Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Food, romance, and some truly creepy vintage valentines

Seems like a good time for a repost of this particular essay. Imagining the byzantine world of the food-related valentine fad is a pleasant escape for these byzantine times. Enjoy the yam, the herring, and the whole crazy gang.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2012

Strangest Valentines Ever: The Yam, the Herring and the Abused Cow

Mary Katherine’s junior high class decided to exchange Valentines this year. “Ironically, of course,” she informed me, but I didn’t care. I’ve always been a big fan of Kid Valentine’s Day.  Couple Valentine’s always seemed highly smarmy to me, all that dining out and acting happy, but I Love Love Love the children's version, including cutting out red paper hearts and finding the doilies buried under  the sprinkles, the cookie cutters and other seldom-used cooking supplies. When I was small, people were not jumbo-sized as they are now, and all we exchanged were paper valentines. Now, every card comes with candy attached, and that’s why none of us can squeeze into our desks anymore.

But I digress.

I implored Mary Katherine to let me research vintage valentines online, so she could be even more ironic than the average Scooby-Doo-Valentine-buying tween. She relented, I think just to please me, and we found some doozies: a blonde mermaid insisting that there was “nothing fishy” about her love; sledding kids declaring there was “snow doubt” that they wanted the recipient to be their valentine; a ponytailed teen, lying prone, telephone in hand, somehow rhyming “yak” and “it’s a fact” that she wants U to be her valentine. I was in heaven.

Then I found the strange valentines, the ones that were clearly made the day the office staff went out for lunch and had too many cocktails, or perhaps when one of them just snapped at all the stupid rhymes. Perhaps the artist was simply a victim of his own success. One day, feeling hungry, he came up with giant, romantic fruits, declaring they’d be “a peach of a pair.” He followed that up with a bowl of salty snacks and the line, “I’ll pop a corny question and ask you to be my valentine.”

Perhaps they were huge hits. The public loved them. The boss demanded more food-related valentines. The artist was stuck. Then, in a fit of desperation, he created this:
 An orange-fleshed tuber in a valentine?  Hey, it worked with the bowl of popcorn. For the record, I have to tell you that this yam frightened Mary Katherine, and she insisted that his cane was menacing. I retorted that it was a walking stick, not a cane, and that the yam was probably best buds with Mr. Peanut.  When he wasn’t sweet-talking lady yams, he and Mr. P. probably took long strolls down the boulevard, stunted arm in stunted arm.  I imagined the yam had been saving up for a monocle.

But back to our desperate artist. The boss accepted the yam-entine, grudgingly, so now where should he turn? Why, to oily fish, of course:
 Our love can be pickled, our love can be smoked, but it will last forever, said this genius card.

By this point, I imagine that the boss was getting angry. No one wants a valentine like this, he shouted.  Go back, literally, to the drawing board.

And then, our artist created it:  a valentine that combines cruelty, red meat and love in a perfect trifecta of Valentine’s devotion:
Did the boss fall for it?  I like to think that the artist was carried around the office on the shoulders of his adulatory co-workers, and that he eventually married the boss’ daughter, took over the company, and sold it to the Japanese in 1965 for one million dollars.

Or something like that. Happy Valentine's Day, by the way.

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