Happiness does not come automatically. It is not a gift that good fortune bestows upon us and a reversal of fortune takes back. It depends on us alone.One does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day. Happiness is constructed, and that requires effort and time. In order to become happy, we have to learn how to change ourselves.
— Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza

I once read a story of a Cherokee elder who was teaching his children about life. He said to them, “A terrible fight is going on inside me. It is a fight between two wolves. One is the wolf of joy, love, hope, kindness and compassion. The other is the wolf of fear, anger, cynicism, indifference and greed. The same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.” The children thought about it for a moment, and then one child asked, “Which wolf will win?” The elder replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

What I find so hopeful about this story is that it suggests that we each have both the opportunity and ability to strengthen love, happiness, kindness and compassion with those—particularly our loved ones—around us, everyday. The strength of our relationships depends, in large part, on which wolf we choose to feed each day. Grounded in daily actions we can choose to nourish and encourage the wolf of love.

On this day of love, Valentine’s Day (jokingly known as Singles Awareness Day), our thoughts naturally turn towards romantic love, one of the greatest pleasures of life. Romantic love has given us beautiful sonatas, sonnets, plays and classics like Sense and Sensibility, Doctor Zhivago, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Found in almost all human cultures, romantic love seems to be not only deeply in our biological nature, but also in our biochemical nature as well.

Love often feels good. Love can be exhilarating, insanely delicious, and flat out crazy. It can make you feel like you have lightening going through your veins and/or as if every atom in your body is dancing with delight. Yes, romantic love is often delightful and thrilling.

Yet, there are also many other types of equally thrilling forms of love. When we speak of the love and relationship between a human parent and child, it is unique in all the animal kingdom; it has the power to shape how each of us pursues and expresses love as an adult. Showering a child with love, like pouring water on a plant, is perhaps the single most powerful thing a parent can do for their child’s future happiness and well-being.

Scientific studies now show that the more love, kindness and compassion we share with others, the happier we will become. We actually need to give love to be healthy and whole. Love is said to be like water, it needs to flow else it becomes stagnant.

We all want to receive love. And, the world—those we live and work with, family and friends, people near and far—needs love. Never underestimate the happiness and joy you can bring from just one loving word, thought or deed. Keep feeding your inner wolf of love.

We all also know that no talk of love and Valentine’s Day is complete without also mentioning sweet treats and decadent desserts. Recently I visited a Cuban-American friend who made delicious guava pastries (pastelitos de guayaba) made of guava paste and cheese. When I later decided to make the dessert at home, I told a friend and fellow blogger (Silly Apron) about this delicious and flaky pastry treat. She mentioned a very similar guava pastry called Romeo and Juliet in some countries in Latin America. I had never heard of such a dessert, so I did some investigating.

Guava Pastries

Guava paste, also known as Goiabada, is a popular dessert throughout Portuguese-speaking countries of the world. During the colonial days in Brazil, guavas were used as a substitute for quinces that were used to make marmalade. In Brazil, when goiabada is eaten with Minas cheese, the combination is referred to as Romeo and Juliet.

To make my version of Romeo and Juliet, I used guava paste and a little goat cheese. I decided to braid my dough, like a danish pastry, just for aesthetics.

In an upcoming post I’ll provide the recipe and detailed instructions on how I make these pastries. Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day! Update: Here is a link to the recipe for Romeo and Juliets (Pastelitos de Guayaba).

Much love and happiness to you,

Reminder: Book Club coming up in March! We’ll be discussing “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way”.

28 thoughts on “Of Love, Happiness, and Romeo and Juliet

  1. I so enjoy reading your writing. The wonderful literary references and your perspective on the world is unique, inspiring and true – so special in this day and age. The pastry with Portuguese guava sounds so intriguing and looks beautiful. I would love to see step-by-step photos in a collage of how you make such intricate creations. Thank YOU for giving this day the thoughtful out look that it sometimes lacks. Have a fantastic day with your beLOVED husband and child, Martine.

    1. Hi Shanna, I hope you had a fantastic Valentine’s Day with your lovely family too! Thanks so much for your kind words. I will try to do a post with more photos and step-by-step instructions. It’s a bit challenging for me to take photos while working with puff pastry as my fingers are usually covered with flour. Also, as you may already know, it’s best to work with puff pastry quickly, before the dough warms up and gets too sticky to manipulate. I also don’t get natural light in my kitchen so, I often move things from kitchen to natural light to get better photos. But I completely understand your request so I will see what I can as soon as I can. Thanks again, I do appreciate your kind words!

