My first boyfriend in high school was so dreamy. He made me mixed tapes that introduced me to exotic artists like Steve Miller Band and Crosby Stills and Nash and Dan Fogelberg. When he wrote me letters, they were in all upper case — BECAUSE EVERYTHING I SAY IS IMPORTANT! he explained. He was different from the quarterbacks my friends crushed on, seemingly hailing from another, cooler era — wearing plaid pants to the prom, calling hot dogs “scorched poochies,” and saying over and over in between drags of his Marlboros that he was “mad about me.” He called me “Rosie” and, in writing, addressed me as his “Brown-Eyed Girl.” I was so crazy about him, and subsequently that song, that I recorded it on one side of a tape six times in a row so I could stare dreamily at my bedroom ceiling without having to get up to press rewind on the cassette player I shared with my sister. (You can imagine how my sister felt about him and his Van Morrison.)
Then Valentine’s Day arrived. Or, I should say, the day before Valentine’s Day arrived. We were on the phone, the cord coiled around my fingers, talking about the Dead coming to town that summer, when he said he had to go. “Oh, Rosie? One more thing.”
“I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day…Cool?”
Oh yes. Cool. Of course, Cool. Yes. Yes.
We hung up, I pressed play on my Peter Cetera compilation, crawled into bed and wept.
I was crushed — especially since I had planned on surprising him with some handmade card that listed all our superfunny private jokes — but not as crushed as I was a few months later when he dumped me, and, as I tried to talk sense into him, asked if we could finish the conversation later because his ride was here for the Jethro Tull concert. We did end up getting back together on and off for three more years, and in fact, laugh about all this now, but I credit him with turning me into a hardened Valentine’s Day Cynic long before it was cool to be one.
So Andy won’t be getting anything this year (not even a Mad Lib Love Letter like last year), but of course, the kids are a different story. We already have a bunch of chocolatey things wrapped up for them, plus some customized bookplate stamps, which were supposed to be stocking stuffers and which I completely forgot about until after the holiday. And if we have time, we might repeat the little un-ambitious baking project we worked on together a few weeks ago — hand pies with or without hearts. Just like last time, I’ll use storebought dough and whatever Trader Joes fruit is in the freezer. Maybe this time, for old times sake, I’ll introduce them to Van Morrison while we do it.
Heart Hand Pies
First, using a knife, we cut two rectangular-ish pieces out of one piece of pie dough. Then I mix whatever fruit I’ve got — these are thawed frozen blueberries, but you could just as easily do a few sliced apples (Granny Smith, Cortland, Northern Spy) or the Trader Joes jarred Morello cherries — with a little sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little cinnamon. I place a fist-size mound one one side of the rectangle, then fold over a shown on right, pinching the sides all around.
I ask the girls to make designs with the slits or hearts and initials from dough scraps. They also add the crimping around the sides (pressing down with a fork), and brush on the egg wash. (One whisked egg.) Then we bake at 375°F, for 30-40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling out of vents.
It’s a good idea to periodically check in on them to ensure they don’t look too toasty. If the crusts get too dark before filling is bubbling out, cover with foil and continue baking.