Being the forever hopeless romantic that I am, I’ve always had the tendency to link romance to two particular eras in history, the 1950s and the latter half of the 16th century, more commonly known as the Elizabethan Era. There’s just something about these two time periods that capture a rather romantic image of classic courtship. Today, I’d like to share with you my interpretation of each of these periods in history as I celebrate Valentine’s Day through creating a malt shop themed menu and watching my favorite romantic drama which takes place in the Elizabethan Era; Shakespeare in Love.
When I think of malt-shop menu items, I picture all of the classic American favorites like cheese burgers, milk shakes and French fries. Items that today, you typically have to drive to a fast food chain for to enjoy. But in the old days, this was not fast food. It was definitely not healthy, but it was food that was enjoyed around a laminate table with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and of course, music playing through a juke box, selected by the neighborhood malt shop’s very customers. While the once popular tracks of the 1950s might now be considered cheesy and dated, there is so much romance captured in those songs that is completely misplaced in music today.
In preparation for Valentine’s Day, I stood in my kitchen gathering my ingredients for home made sliders and French fries. I decided to have a listen to some of those vintage fifties tracks that represented previous generations. Songs that perhaps were once symbolic of a first dance with one’s sweetheart or the memory of a first kiss.
“See the pyramids along the Nile, Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle, Just remember darling all the while, You belong to me…” – You Belong To Me (1952), Jo Stafford
After listening to a combination of 1950s tunes, including Elvis, The Everly Brothers and Dean Martin, I decided to go further back in time to the Elizabethan Era. In this time period, it was William Shakespeare that was the king of entertainment and a master of defining the difference between courtly love and true love.
“Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight ‘till it be morrow.” – Romeo & Juliet (1597), William Shakespeare
As I snuggled up to watch Shakespeare In Love after dinner, I realized that Shakespeare’s writing was the jukebox of the Elizabethan Era and the theatre its malt shop. Both eras were emphatic about putting their own mark on romance.
As I prepared the final elements to my Valentine’s Day menu, I realized that while both eras depicted love so beautifully, there was something quite exaggerated about their portrayals. Today, a simple wink emoji may be our version of romance and songs made up of electronic beats as opposed to life-altering prose may trigger memories of love. Love is not exaggerated in today’s trends. Perhaps that is why I have always associated romance to past eras that had described what love ought to be to such great extents. But, what we have today, I’ve realized, is remarkable. Not the exploration of what love should be, but simply the recognition of what love is: love.