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A Sensuous, Voluptuous Valentine’s Feast
This article by Phyllis Maguire was published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 11, 1998. All rights reserved.
Ah, love! Romance and mid-February go way back, to
lovebirds who start mating right about now and the ancient Roman
of Lupercalia, fertility rites held to honor the gods Juno and Pan.
There were apparently two Christian martyrs known as Saint Valentine,
at least one of whom was executed by the Romans in the third century
after sending, so legend goes, a fond farewell to the blind daughter
of his jailer signed "From Your Valentine." Fertility, it
seems, has had more staying power than martyrdom, and while we’ve
forgotten the saints who were stoned, we continue to celebrate Cupid’s
The fact that Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year makes
any brief exchange of bouquets or greeting cards seem a bit meager.
With Valentine’s Day now Valentine’s Weekend, the calendar is crammed
with a voluptuous assortment of events that indulge even the most
ardent among the smitten.
and Thou . . .
If your tastes run to king-sized beds, mirrored
and video cameras, you’ll have to head for the Poconos. And if
coziness is more your cup of sensual tea — one of the nine rooms,
say, at New Hope’s Centre Bridge Inn (215-862-9139) with a canopy
bed and a river view, or a sleepover among antiques at the Stockton
Inn (609-397-1250) — then call to make reservations for NEXT year,
because area bed and breakfasts this weekend are booked. But Princeton
still offers some close-by getaways for those blessed with
The Forrestal at 100 College Road East (609-452-7800) is offering
three different couples’ packages that range from $125 per night
dinner, to $225 per night that includes the seafood buffet at the
The Hyatt Regency Princeton’s Sweetheart Package runs $136 per couple
per night with champagne and chocolates, while Laughter & Romance
includes an overnight with admission for two to Catch A Rising Star,
lending a little levity to the mood. If, like the First Husband, you
have some hefty amends to make this weekend, you might consider the
Hyatt’s two-tiered suite, with fireplace, grand piano, and private
whirlpool and sauna, priced at $575 per evening and named,
the Presidential Suite.
When you do come up for air, consider these: of the many area
offerings, a few will set love’s romps squarely on stage. "The
Country Wife" at the Studio Theater of the College of New Jersey
(609-882-5979) is William Wycherly’s 17th century comedy about
and scandal — set not in Washington, but in London. The Bucks
County Dinner Theater (215-949-8844) features "I Do! I Do!"
with a dinner buffet. "The Rivals," presented by the Rutgers
Theater Company at the New Theater (732-932-7511) in New Brunswick,
is Richard Sheridan’s hilarious farce of love, seduction, and money.
"It’s like an 18th-century Seinfeld episode," says Antonio
Ortiz of Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts. "Extensive
notes explain the environment, so the fact that the play’s 250 years
old shouldn’t be intimidating."
Or music might provide more of love’s communion. The
New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra (732-249-6999) is holding an afternoon
Winter Romance concert, showcasing Schubert’s "Trout Quintet"
and presenting Schubert’s "Fantasy," a four hand piece
by two pianists. "Four-hand pieces were the singles’ scene of
the 1800s," says John Semmlow, president of the Chamber Orchestra
board. "It was marvelously titillating for couples to share a
piano bench and cross hands while they played."
"Love Songs and Duets" will be the Concert By Candlelight
series presentation at Princeton’s Trinity Church (609-924-2277)
evening, featuring (of course) a soprano and tenor supplied by Susanne
Fruehaber and Mark Bleeke. "Amor de la Danza" at the Unitarian
Church of Princeton (609-924-1604) will present a solo concert by
pianist Anita Cervantes, playing selections from Bach and William
Byrd, among others, chosen to highlight how musical compositions
by dance movements can express romantic love.
And the Friends of the Boheme Opera (609-581-9551) presents its annual
fundraiser on Sunday, February 15, at 4 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency
Princeton. With a "Love Songs from Broadway" theme, soprano
Kristen Plumley and tenor Eric Van Hoven will sing a selection of
Broadway tunes. A silent auction will include a fur coat, fine wine,
and Lenox china, among many other items, and a live auction after
dinner will feature community personalities selling romantic Valentine
serenades to the highest bidders.
For smokier tastes, the New Orleans group The Dirty Dozen is serving
up some musical gumbo at Raritan Valley College (908-725-3420) —
see story, page 44. And the long-hitched among you might rekindle
that "Love Will Keep Us Together" flame at the Captain and
Tennille concert at the State Theater (732-246-7469) in New Brunswick.
Also making sweet music together — and inviting you to join in
— is the group "Two of a Kind," the husband-wife duo of
David and Jenny Heitler-Klevans whose "Share Your Love
will be held at Borders Books (609-514-0040) in Nassau Park at 2 p.m.
for families and lovestruck singers of all ages.
