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Planning an Indoor Valentine's Day Picnic

 My boyfriend and I have a long-distance relationship and I am surprising him for Valentine's Day. I made reservations at a hotel near him and I want to make him dinner. The problem is that I have to make the meal and bring it with me, so I won't have anyplace to heat it up. Do you have suggestions for dinner that can be eaten cold?

 Sweetheart, whatever happened to "a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou?"

That's a poetic translation of a line written some 950 years ago and found in the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam, or the quatrains of Omar the tentmaker.* But we're pretty sure it applies today. Surely sharing each other's company will turn the simplest cold meal into a feast.

If it were us, we'd plan a full-scale picnic. We'd stretch out a blanket (a picnic blanket, not a hotel blanket) on the hotel room floor, light candles here and there, and throw open the picnic basket. It would absolutely include a French baguette, some really good pâté, several great French cheeses, some prosciutto, a fresh tomato, some crisp lettuce, some unsalted butter, plain crackers, perhaps a little potato salad, whatever really good fruit you can find – at least grapes, perhaps some melon, maybe a clementine tangerine or two. You can see how our tastes run; your choices could be completely different. You will do a little prep-work to wash and dry the fruits and vegetables before you leave home. If you can, take real silverware and china, not Styrofoam and plastic. The choice of beverage is up to you.

If you make a little dessert, it will be that much better. How about these Shortbread Hearts, which are simple to make and should travel well? You'll want a heart-shaped cookie cutter to get the job done.

Omar's quatrain also mentions a Book of Verse, and even if you're not big fans of poetry, there's a lot to be said for reading poems or stories to each other, at least one night out of the year. It's no longer in print (which means you can pick it up for a song), but A Valentine: A Bouquet of Poetry for Lovers could be a great selection for your out-of-town reading pleasure.

*Apparently Omar was a mathematician; his father was the tentmaker, but the name and title – especially the ibn [son of] – were shortened or lost in the intervening centuries, so that it looks like Omar was the tentmaker.

 Suggested Recipe: Shortbread Hearts

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