Of course there’s a method to the madness of conversation hearts. Long before the candies hit drugstore shelves (a seasonal harbinger of spring that I continue to appreciate), candy companies refine their messaging, dispensing with dated slang like FAX ME and introducing new terms of endearment like BAE, as Kim Severson reported in The Times this week. Once, in the late ’90s or thereabouts, I received a little pastel heart with the words DEFRAG ME printed on it. Silly, but also touching: Reorganize me, improve my performance, make me make sense.
I like imagining a candy conglomerate’s attempts to universalize the language of love. What are the precise combinations of words that make people feel adored? It’s tricky. Last year, one of the major conversation heart manufacturers went with a supportive theme — I wish I’d seen the one that said FEAR LESS, a powerful directive to receive from a candy. This year, it’s going with a pet theme, acknowledging all those now-adolescent pandemic puppies howling into the midwinter afternoon while their owners are at work.
The most intimate terms of endearment don’t necessarily translate. Pet names and pillow talk often sound ridiculous when they spill past the boundaries of a whispered congress. Even so, that feeling you get when you hear people call their partners by their secret sobriquets is a potent mixture of alienating and thrilling. A weird window into other people’s intimacy, like being shown one page of their diary.
Candy hearts are the opposite. They’re broad, democratic, all-inclusive. Their messages are marvels of economy, limited to nine letters, fewer if there’s a W involved. PURR FECT might not have the same personal ring that an earnestly penned love letter does, but I’m cheered that people still write the hearts. How long until the candy companies let artificial intelligence determine the language of love? Let’s hope we have a few more years of BE MINE and SAY YES before the robots take over.
🍿 “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Friday): I’ll admit, it’s a little odd to recommend this latest Marvel movie — the third in the franchise that stars Paul Rudd — like it’s some obscure film that needs an extra boost. Yet the primary appeal is the always compelling Jonathan Majors as a villain named … Kang the Conqueror. I’ll watch him in anything. (In less than a month, I’ll also be there for Majors in “Creed III.”)
📚 “Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy” (Tuesday): The New York Times journalists Rachel Abrams and James B. Stewart are behind this propulsive book about the final years of the Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and the scandal that brought down the CBS head Leslie Moonves. As our reviewer Adam Davidson writes, it’s hard “to imagine anyone who reads this book not coming to some clear conclusions: Wealth and power can metastasize until they become toxic, destroying families, companies and countless lives.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Chocolate Pudding With Raspberry Cream
Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, which can be inconvenient if you want to whip up a homemade treat for your darling. But here’s Yossy Arefi to the rescue with her bittersweet chocolate puddings with raspberry cream. A pantry-friendly mix of cocoa, sugar, milk and eggs, it can be made almost entirely in advance. Stir the pudding together this weekend whenever you have half an hour to spare, then let it chill until Tuesday. The topping — a pretty-in-pink combination of whipped cream and fresh berries — is dolloped on just before serving. Fudgy, fruity and creamy, it’s a crowd-pleasing dessert that, on Valentine’s Day, is even better served for two.
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Make a romantic dinner
If Melissa Clark’s suggestion of pudding has you thinking about a Valentine’s Day meal, here’s an idea for dinner: Try firing up the burner for a cozy hot-pot meal. Preparing meats, greens and root vegetables in a simmering broth at the table is a lovely way to enjoy each other’s company. In Wirecutter’s guide to hot pot, experts recommend a portable butane or induction burner as a tabletop heat source and a wide, shallow pot. A Dutch oven, braiser or even well-seasoned wok work — or you could spring for a gorgeous split pot. Pour in a soup base, and treat your love to a slow, sumptuous feast. — Marilyn Ong