Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day became popular around the 17th. century. By the middle of the 18th. century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes and, by 1900, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700’s. In the 1840’s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
Make this main dish for your valentine.
Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney (2 servings)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons snipped dried figs
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
8-10 ounces pork tenderloin
1/4 teaspoon salt-free herb seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
Nonstick cooking spray
Hot cooked brown rice or brown/wild rice mix
In a heavy small saucepan, stir together cranberries, apple juice, figs, sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes or until chutney reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Meanwhile, trim fat from pork. Cut pork crosswise into six pieces, each about 1 inch thick. Press each piece with the palm of your hand to an even thickness. Sprinkle herb seasoning evenly over pork. Coat an unheated large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat over medium-high heat. Cook pork in hot skillet for 2 to 3 minutes or until pork is slightly pink in center and juices run clear, turning once halfway through cooking time.
Cook rice according to package directions.
To serve, divide pork medallions between two dinner plates and place on top of the hot cooked rice. Spoon some of the warm chutney over pork. Pass remaining chutney.