By Joan Harvey

The cold, dreary days between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day are days of austerity. Even if we don’t make official resolutions, it just seems right, after the Thanksgiving-Christmas-Hanukkah-New Year’s indulgences and excesses, to cut back, keep it simple and clean, trim the fat and to straighten up.

Of course, it’s interrupted by the aberration of Super Bowl day, when even those of us with the staunchest of wills succumb to the lure of the snack food industry’s offerings. At best, it’s a one-day, to-heck-with-it-all indulgence in the greasy, salty, spicy food that we generally try to hate the other 364 days of the year. The next day, it’s back to soups and salads and common sense.

Recipes included with this story: “Deviled” Crab, Heart Beet Soup, Oregon Hazelnut Cheesecake

Then comes Valentine’s Day, and by Feb. 14 we’re ready to celebrate again. Despite all the entanglements and bitter memories the holiday may evoke, and anything suggesting love and romance gets complicated very fast, it’s a gentle holiday. The fantasy, of course, is of children making red-paper hearts, spouses receiving roses, and lovers sharing champagne Tipobet and chocolates. Most of that fantasy is real.

We in Oregon have even more cause to celebrate; Valentine’s Day is also Oregon’s birthday. Oregon entered the Union on Feb. 14, 1859. We don’t make much of a fuss about it, though. There isn’t any hoopla in schools or offices, no parades, no supermarket sales; people are concentrating on Valentine’s Day. But we really should celebrate Oregon’s birthday, too. 

Oregon has always been an Eden for people who appreciate real food. With our abundant fish and wildlife, glorious fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables, and rolling hills of wheat, we just naturally lay the finest tables in the land. And, to make it even better, we have now many companies, large and small, that are supplying us with an amazing extravaganza of products to grace those tables even further. From our wines and cheeses to salts and ancient grains, Oregon products have a reputation for quality throughout the country.

Celebrating our good fortune (or smarts) to live here is easy; just turn our Valentine’s menus into a deliberate and acknowledged all-Oregon feast. Seafood always makes a lovely, romantic beginning to any meal and our vibrant berries, even frozen, make a Valentine-red addition to any dessert to finish it.

We don’t have to go overboard about it; all we have to do is what we in Oregon can always do — eat well. Happy Valentine’s Day. And happy birthday, Oregon!

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