Saturday, February 13, 2016

Puzzled by Love

Love is in the air

So how did this all start, anyway?  “St. Valentine” may have been one of many different priests of that name from Roman times, but most stories seem to agree that he was a Roman priest during the third century who performed secret marriages for young soldiers, despite the decree by Emperor Claudius II that they could not marry.  Perhaps he was imprisoned for his actions, other stories suggest, and before his death sentence, he sent a love letter to his jailer’s daughter, signed “from your Valentine”.   Hmmm, that’s nice, and sad and all, but there is probably a bit more to it.  Having to do with the Pagans, as usual, and efforts to appropriate all of their holidays.

The Pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia fell on the Ides of February (Feb 15).  The Priests of the Luperci would gather at the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, had been mystically born and raised by a she wolf.  The festivities involved the slaughter of a goat, whose hide was cut into strips, soaked in blood, and then paraded around the city by the priests and used to slap and mark the young women, to improve their fertility, of course.  I’m not making this up. I don’t know if someone else did, but it wasn't me.  Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Christian church anointed St. Valentine’s day on February 14th, in order to suppress this other, unsavory holiday.  So now we give cards instead of blood soaked goat hide.

The Love Box 5 by Akio Kamei

The “heart” shape is also a common Valentine’s day motif.  It’s curious how this shape came to be associated with the symbolic emotional or romantic heart, since it looks nothing like an actual heart.  The earliest known depictions of the heart shape are from medieval times, where it usually represented a leaf, such as a fig leaf.  It’s curious to imagine a man handing his true love his fig leaf.  Really gets the point across.  Throughout the middle ages the romantic heart shape appeared in artworks which show its evolution from the earliest upside down pinecone shape, in a 1250 manuscript, to the more modern symmetrically scalloped, indented shape we know today, which appeared in the 14th century.  This recognizable heart shape was known at the time as the “hallmark heart”.  Or maybe I just made that part up, who knows.

Go on, you know you want one

To posit that love may be purely mathematically, here is a concept to ponder: if you place two equal circles so they just touch each other, and trace the path of one rotating around the other from the original point of contact back to the start, you will have created a heart-like shape called a cardioid.  And if you are really ambitious, you can solve this equation for true love: (x2 + y2 − 1)3 − x2y3 = 0.

The Love Box No. 5

To celebrate Valentine’s Day here at Boxes and Booze, I have paired modern Japanese puzzle box master Akio Kamei’s “Love Box 5” with a special cocktail I created for the occasion.  Kamei created a number of “Love Box” puzzles shaped like little hearts.  No. 5 is a cute little piece in dark wood, with a bright yellow wood ribbon, and a red cloth lined secret compartment.  It’s not too tricky, like a pleasant metaphor about how love should be.  The cocktail, which I have named the “Love Box No. 5” for some reason, is a delicious variation on the Negroni, a perfect cocktail I have discussed in the prior posts.  It’s rich and nuanced, with some bitterness to balance the sweetness, like another true love metaphor. And it has chocolate, which is always a good thing.  Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day!

This cocktail will steal your heart

The Love Box No. 5

1 oz Tempis Fugit Crème de Cacao
1 oz Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Campari
2 dashes Bitter Truth Mole Chocolate Bitters

Stir together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.

There's a lot of love here folks.  Cheers!

For more information about Akio Kamei:

For prior Negroni related Boxes and Booze:


  1. That box looks stunning! I wonder whether Mrs S might?.......Whack! Ouch!!!!!!
    Maybe not...... I did show her Wil's Heart in Heart coordinate motion puzzle but she just shrugged! She only just tolerates my habit and will not join in.

    Your drinks cabinet must be gigantic! You have so many base liquors! I really fancy that cocktail.


  2. Wow, this cocktail is my favorite one. Anyways, I need to organize my annual office event. I just found a nice local event venue and will book it for party. I just need some ideas for rest of planning. Please help me as I have never done it.