Valentine, the priest, disregarded the laws of his time and continued marrying young Christians inside abandoned and forsaken churches. For that he lost his life, and for that he became the patron saint of lovers.

On the anniversary of his death, when the calendar begins to entice love poems and “every bird cometh to choose his mate” we will forevermore celebrate the sweetness of love.

As love evolved, we found ourselves celebrating it with chocolate — because chocolate is said to be the ultimate reward for all virtues. It has been as rich as gold in olden times, accepted as currency to liquidate tax burdens in some long-gone governments, and in 1639 chocolate was served as an elixir to French lovers. Jean Harlow lured her silent movie fans to the ecstasy of chocolate indulgence — after that, chocolate became everyone’s favorite accomplice against any malaise affecting our moods.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day in Brazil happens on June 12, and the Patron Saint of Lovers is Anthony, not Valentine. Brazilians have not yet expanded the holiday to celebrate love of parents or of friends; they continue to celebrate romantic love on that day.

Chocolate, red roses, cards and artistic heart-shaped cut-outs are exchanged amongst couples. Most “I love yous” are declared with the famous Brazilian chocolate truffle: brigadeiro. The condensed milk and chocolate powder truffle is very simple and inexpensive to make, and its noble history of affection is well known across the country.

Brigadeiro translates into English as brigadier. The truffle gained popularity during the presidential elections in 1945, when a progressive, young, good-looking and single brigadier was among the most electable candidates.

That was to be the first election when all women could vote. The young democratic brigadier had been instrumental in advancing women’s right to vote in Brazil, but there were still some exceptions. Until that election, only married women with their husbands’ permission, widows and single women making their own salary could vote. The progressive women of that time became the organizers of the young man’s electoral campaign. Instead of the regular merchandize sold in political rallies, they sold the truffle, then named Sweet Brigadeiro. Lots of money was raised along with the young brigadier’s popularity. His campaign slogan was “vote on the brigadier, who is good-looking and single.”

In the end, the brigadier lost the election, but the delectable dessert never lost its popularity; its presence is imperative to justly reward any virtue. On this lover’s day, you might want to ignore the Brazilian conventional wisdom and make a batch of these truffles to reward yourself, for all the love you have offered to the world. After that, share the leftovers with others. Or not.


1 can sweetened, condensed milk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons butter — divided

1 cup chocolate sprinkles

paper candy cups

1. Pour the condensed milk, cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of the butter into a medium pan. Stir until smooth.

2. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer.

3. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Use caution to keep the mixture from burning or sticking.

4. The mixture should be quite thick in about 10 minutes. You will know it is ready when you can see the bottom of the pot for 2-3 seconds when dragging a spatula through.

5. Turn off the heat.

6. Grease a plate with the reserved butter and spread the mixture onto it. Let it cool to the touch.

7. Lightly butter your hands and roll the mixture into 1inch size balls. Coat in chocolate sprinkles and place each brigadeiro into a paper candy cup.

It makes about 30. The brigadeiros will keep in a refrigerator for about a week.

Nino Ribeiro is a co-owner of Basta in New Haven, website:; email:

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