Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Give a Great Valentine's Gift

Valentine's Day can be stressful. Sometime people poo-poo it as a "created" holiday but then all holiday are created by human beings so that's hardly a unique problem to the romance of February 14th. Chocolate is one of the most sought off and purchased Valentine's Day gifts around the world. Too often in the USA we confuse chocolate and candy. We think a chocolate bar is overpriced when in reality we comparing it to a candy bar. We also have this odd expectation that you should just "know" what your beloved wants as a gift and then complain about how your lover doesn't know you when you get something you don't like. Given that you sweetheart may want candy or chocolate or both on Saturday, you might want to think a bit before you just run out and buy the first heart-shaped box you find. Here is The Chocolate Cult's Advice on Valentine's Day Gifts for both the giver and the receiver.

Note: You should read both lists because it is only loving to give as well as receive on Valentine's Day.

Gift Giver Questions:

1. Does your beloved want candy, chocolate, a bit of both, or neither?

Don't assume you know the answer. We are coming off of a very intense holiday month in December through January for many parts of the world. Your beloved may have leftover treats or be attempting to get healthier this year. Giving even the best chocolate or candy when it isn't wanted won't score you points. Ask first.

Equal Exchange Hearts
2. What type of chocolate does your beloved prefer?

There are three basic categories of chocolate -- white, milk, and dark. These have legal definitions so check those out for your country. However just because your beloved seems to like one type of chocolate don't assume they'll like all types. Many people who like milk chocolate do not like dark or white chocolate. Many folks who like lower cacao percentage dark chocolates (55-65%) strongly dislike higher cacao content. Just as you ask if your beloved would like candy, chocolate, both, or not, ask them about the types of chocolates they like.

Chocion Pralines
3. Does your beloved like pure chocolate or chocolates with added ingredients such as pralines, truffles, baked goods, or simply added flavors?

The list of possibilities are endless so this is where your observational skills over the course of your relationship can come in handy. When your partner eats chocolate or desserts what do they tend to order or make more often? There is no shame here in also asking but since the possibilities are so varied this can be the place to really show your initiative. Does your partner adventuresome when it comes to food? Now might be the time to pick one or two new flavors but make sure  you keep to their preferred category of chocolate. In other words, if you're partner likes spicy and fruity flavors and prefers darker chocolate, Valentine's Day is not the time to give a book of white spicy citrus truffles.

4. Does your beloved have allergies to any type of food?

This is a very important consideration. One you should know early on in your relationship. If you are at all unsure, ask your beloved. Always check the ingredients list and if there is no ingredient list on the potential gift either do not buy it or ask the manufacturer for an ingredient list. If you are at all unsure whether or not a chocolate or candy has the allergens your beloved needs to be cautious of, do not buy it. Giving a gift with allergens is telling your beloved that you do not care at all about their health and frankly if that's true, s/he should dump you.

Sjaak's Truffle Box
5. Does your beloved support any religious practices or social and economic policies that connect to candy or chocolate?

This could issues like fair trade, organic certification, or kosher status. It might even relate to where the product was made. For example your partner may try to support local business or only companies that follow specific practices. If you can't find out if a brand follows those practices or where it is made, ask, and if you can't find out, don't buy it.

6. How much should you give?

This is matter of assessing their current health goals and your finances. While you might see huge heart-shaped boxes of the average chocolate and candy brands, your partner might be equally pleased by just five pieces from a high quality company. If you can find a local candy or chocolate shop where you can buy individual pieces, go that route and get an even number. Why? Then your beloved can share if he/she likes. Stick with under a dozen pieces of chocolate or candy because we've just come off of a big eating season and we could all use a little break. Whether or not your beloved is on a health kick for the New Year a dozen shouldn't seem like too much.

Kane Candy Hearts
7. How should present the candy or chocolate?

We're not talking about the shape of the box though heart-shaped is traditional. We are talking more about the situation in which you give it. If you are doing a dinner date, a movie, or another evening out, save the candy or chocolate for when you get home when you can help your beloved enjoy them.  If you staying home, do something to set a romantic more, hopefully you're close enough to your beloved to know what that might be. Do not pressure your beloved to try the candy or chocolate right then and there. If you asked them what they liked, thought about quality versus quantity, and have paid attention to the types of flavors they enjoy, you don't need to worry about the gift. Pressuring them to try it not is really a sign of you being uncertain and that isn't romantic or sexy for anyone.

