Valentine’s Day will fall ten days before the tenth anniversary of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis this year. Yes. February 24th. There are many dates I forget and I’m embarrassed to say that they include various close friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, special events, the specific number of years we’ve had pets or even my own relationships seem to escape me. It’s not that I don’t want to remember — I just honestly can’t. Time seems to mean nothing to me. I’ll admit here that I had to actually concentrate and count back to be sure that this particular anniversary is actually the 10th and for people who know me this won’t come as a shock. Even as I write this there’s a very tiny part of me that isn’t quite 100% sure I’m right because I’m so often so wrong.
Many of my friends find it hysterical when we talk about time. You know those conversations between friends, how long they’ve known each other, or how long its been. Outrageous numbers come out of my mouth and complete confusion slides over my face. They think I’m insane and most of them just don’t get it. And neither do I…. Seriously!
Time seems to sit behind me somewhere all messed up in a pile. I don’t envision it as a line where I can mark events or a movie clip I can fast forward or rewind to remember…. Just a pile of all sorts of events that get all jumbled up, often overlapping in strange and ridiculous ways. For me it doesn’t often matter when an event took place but simply that it did. And this event, in its entirety is imprinted on my life like a fingerprint on a pair of glasses that obscures things, forces you to focus and look harder and try to understand and see through the smudge. You can occasionally wipe the smudge away but so often something happens that will make you look through it again. Valentine’s Day is that day for me in many ways and maybe it’s because that’s how I manage to remember the 24th, the actual numbers seem similar to me in a way though the significance, taste and feel of the day is drastically different.
So many things have changed, memorable and forgettable things. We’ve moved out of the house that seemed to be serendipitously close to the hospital. Both of us growing out of it at different times to different places, leaving parts of ourselves behind us. Still, occasionally my mind drifts back, sometimes when I smudge my glasses and other’s oddly when the house seems to be cracking open.
The house cracks and snaps, often at night as it’s bearing against the wind that so forcefully comes racing off the river. I’ve never actually seen any cracks or splits, the house hasn’t torn apart but I know slight fractures exist, hidden deep in the cedar walls be they nails or splitters of wood. It reminds me that we all have cracks in our lives that don’t often tear us wide open even when we think that the sheer force of the assault should. It’s amazing really, the weathering of the worst kinds of storms. And though I’ve not counted the years as you would steps, away from that time. I wasn’t sure when the numbers were supposed to begin and the people around me told I shouldn’t … so I didn’t.
I felt like I should make something significantly different this Valentine’s Day. Ten is significant. TEN is different. Not better necessarily as the number itself doesn’t really mark any kind of line in the sand… I know better…. But it still stands out for me somehow. No cake, tart or cookie as in year’s past. I’ve decided to make Asian Pears Poached in Chocolate Red Wine. Regardless of levels of stress or misery the combination of chocolate and wine are timeless and somehow magical and aside from having a bottle of chocolate wine on hand, it just makes sense. A special treat for a special anniversary.
Yes, I realize that it isn’t actually Valentine’s Day yet. But need I remind you that actual dates don’t mean that much to me? I’m just marking this year differently, I will enjoy Valentine’s Day with my co-conspirator but enjoyed something special with my kids just the same. And this actually works out well for all of you out there because this dish is so easy you still have plenty of time to make it for your loved ones… for Valentine’s Day.
You don’t need much for this recipe… It is sinfully simple!
Chocolate Wine Poached Asian Pears with a Wine Reduction
- 1/2 – 3/4 bottle of good chocolate wine (I would choose a less creamy kind, and use enough to cover the fruit)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cups sugar
- 2-3 Asian Pears (peeled, halved and cored)
- ice cream
- mint leaves (optional)
- shaved chocolate (optional)
Pour about a half a bottle of wine in a saucepan big enough to place your fruit in one layer, add the sugar and heat to about medium temp. While the wine is heating up and the sugar is dissolving peel and core the Asian Pears. Set the fruit in the pan and make sure there is enough wine to cover, they’ll rise up a bit so don’t put in too much. Place the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes then gently turn the fruit over to ensure that the other side also cooks, about another 20 minutes. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule here just that you need to try to simmer the fruit on both sides so that it cooks as evenly as possible and is soft but still firm enough to hold its shape. The exact length of cooking time will depend on how firm your fruit is.
Once the fruit is cooked take it out gently and let it cool. This can be done the day ahead to make things really easy. Now for the really good part, let the wine simmer for about another half hour. You want to reduce it so that it starts to feel thick. You’ll notice it starts to coat the side of the pan and that’s what you want. Once you take it off the heat it will thicken further as it cools. Allow the sauce to cool and then serve the pear with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle with the sauce and some chocolate pieces or mint leaves.
This is uncomplicated and beautiful — the way life should be!