Foodie Fridays: Ode to the Bay Leaf
Did I mention that I’m a good cook? I wish I knew how to underline that good right there, maybe even highlight it with a stylishly-bold double underline. You have to understand the nuffness is a matter of not being able to do much but scramble eggs and make Milo/Ovaltine/Bournvita/Bush tea prior to 4 years ago. So this good cook is a miracle!
My motivation in exploring my dormant culinary side—a husband. And some may say, so you starved before there was a man? Well, no. I grew up with large families on either side—big cousins, everyone your auntie and uncle—no difference between the teacher/neighbor/mother– or father-on-duty who had all rights to the lash. As Beenie sang, ‘memories don’t leave like people do.’
Whenever I found myself in a kitchen, it was always to contemplate stealing/taking/procuring, whichever sounds better something from a pot that was already prepared. I was too far down the grandchildren train to be tasked with much except staying out of the way.
So we come to this Ode.
Bay Leaf is not my favorite herb. Thyme or Rosemary or Basil gets those honors, but they are more romantic notions. The first because if I was any kind of woman, I would want to be a version of my momma turning a pot, and she loves her thyme, the second because I have read one too many cookbooks (yes some people read Encyclopedias I read cookbooks) and the last the fact that sweet basil is my most favorite of bush teas, so the transference of energies here is easy.
So, why am I waxing poetic about Bay Leaf? Well it is the one that makes itself the most available in my well-stocked herb kitchen, and it is the one that is most vigilant among my memories. So powerful was the image of Bay Leaf as herbal-condiment that it found its way into the following section of some future, future work:
I watched him as he removed the fragrant bay leaf that broke the surface, wiped it clean of all traces of the porridge inside his mouth and replaced it on the side of the saucer used to contain the heat of china. After which, there came deep-bellied spoonfuls toward my mouth, heaped with coagulated milk, grain, almond essence and chinks of cinnamon bark. (Copyright © Tynisha C Leon)
Now, I feel the need to confess. I have dreams about having a herb garden. Full on, potted dreams where my herbs grow because I am the one tending, and because there is a window in the kitchen through which the sun smiles. Never mind my lack of gardening skills or a kitchen window. There are also dreams of milk baths scattered with Bay Leafs in lieu of rose petals, an image I imagine, which will eventually find its own in another future, future, future work.
Currently, I am simply a dry herb-hoarder. I have every dry herb known to man and woman, several of which like marjoram and saffron gets little love as I have no clue what to do with them. Don’t worry, I am monitoring their shelf life and have plans for 2011. But oh the Bay Leaf, which I use in my Jerk everything (chicken, pork, fish), my stew everything (chicken, oxtail, lamb) my cook-up or pelau, and as indicated above in my porridge.
I love the strength in Bay Leaf. How it refuses to break down or disintegrate. I love how I can overdue and still not end up with something bitter or off.
Bay Leaf is simple goodness, and while it may not have a point to prove, it wins the battle every time without much ado.
What’s your favorite herb?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Hi there, I’m Tynisha C. Leon, writer, West Indian, mango-lover, founder and Editor-in-chief of DASHEEN magazine — the online destination where culture feeds imagination. Join the culture chat on Facebook and Twitter! If you’d like to contribute, drop me a line here, I’d love to read/see your unique views! Bless up!