Ironically and regrettably, Valentines Day has become a day not so much to celebrate chocolate as to debase it as a commodity, a mostly forgettable but expected token. Transformed cacao pods gift wrapped in the celebration of a saint (or perhaps a massacre depending on how you are feeling about love this 14 February) is an expected part of the background for the holiday much like tinsel on a Yuletide tree. The result is that for most of the media and holiday participants, chocolate receives the same respect whether the offering is the drugstore staple, a $4.99 Whitman sampler, or an artisanal aspirer like the $260 To’Ak chocolate bar. (Not to insist or suggest that price defines the brown stuff, just that there are recognizable differences in both the quality and meaningfulness between these two particular chocolate offerings.)
It’s a sad state of affairs as, whatever one’s taste, chocolate should never be considered just a junk food indulgence. Admittedly, with just over two weeks left to go it is unlikely much can be done. Even if there was the will there is no way the day can be turned into a festival of analysis about chocolate’s health benefits or a consideration of its reputation as a premier aphrodisiac.
Given the world today, it is definitely easier to go along and get along by treating all chocolate giving and receiving on V-Day within the current desultory tradition. But if you can’t, if conscience or knowledge makes each chocolate an expression of emotion resonating with judgment of the specific qualities of the proffered morsels then the love (or lack of) provided with the gift is a much more complex communication to unravel. It’s enough to give one a cheap-chocolate headache.
For the strong of heart and keen of mind: unless you are absolutely sure of your love for the day vow to neither offer nor accept chocolate. Actually, even for them given how often the day ends in disappointment it might be better to hide oneself away.
To be safe, ban chocolate from V-Day and wait instead for 15 February for when the pressure for perfection in communication is less. Build your own, new and better chocolate traditions celebrating singles awareness day, scheduled for Lupercalia — a Roman precursor to V-Day partly celebrated with the pairing of lovers by random selections from a bowl of names. Just a note: nothing says you can’t celebrate it with another individual, preferably someone with whom you are smitten.
This is all not to suggest that chocolate and V-Day get divorced — or that we re-establish the mating rituals of Lupercalia — just that maybe for the day, good of chocolate, and peace of mind they should gain a bit of separation.
However, if you are going along and getting along in keeping with the current commoditification of Valentine’s chocolate, at the very least put in some effort when you give or gain chocolate (and love).