If music be the food of love, play on," wrote
But if food is your idea of amore, Valentine’s Day is
no time to skimp. Centre Fruit Gourmet (609-620-0800) in Lawrenceville
offers a movable feast, to be ordered in advance. For $26.95 to $31.95
per person, you can choose from lobster with gingered shitake
seared filet mignon with caramelized shallots and chive butter, salmon
en croute with lump crabmeat and julienned vegetables, and oriental
duck with peach chutney. All dinners come with bread with lingonberry
butter, mixed greens, a glorious assortment of appetizers and side
dishes — and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Or perhaps you’d rather dispense with the croute and proceed straight
to the chocolate. The Chocolate Fest at the Triumph Brewing Company
(609-924-7855) on Nassau Street presents a hedonistically heady fare
of three different Lindt truffles, three premium beers, and a
souffle served with champagne. Think the beer and chocolate combo
is just a compromise between ladies who crave sweets and their beaux
who love brews? Not so, says Triumph’s co-founder Erica Disch, who
claims the pairing of beer with chocolate "is a natural and
association." The three beers served will be sweet, including
a barley wine, an Imperial Stout, and a brewer’s choice to be
Another excellent Valentine’s combination is dinner and dancing. At
Trenton’s KatManDu (609-393-7300), swing hits and big band favorites
from a live orchestra will add even more spice to a waterfront menu
that ranges from lobster to jambalaya. And this year’s Evening In
Red benefit for the YWCA Princeton (609 497-2100) will be held
evening at the Hyatt Regency. Black tie is admired though not required
— but everyone must wear something red, even if it’s just
or nail polish. Over 100 items — including vacations and custom
jewelry — will be part of the silent auction to benefit YWCA
Save some money for another good cause: the Mercer County Antiques
Show, held in Lawrenceville on Saturday and Sunday to benefit
Womanspace (609-394-0136), a non-profit organization serving women
and children throughout Mercer County. Dealers from six states will
feature American and European period and country furniture, folk art,
porcelains, fine art, and jewelry — any one of which, as a fine
gift, would say you care.
And then there is the concoction of love with a frisson of fear. For
John Platt of the Garden State Horror Writers, "the connection
of Valentine’s Day and horror goes all the way back to first dates
when you take a girl to a scary movie and she grabs your hand. It’s
an icebreaker that brings people close really quickly." If fright
is the fastest way to your lover’s heart, the Garden State Horror
Writers (908-754-9454) present novelist Jack Ketchum, best known for
"The Girl Next Door," as guest speaker at the Manalapan
on Saturday morning — when it’s still daylight.
Scheherazade is just one of the more famous tale-tellers
who found a deft story the key to affection. Storytelling is the
of the singles event being held Valentine’s Eve by the Marriage
(908-232-8827) at the Parkside Restaurant in Morristown.
Day is a difficult holiday for singles, particularly since it lands
on a Saturday," says Marriage Connection founder Terry DiMatteo.
"Single people often wonder what’s wrong with them, when the
is the culture in which traditional ways of meeting people through
community have broken down." At the event, storyteller Fred Quinn
will present a program of "Lovestruck Memories," tender
in an atmosphere of candlelight and fresh flowers that, DiMatteo says,
will definitely "be conducive to starting something."
And if you’ve found your mate, and your fertility rites have been
a success, your Valentine’s Day weekend will probably include
the kids. The Arts Council of Princeton (609-924-8777) presents two
programs by storyteller Mary Rachel Platt, one for preschoolers at
10 a.m. and one at 11 a.m. for ages 6 and over. "For the older
children, at least one or two of the stories will have the theme of
love," says Platt. "Not romantic love but compassion, and
tales about the love of parents for children and the love between
The Talks for Children series at the Art Museum, Princeton University
(609-258-3788), will present Virginia Reynolds discussing the "Art
of Valentine’s Day" for grade-school children, turning attention
to the Cupids in the museum collection, including the awesome
Supplicating Jupiter" by Peter Paul Rubens.
And making your own Valentines — the genesis of the greeting card
industry — will be available for all ages at the Jane Voorhees
Zimmerli Art Museum (732-932-7237) in New Brunswick. Exhibiting many
objects with references to hearts and love, the Zimmerli is setting
up a "Valentine’s Factory" complete with paper doilies,
paper, ribbons, and other art supplies for a hand-made Valentine
between 1 and 4 p.m. At 3 p.m., the museum is hosting "The Rules
of Love: An Historical Look," a lecture given by Rutgers’
Rudolph Bell and Donald Roden on books throughout history that have
set down the dos and don’ts of amorous encounters.
One such book, "The Art of Courtly Love," is
a medieval treatise that offers 31 rules to govern love affairs. The
first is the thought-provoking, "Marriage is no real excuse for
not loving," while one further down the list gives this timely
advice: "Good character alone makes any man worthy of love."
