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Comfort food and books for comfort — What is love but a word

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An easy sweet treat that you don't have to bake: Raspberry cheesecake surprise.

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Valentine’s Day is this week. A sweet and joyful day for those who have found love, but if you haven’t, I have a sweet treat for you that is easy to make and you might want to share — if not with the love of your life, then with a friend or family member you love, because love can be found anywhere.

Raspberry surprise in a glass

(For two in a large glass)

Delicious and you don’t have to bake. Easy to prepare a couple of days ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

¾ cup graham cracker (pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground)

2 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling:

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 tsp lemon zest

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp hazelnut cream (Nutella), that’s the surprise

Raspberries as topping

Instructions:

The crust: In a medium bowl, mix together crumbs and melted butter until combined and crumbs are moistened. Divide evenly between individual serving dishes (about 2 tablespoons per serving dish). Press on the mixture with your fingers to form a crust layer.

The filling: In a large bowl, combine cream cheese with the sugar and whisk by hand or with a mixer well until combined and completely smooth. Add in vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside to let sugar dissolve into the cream cheese.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form. Avoid over-beating or you get butter (that happened to me more often than I can count). Using a spatula, gently fold half of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the other half. Evenly spoon (or pipe using a piping bag) about a third of a cup of filling into each serving glass. Warm the hazelnut cream so it is easy to spread and drop in the center. Careful, that it doesn’t reach the side of the glass (it is supposed to be a surprise). Fill up each glass with the rest of the cream cheese mix. Cover and chill at least 1 hour in the fridge until you are ready to serve. Just before serving, add the raspberries as topping.

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Instead of only one book accompanying this dessert, let me take you on a trip to the ancient world of love in Greece; the authors who wrote about love and its many meanings.

The ancient Greeks were in many ways more advanced morally and emotionally in their private lives — they vented their sins and emotions by putting them into characteristics of their gods. It is quite entertaining to read Roman Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” book — which reflects the Greek mythology that the Romans copied — in which he explains where flora and fauna come from: Mostly from poor humans who tried to escape love-drunk gods and turned into trees, stones, creeks, fishes and animals to avoid them.

Down on Earth, the average ancient Greeks were rather living a chaste life outside of marriage. They had six words for our one “love.”

The first one is eros. Yes, that’s where the word erotic comes from. For the Greek this word means losing control in physical love, and it had a negative view.

The second word is philia, which we use in words such as bibliophile (lover of books), technophile (lover of technology) and the little less known oenophile (lover of wine). The Greek philia is a fusion of love and friendship and concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on a battlefield. It was about showing loyalty to friends, parents with their children, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing one’s emotion with them. The Romans especially admired philia. They celebrated Cara Cognatio, an official but privately observed holiday, on Feb. 22, that celebrated love of family with banqueting and gifts.

While philia had a rather solemn meaning, the Greek had another favorite love: ludus, or playful love. Remember the early stages of a relationship? The flirting and teasing that goes with it? Ludus describes this playful affection, but it was also used when friends get together bantering, laughing or going out on the town to dance. A perfect example is the theater play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. The comedy was performed in classical Athens in 411 BC. It is about of a woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by rallying the women to deny all the men involved in the war eros (sex), hence forcing the men to negotiate peace, which results in a battle between sexes. In modern English ludic activities are often described as casual flings, changing into something darker.

Then there is agape, the ultimate love, or love for everyone. It is the profound, selfless love toward all people. It is about the stranger who runs into a house on fire to save an unknown person. This word traveled through time, in Latin the philosopher Cicero used it in his book “Tusculan Disputations,” where a man stands in to be killed by the tyrant Damocles if his friend would not return to face his trial. We know the word in its Latin form: caritas, which is the origin of our word charity. C.S. Lewis referred to it as “gift love,” the highest form of Christian love. The word empathy comes from agape as well.

Pragma, means longstanding love and was used to describe the love between a couple that had been through tough times and good times, having worked out and accepted their flaws during a long lasting marriage. Aristotle wrote about pragma describing the parents of his tragic heroes. In modern times, its use is seen in the word pragmatic, which means being realistic. The meaning of love in it has been completely cut out.

The sixth version of love in ancient Greece is philautia, or love of the self. The wise Greeks knew that this was a two-sided sword. Aristotle explained it in two ways, the unhealthy version is reflected in his story of the self-centered Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection in a pond. The healthy version is described by Aristotle as “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” In today’s psychology 101, it is described as self-acceptance. The word and double-meaning of philautia did not survive into modern English.

Now this is a lot of love going around in ancient Greece. What can we take out of it? Even if you are alone on Valentine’s Day, cherish love like the Greeks did: in relationships with a wide range of people — friends, family, partners, strangers and yourselves. This contrasts with our modern word and its typical focus on a single romantic relationship. Don’t just seek eros, but grow philia by spending time with friends, or follow ludus and have a girls night out dancing or a sweet dessert with your friends and a romantic movie at home. You are in the pragma stage of love? Enjoy it by doing something you both like.

Happy Valentine’s Day.