Few days more ambiguous than Valentine’s day. Created for consumerism, its intents thinly veiled as to make it a special day for your ‘cherie amour’. A cunning trap, Valentine’s day. Do nothing and you don’t care, go along and you are a materialist.

We dreaded booking a restaurant  for the event. The Valentine’s special was going to be overpriced and underinspired, with every dish smothered in symbolism and aphrodisiacs hiding in all corners. Surely shellfish, and  asparagus daringly positioned, something with ginger and champagne sauce and  specks of truffel oil. Who knows what else.

Instead, we drove to Ostend, had a refreshing walk on the beach, cooled off in the silty breeze and then warmed up again over strong Irish coffee. Here I was, with my Valentine sitting right in front of me, her cheeks glowing from the cold morning air and flush from the Jameson whisky. I know I am a lucky man.

The Saturday fresh market was in full swing and it was brisk business as usual at “Luk’s”, arguably one of the best fishmongers in Flanders.  We got some fresh Zealand Oysters and lovely seabass. We asked for the heads and bones, to make a stock, but Luk shook his head; “too fat”, he said. “I have something better for you”, he then smiled and pushed two kilo’s of filleted turbot and plaice in a bag for us. Nothing can beat plaice for making a great fish stock!

We bought ognions, leek, carrots and some sweet pepperoni’s from the fresh market and finished our shopping spree with a fantastic looking heartshaped valentine’s cake (with meringue cream and topped with raspberries.)

We drove home to cook our own Valentine’s dinner that evening. Far away from the city lights, with Jolan and Kathlyn’s jolly chatter for background music and with a bottle of Moutardier champagne to toast on each other’s company.  A quick calculation told us the meal had cost us approximately fifteen euro’s per person. Cheap when compared to the fifty something we would surely have spent in town. Cheap yet priceless. Every day again, and every day more than the last, I cherish the moments when I see the three people I love most on this earth so close to me.  And isn’t that what Valentine’s should be really about?

We finished the evening at the Bruges’ concert hall, where Jordi Saval slowly rocked us into a hypnotizing slumber with his old Celtic music, played on four-hundred year old instruments, a Gamba and a Celloviola. The wild party out, the table dancing, the glitter of limelight and the all night cocktails rave will be for another time.



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