By Maggie Callaghan Edited by Blake Campbell
It’s the Sunday night before Valentine’s Day. Now if you are painfully single like me, you might now have realized Valentine’s Day was coming up. But for my housemate, Kaira, who is in a healthy two-year relationship, Valentine’s is a big deal. She came racing down our carpet stairs, with such anxiety that I could actually hear her footsteps.
What I gathered from her jumbled and frantic tone was that her boyfriend had forgotten to make reservations at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day. For those who don’t know Oxford, this town of about 21,000 people, plus 16,000 college students during the school year, has maybe five restaurants acceptable for a romantic dinner. And on a day when a lot of people are looking for a romantic dinner, it becomes like the Hunger Games to get a reservation.
Now, I personally hate Valentine’s Day because I think it’s cheesy and made-up, among other reasons. But, being the good friend that I am, I offered to help. That day, while I was procrastinating on doing homework, I was watching Buzzfeed Tasty videos from the weekend. Buzzfeed, an online media company, has a spinoff called “Tasty” where they publish food articles and videos showing how the food is prepared.
If you have ever been sitting in class and noticed someone watching a food video, it’s probably Tasty. The meals are easy, creative, and yummy. They had just published Valentine’s Day themed videos “for two.” I showed her one that was Italian-inspired, with garlic bread bruschetta and a penne alla vodka.
We decided to try it out this Sunday as a test run for Valentine’s, which was Tuesday.
What was great about the recipe was that we had most of the ingredients. The only item that we had to go out and buy was the Italian bread needed for the bruschetta. Once we got home from Kroger, I headed over to the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees while Kaira started slicing the bread.
The bruschetta was fairly simple. All we had to do was melt butter and garlic in a bowl in the microwave to pour over the bread, before putting it in the oven for 15 minutes. The bruschetta component comes in with the tomato relish set on top. We made a couple substitutions with this component based off of ingredients that we already had and the fact that we are two broke college girls.
The recipe called for roma tomatoes, but instead we used leftover cherry tomatoes from a salad. I would argue that cherry tomatoes are better than roma tomatoes (no offense to the roma) because it was much easier to cut into bite-size pieces. We also substituted dried basil from our seasoning rack for the fresh basil the recipe called for. The fresh tomato paired with the succulent butter mix seeped into the cracks of the bread creates a taste that feels gourmet and delectable, yet it was so easy.
Next, we moved on to tackle the penne alla vodka. This rich mixture of red tomato sauce, cream and vodka make for the perfect adult version of pasta with red sauce for a romantic dinner. Essentially all we had to do was melt butter and garlic in a saucepan before pouring in a pre-made red tomato sauce. After it has simmered for a couple minutes, we mixed in the cream and vodka.
Both of us were a little nervous about adding the vodka because we didn’t want to get her boyfriend drunk and neither of us had ever worked vodka into our food before. So we took baby steps adding the measurement in and constantly tasting it. But it was surprisingly a really good addition.
“I was worried that the sauce was going to be too strong,” says Kaira. “But you actually can’t even taste the vodka and I like that this sauce feels more special than just a regular marinara.”
We spent the rest of our night devouring the food that we had made. It’s funny how cooking the food that you eat usually makes it taste better. On Tuesday, Kaira made the dish for her boyfriend and it was a total success.
Sometimes, we forget that the best way to show our love and appreciation for someone isn’t always how much we spend on them. But it is actually doing something, a physical action that shows our love the most. Nothing says “I love you” like a home-cooked meal. Whether it is Valentine’s Day or just any other day, never underestimate the power of a home cooked meal.
Edited by Annie-Laurie Blair