Sunday, January 15, 2006

Colette's French household hints

I'm working my way up to a patch of full-blown food blogging, where I shall divulge not only the recipe for Home-Made Fresh-Cherry and Toasted-Almond Ice Cream but also a 'fragrant and magical' cantaloupe ice cream recipe adapted from Jane Grigson. The beauty of these two is that (a) neither requires an ice-cream maker, and (b) they taste fine, and look utterly spectacular, when served together, one scoop of each on a white plate. (Or more, of course.) In the meantime, though, here's a little jewel from one of the more oddbod books on the cookbook shelf: Laura Fronty's Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions.

The French novelist Colette, says Fronty, was writing for Marie-Claire during the harsh winter of 1940, with provisions in short supply and the Nazis moving inexorably towards the occupation of Paris. For this issue of the magazine Colette provided a herbal recipe for violet cough syrup: violets have been used for respiratory disorders since the Middle Ages. She added a tip about how to gather the flowers that sounds just a tiny bit on the Weird Sisters side -- one is tempted to reply 'Well, eye of newt and toe of frog to you too, old girl' -- but at the same time is oddly compelling and memorable. It might be something as simple as Colette's matchless gift for sensory, and sensual, imagery:

"Pennywise housewives who gather medicinal flowers and leaves properly at the right time of the year, do you know why you find that your violet infusion is so bland? It's because you picked your violets in the sun. They must be picked in the shade, when they first begin to bloom. Pick only the blooms without the stems and dry them in the shade, on white paper and not a cloth. Here, we say that the cloth drinks the perfume. Also, beware of marble tables: when they are cold, the chill 'shocks' the flowers, causing them to fold up and lose part of their soul."

1 comment:

elsewhere said...

Friends of mine painted a 'feature wall' in their house recently. They told me the colour was 'eye of newt' -- no kidding; I had to get them to repeat this several times for me. The colour in question was a deep red, tho it looked orangey in the paint tin. Is this really the colour of newts' eyes? (I've never given the matter serious thought till now.)