After 11 years as a couple, we’ve come to this conclusion: shared tasks do not make for domestic bliss. Oh, sure, we love those romantic movies, people doing household chores together. But we can just imagine how it’d go around here. “You’re going to put the ladder there?” “You clean the fireplace out that way?”
So we’ve developed this strategy: “He who does it gets to decide how to do it.” And that strategy includes cooking. Whoever cooks dinner gets to decide what’s for dinner.
Fortunately, there are no turf wars on Valentine’s Day. We both want chocolate—and in manageable portions. Neither of us wants a three-layer cake that serves 16. Instead, two small chocolate soufflés do the trick: rich but airy, light but so satisfying. Or a small pot of chocolate fondue with some fresh fruit, a velvety treat on a special night.
So in the spirit of camaraderie brought on by the promise of chocolate, we actually make dinner together on Valentine’s Day. We head for the store and both know right where the chocolate’s kept. We make a beeline from the front door to the shelf, no cart necessary.
There’s also no disagreement on the type of chocolate. No, not dark or milk, mind you. We buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate. Why? Well, for starters, 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply is produced in West Africa largely by enslaved children.
Steps have been taken to rectify the global problem. In 2001, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and New York Congressman Eliot Engel created the Harkin-Engel Protocol to establish an international cocoa certification system to guarantee that chocolate has not been produced with forced child labor. The Harkin-Engel certification system is still a work in progress, so for now, Fair Trade Certified is the best option to look for. Fair Trade guarantees cocoa producers minimum prices. In return, producers must provide fair conditions to their workers. They must pay a fair wage, have safe working conditions and not use child labor.
Once we’re home, we open a bottle of red wine and set to cooking, a shared task made better by both the holiday and our commitment to both healthy and politically responsible cooking. Oh sure, there might be a bone to pick with the fish. (“You coat it in what before it goes in the oven?”) But with a rich chocolate dessert ahead, it’s merely a bump in the road to bliss.
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are frequent contributing editors to EatingWell.