Romance & Little Birds: A Valentine’s Tradition Since 1973

Joan has been eating Cornish hen for Valentine's Day since 1973.

By Joan Green

Joan is one of five winners of WFAEats’ Valentine’s food writing contest. We asked our readers to describe their most memorable Valentine’s dinner. We’ll be posting all five winning entries this week.

In December 1972 I was sure my boyfriend would drop to a knee and ask me to marry him.  He didn’t.  My January birthday came and went and still I did not have an engagement ring on my finger. I planned, shopped for and cooked a special Valentine dinner that was served by a waitress… my college roommate, in our dorm room.   I cooked in the tiny “kitchen” with the dorm sized fridge and the dorm sized range located at the end of the hall.  That was back in pre-microwave days.  Still no engagement ring.  Two days after my culinary extravaganza, my boyfriend proposed and we married seven months later.  He wanted me to be SURPRISED by his proposal.  Later, he said he almost “caved” and proposed on Valentine’s day due to the special meal I put together and the adventure in dining we shared.

Joan and her now-husband in her dorm room in 1973. You can see the "dining desk" in the background.

To plan THE MEAL … on February 14, 1973, I grabbed that iconic red cookbook, you know, that red Betty Crocker cookbook that stands proudly among the cookbooks on many American shelves.  I paged through looking for something special.  I decided on Cornish hen with a raisin/orange sauce and I served it (I mean my ROOMMATE served it) on a bed of wild rice.  The two small desks in the dorm room were pushed together and became our dining table.  The red, white and blue sheet from my bunk bed became the floor length table cloth.  It was the first time either my boyfriend or I had eaten Cornish hen… but not the last.  It became our Valentine tradition.

Our family grew. Our three sons were “grossed out” by the story and did NOT enjoy “eating little birds” every year on Valentine’s day.  Every year on Valentine’s day, they knew what dinner would be. One year we enticed one of them to be our waiter and serve the “little birds” to us in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace.  The tradition continues.

Valentine’s day 2012 finds us married thirty-eight and a half years and still looking forward to Valentine’s day, Cornish hen and reading the Valentine card I made in 1973 and recycle every February 14.  We have three sons, three daughter-in-laws and we’re looking forward to our first grandchild in May.

Our Valentine traditional meal started in Ohio and has been served in New York, Virginia, and Japan.  Last year it didn’t happen because we were in Florida refurbishing my parents’ house and this year we won’t eat Cornish hen because we will be on the road driving from North Carolina back home to Virginia.  Next year the tradition will continue in the new home we are building in western North Carolina.  Maybe we’ll add okra or cornbread to the menu but the main dish will always be those traditional little birds, that’s for sure.

Joan and her husband in 2010 at their middle son's wedding.

Other Valentine’s Contest Winners:


1 Comment

Filed under Food, Holidays

One response to “Romance & Little Birds: A Valentine’s Tradition Since 1973

  1. Pingback: Best Valentine’s Day Ever // WFAEats

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