The exception to the pressuring rule is when you've made them a dessert. Obviously in that case you should both enjoy it but depending on how big of a meal you've had, perhaps you can share a serving.

Gift Receiver Questions:

1. How often do you tell your partner what you like in terms of food or drinks?

Don't assume that your partner is paying attention. You've all heard what "assume" really stands for, right? It makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Practice saying what you enjoy when you are enjoying it. Also practice asking your partner what they like about the various foods and drinks they have. If you think you are getting a Valentine's Day gift, you might be giving a gift, too. Plus learning about your partner and helping them learn more about is just good basic communication.

2. Do you know what the difference between candy and chocolate is?

How can you know if you want candy or chocolate unless you know the difference?

Milk and Dark Chocolate should always have chocolate as the primary ingredient -- called chocolate, chocolate liquor, chocolate mass, or even cocoa mass. Purer chocolates should also have cocoa butter in them. White Chocolate must have cocoa butter in it as well as dairy and sugar. Often chocolate will have a lecithin or flavor such as vanilla as well.

Candy is about sugar and that will appear before any chocolate or cocoa butter on the ingredient list. Candy also often has added oils and fats and a lot of chemical names on the ingredient list.

Chocolats du CaliBressan Heart
3. Do you really want candy or chocolate for Valentine's Day this year?

Candy, chocolate, flowers, stuff animals, all of these are standard Valentine's Day gifts yet they doesn't mean it is something you really want or even need. Assess yourself right now.

Would getting candy or chocolate undermine your current health goals? Could you make a gift of chocolate or candy work with your health goals if you got a smaller amount or shared with your lover? Do you really have room for another stuffed penguin for your collection? Do objects make you feel loved or does spending time together mean more? Perhaps a card would help you remember decades from now? Share your answers to these questions with your lover so you aren't falling into the commercial traps of Valentine's Day.

11. What should you do if the gift just isn't great or even good?

This is a complex situation. This may be an issue of safety or an issue of taste and preference. Your response should reflect which of these situations apply.

Your lover may have given you something with an allergen and in that case DO NOT EAT or DRINK IT and tell your lover immediately why you cannot consume it. If you have food allergies you are probably used to looking at ingredient labels; if your gift doesn't have that, you need to ask and if your lover doesn't know the answers you can't safely consume it.  Why does your lover not know your allergies? Did you not tell him? If your relationship has advanced to the level of gift giving on Valentine's Day you should have told. Do so now but be tactful. Don't ask for a different gift, that's just rude, but either throw it out, give it back to your lover, or give it to someone else.

If you have told your lover about your food allergens and s/he still gives you a gift with those allergens in them, think about how long you've been together. If you've been together for more than a handful of months and you've pointed out your food allergies more than once, might need to reconsider your relationship. A person who loves you cares about your body. Food allergies are not a joke, people can be seriously injured or even die from them. If someone doesn't care enough about you to make sure the don't give you something you are allergic to... well, I'd walk away from that relationship immediately.

If you simply aren't a fan of an ingredient or a category of chocolate you need to be tactful but honest about that fact. If your relationship is relatively new, try the product with your lover, attempt to be open to the experience, but if you don't like it, don't pretend that you do. Valentine's Day is not the day to lie to your lover. Not only is that treating her/him disrespectfully but it also disrespects you, too, because they will continue to give you gifts you don't like. If you've been together for some time you need to think about whether or not you've been lying about previous gifts you didn't like or if you've been honest. If you've been honest, try again, don't just throw away years of love over this one time mistake. Exaggerate your dislike for the gift, state it clearly, but thank them for the gift itself.

Consider what it is that you don't like exactly so you can give them specific information and ask them specific questions about likes and dislikes, too; show them you care and this isn't just about you. Perhaps they gave you a box of varied chocolates and you really don't like the white chocolate or the dark ones. But honest about that. Very few people want to give a gift that won't be loved and you save them time and money by being honest about what you like.

These are just eleven suggested questions for us all to think about before Saturday and Valentine's Day. I hope they help you have a better romance celebration regardless of if or when you might mark it.

2 comments:

Cerise said...

I am definitely sending my husband to read this post!

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thanks, Cerise. I'm glad it was clear. This was a large post and I didn't have an editor handy. Please let your friends know about it, too.