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How to Eat a Heart on Valentine's Day

Choc-heart
Come every February, the grocery store aisles bloom with heart-shaped boxes and other Valentine’s Day-themed ephemera. With all the extra heart-consciousness, at least in a manner of speaking, it’s no wonder the American Heart Association chose February as “American Heart Month.” However, little is made out of the fact that hearts, the kind found pumping blood through livestock, are also a staple in many diets. So why not hearts on Valentine’s Day?

Known by the collective culinary term “offal” (not “awful” as some might jape), hearts are often lumped in with a bevy of internal organs, entrails and other, um, delicacies, into such dishes as the Scottish haggis. However, some tickers, such as those of beef, lamb and chicken have been variously strewed, braised and otherwise prepared on their own for ages. With apologies to the late rock innovator Captain Beefheart, it seems that bovine pump-works is the most popular of the heart to eat.

A typical preparation, whether that be stewed or baked, mandates soaking the organ in cold water for at least three hours, then removing all connective tissues (inside and out) and stuffing with various ingredients such as breadcrumbs and sundry spices – or even veal as one recipe suggested. Other preparations suggest slicing the heart into thin strips, beading it and sautéing it in some sort of lard or oil since the muscle itself is apparently quite lean.

Among the vegetarian options from the Heart Department are artichoke hearts. Though not as exotic, they only require a bit of steam to render edible, or if you’re particularly lazy, you can pluck them in their marinated state from that jar in the back of your fridge. Ditto hearts of palm.

If all this heart to heart chatter has left you squeamish, consider that, historically, St. Valentine is said to have eliminated the Emerald Isle of snakes. If slurping down a serpent doesn’t quite convey the warm and cozy feeling one normally associates with Valentine dining, there’s always chocolate. If that doesn’t work, you can eat your heart out.

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