For so many years of my life, Valentine's Day served as this horrible life marker, wherein I would be merrily rolling along through my nice, fun life and then, all of a sudden, it was February 14th and, in the absence of a romantic relationship, suddenly my life felt like it lacked meaning. It was as if everyone I saw was blissfully in love, and proving it to the world with candy hearts, boxes of chocolate, bouquets delivered to the office, and reservations at romantic restaurants while I was completely alone in the world.
And it wasn't just limited to Valentine"s Days when I was single. If I happened to have a boyfriend (or a sort-of boyfriend/guy-who-didn't-realize-I-thought-of-him-as-my-sort-of-boyfriend as the case usually was) on V-day, the anxiety over whether he would demonstrate his affection for me in a quantifiable way, per every Valentine's Day trope I had seen or heard of, was even worse than how I felt when I didn't have a partner. Because of course he wouldn't, and of course I wouldn't be able to overcome the disappointment, live in the moment, and enjoy whatever the day brought my way. In the end, the feeling was always the same: I wanted more love than I felt was available to me and it sucked hard.
When I met Evan, romance was the last thing I was looking for in life. I had just started earning a living as a full-time writer and I was so career-happy I didn't even know what to do with myself. My life-long dream of publishing a book was about to come true, and I genuinely looked forward to every day. My social life was just peachy, and for the first time in a long while (perhaps thanks to a string of romantic failures the year before and subsequent therapy and self-reflection), I had zero interest in seeking out any form of serious romance.
Then, of course, things changed. Once Evan came into my life, I quickly realized I never wanted him to go, and he found he didn't want to either. Things were a little clunky in the beginning, as they tend to be when two people who are not used to having to answer to anyone decide to meld pieces of their lives. It took us a little while to figure out exactly what love would look like for us, but we did it, and now, five years later, we're here.
And while he is the king of my heart, and will be celebrated tonight with a romantic home-cooked dinner (more on that in a minute), I'd like to time travel for a moment and send a message to my younger self, the smart, cute, funny girl who is stuck in an alternate dimension in the 90's or mid-00's, feeling sad because some dumb boy didn't give her flowers or take her out to dinner on an arbitrary corporate greeting card holiday: You are fine. Love is weird and creeps into life unexpectedly. Candy hearts are not a measure of how much you are loved. Go out and have fun.
Meanwhile, here in 2017, let's make some short rib ragu, perfect for your Valentine, Galentine, BFF, or #1, AKA yourself.
I'm starting by searing about a pound of boneless short ribs (the kind with bones in are fine too, just double it to 2 pounds) in a little olive oil in a Dutch oven.
Let's take them out. Look how beautiful they are.
Next, like any ragu, we're going to cook some vegetables. Here, we're going with aromatics: onion, lots of parsley, and garlic.
Next up is broth, to deglaze the pan, and some chopped tomatoes. This is going to be our braising liquid and eventual sauce.
In go the short ribs, settling in for a 3 hour bath.
3 hours later, the sauce is cooked down and the short ribs are falling apart, and out they come. These are so tender, you barely have to pull the forks into the meat.
Back into the pot, where you can see everything has completely cooked down.
Spaghetti, meet short rib ragu. I'm sensing a real love connection.