surely food’s romantic sway is for each individual or couple to decide. Perhaps the most truly romantic thing about an ingredient is its seasonality. There's something quite magical about waiting for an ingredient to harvest and eating it at its most bountiful.
We've been looking into how love is celebrated around the world and unsurprisingly, food tends to play a central part. We've come to the conclusion that it’s not the type of food we eat that makes us feel wanted or loved. It is the offering of food that makes for the most meaningful display of affection.
South Korea: White Day and Black Day
South Koreans celebrate Valentines day on the 14th of February, following a rather old school format whereby men buy their lovers chocolates and gifts. However, the S. Koreans have taken Valentines day a step further and millenialised it. A follow-up celebration named White Day takes place on March 14th where women can repay the favour and also buy their significant other chocolates and gifts.
Here’s the best part.
April 14th, one month on from White day, is Black day. A day dedicated to South Korean singletons. Rather than celebrating their independence, sorry singles dress head to toe in black. Black nail polish, hair accessories, shoes, clothes, the lot.
To commiserate a lack of intimate relationships, gifts and chocolate, single people also eat black food. Most popular is a dish called Jajangmyeon.
The thick, wheat noodles, similar to pasta, are typically served in a separate bowl from the sauce made with onions meat and/or seafood like shrimp or sea cucumber. The contents are then mixed together before you eat. The sauce often leaves a black tint on the teeth—the perfect accessory to an all-black ensemble.
China: Qixi Festival
This festival is based on a tale of forbidden love: the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid, forced apart due to their differing social status.
As the story goes, the star-crossed lovers were banished to opposite sides of the river to keep them apart. On the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies came together to form a bridge to reunite them.
Today, certain rituals take place to celebrate the symbolic story of Zhinu and Niulang. Girls show off their domestic skills and pray to marry a good and loving husband. It’s said that if it rains on the day of Qixi festival, it was caused by a river sweeping away the magpie bridge.
Others believe that the rain symbolises the tears of the separated couple.
Food is very important in the celebration of qixi festival. Culinary delights include: dumplings, noodles and wontons. Qia guo, a fragrant and sweet fried pastry, laced with sesame seeds is a popular home-made treat. Sometimes the pastries are strung together to symbolise the weaving maid, and hung as decorations.
Dragobete is Romania's own special day for lovers, celebrated on February 24th. Young boys and girls meet outside the local church, dressed in their glad rags.
From there, they wander into the forest together. At 12 oclock, the girls run home. Any boy that likes a girl will chase after her. If the boy catches the girl he likes, and if the girl likes him back, they make their love public and kiss.
In some areas of Romania, it’s tradition for the eldest woman in the household to make the young girls a basket of salty bread. The girls must eat the bread and place a leaf of basil under their pillow. In doing so, when they go to sleep at night they’ll dream of their future husband.
Argentina: Sweetness Week
One day to celebrate love just isn’t enough, The week of ‘sweetness’ is from the 13th to 20th of July, where lovers and friends alike exchange sweets for kisses.
Brazil: Dia dos Namorados aka National Lovers Days
Dia dos Namorados on June 12th is celebrated in a similar way to Valentines Day, the only difference being the date (February 14th is too close to Brazil’s epic carnival shenanigans). June 12th falls on the eve of St Anthony’s Day (St Anthony happens to be the patron of marriage, so it’s fitting).
Lovers are showered in chocolate and other sweet treats. Brigadeiros are particularly popular, as well as beijinhos. meaning little kisses. If you’re yet to try either of these Brazillian treats, you’re seriously missing out. A magical mix of condensed milk, chocolate powder eggs and butter will send you weak at the knees.