See story, page 34.
Then there are events tailor-made for your specific paramour. Perhaps
your favorite science buff — or couch potato — might enjoy
the Science on Saturday (609-243-2121) program this week at Sarnoff
Corporation of "TV Systems Old and New: Introducing Digital,
Television." The ornithologist in your life — remember those
mating lovebirds? — might enjoy the opening reception in
of "Birds of a Feather," a collaborative book project of bird
images by artist members of the Printmaking Council of New Jersey
(908-725-2110). The physically fit might train for the evening’s
with an hour’s off-road run with the Rumson Hash House Harriers
in Edison, a non-competitive way to enjoy the woods and fields. And
for those loved ones who like a dash of blood sport with their affairs
of the heart, Princeton hockey is facing Brown at Baker Rink, while
the Princeton basketball team will challenge Yale at Jadwin Gym in
what is turning out to be Princeton’s best season since ex-senator
Bill Bradley (Class of ’65) was hitting the hoops.
If any of these sumptuous events stimulate him — or her —
to pop the question, keep in mind "The Portable Wedding
by Ewing author Leah Ingram. A book-signing and chat will be held
at Barnes and Noble in Princeton MarketFair on Tuesday, February 24,
from 8 to 10 p.m. (see story, page 37). And if you’re having trouble
choosing among so many delights, buy a pound or two of chocolates
— homemade ones are available from Carl Fischer (609-882-5566)
for $11.50 a pound, $21.95 a pound for Belgian chocolates, and $16.50
a pound for truffles — call a friend, and stage your own
Rules of Love — Medieval Style
Although the current art exhibition at the Zimmerli
Museum, "The Great American Pop Art Store: Multiples of the
spotlights 20th-century love motifs, two Rutgers professors
in medieval history offer a Valentine’s Day talk on affairs of the
heart, historically — and in two cultures.
"The Rules of Love: An Historical Look," by Rutgers professors
Rudolph Bell and Donald Roden, looks at some influential books in
history that propose rules for amorous encounters. The idea for the
lecture came from a course they jointly teach each year to
on the comparative cultures of love in Japan and Europe.
Roden, the Europeanist, says that translations of the Roman poet Ovid,
whose work dates from around the birth of Christ, were among Europe’s
most popular printed books of the 16th century, soon after Gutenberg
devised his printing press technology. Literate Europeans were
about Ovid’s amorous advice translated from the original Latin into
English, French, and Italian. Roden reports that Ovid’s accounts
mainly on how married women could have lovers without notifying or
offending their husbands. Discretion, he notes, was the name of that
game. "Ovid was often held up as an example of why women in Europe
should not to be taught to read — lest they stumble upon such
a text," he says.
Another treatise, "The Art of Courtly Love," dates from
times and offers 31 succinct rules to govern love affairs. Roden
the document as a slightly suspect, perhaps "a misogynist tract
for monks to circulate among themselves and enjoy."
Yet there are rules here that provide food for thought even at the
dawn of the third millennium. Such as Rule No. I: "Marriage is
no real excuse for not loving." Rule No. XI suggests "It is
not proper to love any woman whom one should be ashamed to seek to
marry." And lest any of us imagine that the middle ages were
there’s Rule Number XXXI: "Nothing forbids one woman being loved
by two men or one man by two women." Roden notes that all these
rules were for courtly types only. The peasants, the tract points
out elsewhere, could just be taken by force.
From Japan of the 11th century comes another comparative
best-seller, "Tale of Genji," by Lady Murasaki, a collection
of stories circulated in the high court and known today as the first
novel in any language.
In 76 gripping chapters, the book recounts the amorous adventures
of Prince Genji, a man with lots of lovers, who seduced the old,
the young, married a 12-year-old, and more. The series of tales was
hand-written and released episodically, perhaps by popular demand.
Each successive group of stories was copied by scribes for circulation
in the court.
"One can see it as a great improvement over current daytime soap
opera fanaticisms," Roden notes. One of the classics of Japanese
literature, written for an elite literate audience, it reflects that
culture’s greater acceptance of extra-marital affairs, and the
for women to initiate such affairs. Still enough to raise Western
Current American confusion notwithstanding, Roden says that
European society’s moral compass was fixed on its axis on all matters
of carnal love. "This was terribly important, but the issue was
property, not propriety," says Roden, noting that the
that were forbidden were only those that would confuse who was a man’s
legitimate heir. "The historic texts are clear on this. Anything
that makes it uncertain that your wife’s child is yours is adultery
— and anything that doesn’t compromise that is not."
— Nicole Plett
Zimmerli Art Museum , George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick,
732-932-7237. $3 museum admission adults; children free. Saturday,
February 14, 3 p.m.
that recreates the spirit of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Saturday,
14, 1 to 4 p.m.
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