  2. Excellent post as always, Martine, but why aren’t you sharing this with us at Fiesta Friday? I keep hoping to see you there, but haven’t seen you. It’s not the same without you, hon. Please come to the party! XOXO

    1. Hi Angie, thanks for your comment and kind invitation to join your party. Lately however, I’ve had so many projects going on that I’ve had to limit my time online, including time on my blog and time on other blogs as well. Aiming to find an appropriate balance. Your Fiesta Fridays do seem lovely. Enjoy and consider me there in spirit! 🙂 Thanks again!

  3. What a beautiful post. That tale was so refreshing to read. I often feel as if I have two wolves too. There are so many types of love, passionate, familial, long-term. You need learn just how to feed them. My v day post was a membrillo, very close to guava paste. So funny. Thanks for this.

    1. Hi Amanda, so glad you liked the post. Here’s to learning how to feed the wolf of love! What a great coincidence that you made membrillo, which is similar. I had made my pastries with quince paste and cheese as well. Although not quite as sweet as the ones with guava, we enjoyed the quince ones just as much! A lovely flavor! I’ll be sure to check your post. Thanks for commenting!

    1. Hi Mandy, glad you liked this post! I wish we lived closer, if so I’d gladly be at your place to make these yummy treats. The guava pastries taste best very soon after they’ve come out of the oven, while still nice and warm!

  4. Beautiful post and pastries!!! Thank you for linking to Silly Apron 🙂 I was hoping to post something about the Romeo and Juliet treat but the kids voted for Pierre Herme’s cookies! 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your family!

    1. Hi Asmae, thank you! I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s day with your family too. I’m so glad I could link to your blog, especially since you’re the one to inform me of my pastry’s diverse culture! 🙂 Also, your blog is lovely and your Herme’s cookies were absolutely beautiful. Thanks again!

  5. How lovely a post, and new learning of delicious Romeo & Juliet.
    I had heard a version of a Cherokee elder story, but it was not said as beautifully as you have. You are a gifted person, Martine. I always get a warm feeling when I visit your site. You have left me at the end of this day of Love with a wonderful feeling.

    1. Hello Fae, what a lovely and kind comment. Sincerest thanks. I’m happy to know you liked this post and it left you with a wonderful feeling. It’s also so nice to know that you feel warmth during your visits here. This gives me great pleasure to know. Thank you dear Fae.

  6. Dearest Martine,
    Thank you for the story of the Cherokee elder and the “wolves” we feed inside us. I started keeping a food journal of everything I eat. One of the most important tasks of keeping this journal is to record how I feel after each meal or snack. I’ve been amazed that certain foods will give me a depressed mood (even though the food itself is healthy) or affect how I wake up in the morning (e.g., feeling sluggish, brain fog). Other foods help me wake up feeling clear headed and ready to start the day. The lesson told by the Cherokee elder tells me that we need to be just as diligent about what we feed our souls at every “meal” (translated–emotions, thoughts, beliefs). What heated emotions stir up depressed or prejudiced thoughts? What prejudiced thoughts turn into toxic beliefs? What do toxic beliefs cause to happen in our relationships and eventually our physical bodies? I am wanting to be aware now. I like thinking that no matter how old we are, learning a new way of feeling, thinking, and believing is still possible and thereby a new way of living! I love the knowledge of hope! Thank you for sharing the lesson on the day of love! Much, much love to you!!

    1. Dear Josephine, I’ve actually been wanting to write about the effects nutrition has on our brain health (emotions/feelings) and well-being. I also find it f fascinating how we can change our mind (thoughts, beliefs, etc.) to change our lives for the better (healthier, happier, more balanced and compassionate). There’s so much we can do everyday to learn a new and better way of living. I agree with you, I’m happy to know that at any age, we can still learn and embrace our hopes for a better life, a better way of living!

  7. Martine, well said. I also enjoyed the Cherokee story. As for the recipes we need
    to talk as you may know the kitchen is not a good friend of mine.LOL
    We are all so proud of you.
    Merci pour tous,

  8. How appropriate for a post on Valentine’s Day and love that I find myself smitten and in love with this post. Love the dessert – I think you did a fabulous job with it – it looks great and delicious and I like the name and history of it. I absolutely love the Cherokee elder story. I have to make sure I remember it. Beautiful and profound! Off to feed one of my wolves! 😉 Pleasure getting to know you Martine

    1. Thank you Azita! How are your wolves?! I’m really so happy to know you enjoyed this post. And how lovely and appropriate that you would find yourself smitten by a post valentine’s day! Thanks for reading and sharing your kind words. I’d say that was definitely one way of feeding your wolf of love. It’s the thoughtful comments like yours, and the others who have commented here, that help me to remember to feed my wolf of love. Thank you!

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