If you can’t spend Valentine’s Day being in love, spend it sharing what you love–a perspective I’ve gained from leaning more and more into my love of life-affirming food and the sheer joy I experience when I share it with others. So on Sunday, February 14, 2010, I led three couples, who seemed head over heels for one another, in preparing nearly a dozen items inspired by my time in Ghana, West Africa.
After each person introduced themselves by way of giving his or her name and interpreting a Ghanaian proverb like, “Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle” or “By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed,” I introduced the cuisine and assigned each couple a different entree to tackle. Almost immediately, the lesson became a contest to see which pair could prepare the best main dish. While each couple’s entree began with the same base—a blend of tomatoes, fresh garlic, ginger root, habanero pepper, onion and palm oil—each dish was, ultimately, distinctive. One couple added black-eyed peas to their base to create a traditional Ghanaian stew called Red Red. Another couple took the same tomato base and stirred in peanut butter, for a rich, smooth sauce perfect for the sweet potato, corn and okra that was eventually added for a delectable spicy, vegetable peanut stew. And the third couple baked marinated chunks of tofu and added delicate, baby spinach leaves to their tomato base for a much different and lighter twist. The peanut stew was served over couscous, the red red over rice, and the spinach over boiled boniato, a white, super sweet potato. But we didn’t stop there. We fried some boniato and sweet, ripe plantain for sides and made a ginger dressing to coat shredded carrots and broccoli, for a delightful salad. And to top it all off, one couple prepared vegan chocolate cake while another prepared strawberry syrup with whole, fresh strawberries, lemon zest and cane sugar. The mini-loaves of chocolate cake were served on plates dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with the syrup.
Before we enjoyed the fruits of our labor, we joined hands in a circle and took turns defining love: one gentleman offered, “Love is unconditional”. . .another chimed in, ”Love is being here with you”. . .and I closed the circle with ”Love is sharing my passion with you.” For almost another hour and a half, we dined, laughed, and, of course, romanced at my, humble dinner table.