I watched Yumeiro Patissiere back in March, and greatly enjoyed it. This anime revolves around a middle school student with amazing sense of taste who transfers to a pastry school. She’s put in the most skilled cooking group, despite being completely new to making sweets. She overcomes various challenges in both friendship and cooking, including, of course, Valentine’s Day. After all, what school anime is complete without an episode about Valentine’s Day?
For those of you who don’t know, the Japanese celebrate Valentine’s Day a little differently. We’re used to it as a day for Valentines cards and gifts to be exchanged by a couple (or a day when elementary students exchange little notes and eat candy). Every year, I see my parents give each other cards, often accompanied by truffles. Dad tends to bring Mom roses, as well. In Japan, on the other hand, Valentine’s Day is a day for girls to give chocolates to their crushes. It’s a one-sided gift (though, from some anime I’ve seen, I think there’s a day when the guys return the favor).
As I watched the Valentine’s Day episode of Yumerio Patissiere, I wondered what I’d do if we had such traditions. I don’t have anyone to give chocolates to, and probably won’t for a long time. But that doesn’t mean the day wouldn’t affect me. This episode spurred my imagination, so I decided to write out what I think might happen if we celebrated Valentine’s Day the way the Japanese do.
The following is fiction, imagined as if we celebrated Valentine’s Day with the same traditions as they do in Japan. Names are changed in a paranoid way to protect my privacy, but all people are based on real life (“Rachel’s” crush is based on a collaboration of people, so if someone I know in real life actually reads my blog for once, don’t get any ideas. Moreover, I don’t think “Rachel” has any current crushes):
I flip through a book full of candy recipes. On the other side of the kitchen, my little sister, Rachel, examines a recipe for chocolate cake. I smile. When I asked her if she was making sweets with a special someone in mind, she shrugged it off. “Not really.”
But I knew that sheepish grin, so I pushed. “Oh? What about that one guy I met after school the other day? Jordan or something like that.”
“Annaly-yn!” she protested. I tried to raise one eyebrow. Both went up, but it had the desired effect. “Well, I might have ‘a special someone in mind’, but I’m not giving anything to him.”
Good, I thought in my probably cliché, but quite truly protective, older sister way. Aloud, I expressed a different delight. “So the cake’s for us, then?”
She smiled, crushing my hopes. That wasn’t an indulgent let’s-pretend-I’m-older-than-Annalyn-so-I’ll-be-nice smile. No. Unfortunately, that was a let’s-taunt-her-with-chocolate-she-can’t-have smile. “Nope,” she informed me, “It’s for the tenth grade student council and the Valentine’s Dance committee.”
I’m not a huge fan of cake anyway; but that fact hardly spurned my frustration. Frustrated or not, I’d be lucky to get even a lick of frosting, so I moved on to more important details. “Hm,” I commented thoughtfully, reaching for the candy recipe book. “Isn’t Jordan on the tenth grade student council, too?”
I glanced back over, catching another of Rachel’s sheepish grins. “Yeah, but I’d make the cake anyway. What about you? Are you making chocolate for someone special?”
I gave her a look, but let her change the subject. “Nice try. You know I haven’t had a crush since elementary school. I was thinking of making something to share with some of my friends at lunch, with plenty of leftovers for me. If you ask nicely, I might let you have some.”
We’ve been quiet for a while now, looking at our own recipe books and thinking our own thoughts. Every now and then, one of us opens a cupboard to make sure we have the right ingredients. I’ve decided to make peppermint fudge. It’s a persnickety sweet, one Mom entirely gave up on making. But I learned a few things from my aunt, so I think I can manage it. I even talked Mom into buying a good candy thermometer. Nevertheless, I make sure I have at least twice as much of each ingredient as necessary. I’m okay with slightly grainy fudge, so long as the taste’s the same, but I know of some mistakes that mess with even the taste. Besides, I want to try and make it smooth.
I open another cupboard, and a thought comes to me. What if I melt white chocolate and drizzle it onto the fudge? I could put peppermint in it… or even better, I wonder if there’s a recipe for white chocolate peppermint fudge or something like that? I could swirl or layer them, creating a much lighter flavor than just plain fudge. The whole reason I like adding peppermint to my sweets is that it adds a refreshing element, balancing (and thus allowing) the richer flavors. That element would probably work better if I didn’t just add it directly to the chocolate. Of course, adding walnuts would help make the whole texture lighter, but they also add a different taste, and, in my mind, ruin the fudge.