Yes, friends, St. Valentine’s day is near, and many of you have no dinner reservations. This may cause you concern, but I assure you, you’re not alone. You’re still going to be in deep trouble with your significant other, I guess, but take comfort in the fact that you have company in your misery. 

I wouldn’t have this gig if I didn’t like to dine out, but Valentine’s evening is the exception. It’s crowded, noisy and by about 8:30 p.m. the people who work at the restaurants are, in many cases, about ready to pop. It’s not a night for a romantic night out at a lot of places, is what I’m saying, at least if your idea of a romantic night includes being able to hear what your dining companion is saying.

I have cooked elaborate meals in the past for the holiday, but I think the better approach is to have something like an indoor picnic. You only need a few things – good bread, good cheese and drinkable wine – everything else is optional. My wife likes prosciutto, so I usually pick some of that up, along with some cured olives, a couple of apples and 2 or 3 types of cheese. We always have some sort of pickle in the fridge, and at the moment those include cucumbers, peppers and green tomatoes. If you really want to gussy things up, make a garlic-heavy vinaigrette and use it to dress a green salad.

It’s like you’re in Europe, but much closer to Chalmette. Put on a beret and you could almost smell the Seine.

I may be a curmudgeon, and indeed may have used the term “Hallmark Holiday” in reference to Valentine’s once or twice, but even I can appreciate the societal impulse to set a day aside for love and affection. And if the object of your affection wants to dine out, then go for it. Just try to remember that it’s a busy night for restaurants and bars, and be patient.

It may seem like you are being passed over for that open table, or that the bartender keeps serving a revolving line of people who approach the bar without taking your order, but it’s your imagination. It’s not uncommon to feel persecuted in these situations, but unless you are truly a colossal jackass, nobody is trying to piss you off, so take a deep breath and either enjoy yourself or at least do a good job of faking it for your date/friends/family.

If you are a colossal jackass, change.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you over the next week, and that whether you decide to dine out, stay in or hang from your ankles underneath an overpass, you have a delightful Valentine’s day.