Food and Drink 

What sits in the seats of desire?

The seat of desire, said Socrates in Philebus, which was written by Plato some 2,400 years ago, is this: "... he who is empty desires ... the opposite of what he experiences: for he is empty and desires to be full."

To paraphrase Socrates, if you'll forgive me doing so, is to say if someone is thirsty, we mean to say that that person is empty. So it's not drink he or she desires, but rather replenishment by drink, or a change of state.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner and desire the name of the game, just what is it that you and your loved ones might need to fill up on to change your state of being?

Besides a little lovey from your dovey, here are a few suggestions you just might find helpful for filling up any unwanted emptiness, whatever form it takes.

Still, don't underestimate the benefits of all those endorphins conjured up by the ultimate game-changer, the joy of sex. They've been described as a natural form of morphine and they might even save your life.

One medical study done in South Wales, and I'm quoting here from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's White Paper on the Health Benefits of Sexual Expression , indicated that men aged 45-59 who have two or more orgasms a week had a 50 percent lower mortality risk than those who have orgasms less than once a week.

And what else might you fill an emptiness with on Valentine's Day?

Not to go too Mediterranean on you after our s-l-o-w food adventure last week, but the non-profit, Italy-based National Board for Preserving the Italian Healthy Eating Traditions has a wonderful website filled with all kinds of healthful ideas that make heart day a truly loving heart day, without sacrificing an iota of the great tastes we all desire. Check it out at

Tired of the old, although admittedly still good, tradition of a box of chocolates on Valentine's Day? (More in defense of chocolate later.) Make up your own Valentine's gift box of roasted but unsalted nuts.

More reports were out again last week on how sodium kicks the elasticity out of our arteries and flexible arteries that expand and contract nicely are something you definitely want in order to celebrate many more Valentine's Days. (Smoking, packing on weight and drinking more than three cups of coffee a day also make arteries stiffer, meaning they'll have a harder time expanding and contracting to keep all that nice red blood flowing smoothly through your body.)

Mix some yummy dried fruits in with the nuts, maybe something off the beaten path that echoes the Valentine's theme. Think red and white, reinterpreted.

Organic dried cherries, as deep a red and intense as your own true heart, are rich and sumptuous and stand above the ordinary, everyday-ness of most dried fruits, given they aren't exactly cheap and sometimes difficult to find. Easier to track down are organic dried cranberries, which are often B.C.-grown and usually don't have as many sweeteners added as traditional commercial products.

Simple but satisfying organic, unsweetened coconut can also fill a hole or two. It's beautiful in baked goods or sprinkled on top of porridge and granola, plus I've been known to gobble down spoonfuls of the stuff on more than one midnight snack raid. A lovely bag of white coconut offered to your loved one along with a twin bag of red dried fruit will say Happy Valentine's Day in a delightful new way.

If you're feeling a bit ironic, or blue, organic dried blueberries make an all-time favourite, a delicious treat that would fill up the epic emptiness of a Greek god or goddess from Socrates' time.

Or how about a nice container topped up with good olives? The people at Slow Food International and the National Board for Preserving the Italian Healthy Eating Traditions will thank you, and you just might discover they're more addicting than dark chocolate.

Olives are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and of vitamin E and, like many other healthy components in the Mediterranean diet, they're on your side when it comes to cardiovascular benefits.

You can turn kids onto olives at a surprisingly young age. I still laugh at the thought of my little three-year-old goddaughter dragging a chair up to the kitchen counter so she could reach a bowl of olives her mom had left there. Up she climbed and proceeded to toss back those olives, one after another, with a big grin on her face, her mom and I laughing in disbelief until we stopped her before she emptied the bowl.

Yes, olives can be high in sodium but some, like the black olives grown and processed in California, are actually quite low in sodium. Still, they're better for you and your blood sugar levels than, say, a bowl of red and white jelly beans.

As for those fun little pastel-coloured sweet hearts with the sayings on them in all caps, you could do worse on Valentine's Day.

The conversation keeps changing on those conversation hearts - U R A TIGER is a recent message in text-speak. But the ingredients have pretty much stayed the same for nearly a century and a half.

Originally called "motto hearts" in 1866 by their creator, Daniel Chase, at what later became the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO), they're made from sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gums, colouring and flavouring. They come in at only three calories per little heart, and minus the edible beeswax and anti-foaming agents found in jelly beans.

Cinnamon hearts are pretty cool, or is that hot?, especially since ancient Romans believed cinnamon to be an aphrodisiac. Basically you're ingesting sugar, cornstarch, flavouring and colour, and, depending on who made them, maybe a bit of carnauba wax, which is made from the leaves of the carnauba palm, native to Brazil.

Personally, I've always had a bit of a hard time with carnauba wax because they use it in wax for cars and surfboards and in shoe polish, albeit a different grade.  But sort that one out for yourself. Depending on how much emptiness needs filling, it might even be a good thing.

As for that traditional box of Valentine's chocolates, in my world, you can never get enough chocolate - just make sure if I'm your heart's desire that you make mine dark.

In the meantime, have fun this Valentine's Day, and see how much emptiness you can fill.



Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who doesn't run well on empty.



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