Just in time for Valentine’s Day: You may want to try this at home

Posted by on 02.13.08 | No Comments
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This Valentine’s Day, do more than just sign the card

King Bolete mushroom

Location: Colorado
Habitat: High Elevation above 10,000 ft. Typically under Spruce or Fir Trees.
Spore Print: Olive to Brown
Edibility: Edible
Color: Red to Brown
The Boletus Edulis or King Boleta is a very large mushroom that is easy to identify and is one of the most common hunted mushrooms in Colorado. Season from June through August typically. Once you see one you will never forget it. The King Boleta Mushroom will stay white when cut in half and is usually found under conifers. The caps are great sautéed in butter or on the grill. They can be cut into 1/4 strips and sun dried for preservation for use in soups or flavorings.


For the Romans in the fourth century B. C., mid-February was a time of courtship and companionship. Their festival, known as the Lupercalia, was a rite of passage for young men to meet young women. According to Charles Panati in “The Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things,” The names of teenage women were placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus a man was assigned a woman companion, for their mutual entertainment and pleasure (often sexual), for the duration of a year, after which another lottery was staged.”

The Christian Church, as you might imagine, looked down on this ritual, so in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius outlawed the mid-February festival. He replaced it with a celebration in honor of St. Valentine, a Christian martyr.

Valentine was an obvious choice for the pope. He had been the bishop of Interamna when the Roman emperor Claudius abolished marriage in an attempt to recruit more soldiers. Sympathizing with young lovers, Valentine invited them to meet him in secret where he performed the sacrament of matrimony. When Claudius learned of this “friend of lovers,” he had him brought to the palace. Valentine promptly tried to convert the emperor—a bad choice. On February 14, 270, he was clubbed, stoned and decapitated.

As history goes, Valentine himself fell in love with the jailer’s daughter while he was in prison. She was blind, but he miraculously restored her sight. His last letter to her bid her farewell, “From Your Valentine.” Famous last words.

You can imagine that after 800 years of annual pairing, the Lupercalia did not die quickly. Unable to draw the names of young women, the young Roman men began to handwrite affectionate greetings and give them to the girl of their desire. The cards quickly took on St. Valentine’s name.

Panati notes that “as Christianity spread, so did the Valentine’s Day card.” They had a minor setback in the 16th century when St. Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, tried to forbid the sending of Valentine’s cards, but like a weed in Eden, the tradition became even more popular than before, and even more pagan. Around this time, cards began bearing the image of Cupid, the naked cherub son of the Roman goddesss of Love, Venus.

The tradition carried on, and as Panati writes, “By the 17th century, handmade cards were

oversized and elaborate, while store-bought ones were smaller and costly. In 1797, a British publisher issued “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer,” which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own.”

These days, one needn’t find a book for sappy verses—Hallmark and other card companies do it all for you.

But this year, why not do something to really surprise your Valentine: Make them a card and write them a poem yourself. For those of you terrified of writing a poem, the easiest kind to write is a list poem. You can start with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first line: “How do I love thee?” Then just make a list of similes. The comparisons can be romantic, such as, “I love you like the moon in the morning.” Or culinary: “I love you like melted butter on homemade popcorn.” Or au natural: “I love you the way the green lichen clings to the gray rock.” Or racy: I love you like the firm and bulbous stem of a king bolete.”

Other lists you might make: “You are as wonderful as …” or “Our love makes me feel like … .” You get the idea. You don’t need to rhyme, just be honest. It’s a Valentine your Valentine won’t soon forget. Throw in a little chocolate, too, (dark with almonds, preferably) and let the Lupercalia begin!



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