Burnt Snow, my first novel, was released in 2010 by Pan MacMillan Australia. White Rain, the sequel, is due soon. As part of a trilogy about witches, earth magic, curses, love and revenge, this blog archives my research into the world of the witches - as well as my own magical saga as a new author.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines, Palentines, Theatre and Chocolate

I've never actually celebrated a Valentine's Day before. When I was at high school, my arty-weirdo group of girls and gays would celebrate "Palentine's" with presents and cards devoted to friendship. In Year 12, walking home from the train station with a potted African violet, my bobbing purple flowers earned looks of hateful pity from the shiny-haired girls who colonised the rail-bus seating. They rubbed the blackened petals of cellophane-wrapped roses against their mucky lips and I remember thinking that their store-bought roses would be dead in a day, while my African violet would outlast all of them.

From Palentine's to the world of boyfriends, I still didn't manage to indulge the traditions of cards and hearts, declarations and pretty red things from year to year. I think one February 14 I went to the theatre with a beau while wearing a pair of heart-shaped earrings, but my most recent ex decried all Valentine's traditions. As a remnant of a resented singlehood, he and friends called Valentine's "The Battle of Cape St Vincent Day". While it's technically true, the traditions involved seemed little more than recounting the details of the battle to anyone fawning over their lover in his company and I got no chocolate. Sucks to that.

So now to 2010, and the Boy Next Door, bless him, thinks that it is a poor representation of any relationship to not give your partner a Valentine's token of attachment - if only to spare one the humiliation of having to say: "Oh, my boyfriend doesn't believe in Valentine's Day" to the girls at work. This morning he presented me with a breakfast of toasted cinnamon bagels and tea, a sweet card and a large Toblerone. From me he got a fridge magnet and a chocolate-bar shaped like a Swiss Army knife. Then he drove me to the King's Head Theatre in Islington to see my short play Hot Man. We went down to The Bull on Upper Street for a celebratory post-show Valentine's meal: roast chicken - and cheesecake to share.

This is the King's Head:

To commemorate my first real Valentine's Day (with chocolate), I offer you something chocolately and romantic with star anise. In Catherine Yronwode's Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure, the properties of this pretty herb include being useful in a conjure bag to ward off the Evil Eye and as bestowing visions of coming good luck in psychic dreams. For lovers, eating star anise (or burning it as incense) is said to foretell, through dreams, a lifetime of happiness together. For me, star anise in hot chocolate is a natty trick I learned from a Swede in Brussels...
  • Hot Chocolate Magic Milk Marvellous for 2: Prepare two caffee latte glasses by adding one star anise pod to each of them. Drop 2 tbs of full cream milk into the bottom of a small saucepan and gently heat. While it warms, break up the squares of 200g of plain chocolate (milk, dark, white are all fine) and drop them in the milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. As the chocolate starts to melt into the milk, gradually add another 500mls of milk to the pan and keep stirring. When you think all the chocolate has melted, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender and give it a good blend (if you don't have a blender, just keep stirring). Return the blended mixture to the saucepan and reheat to hot, stirring constantly, but DO NOT boil. Pour into the two glasses, over the star anise. This is particularly good with buttery pastries, like croissants.

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