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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Favorite(s) – WHB 1 Year Anniversary

First- congrats to Kalyn for coming up with the Weekend Herb Blogging idea! Every week brings out new and interesting ideas from a seemingly inexhaustible worldwide supply. Always fun to read! And this week's topic is fun as well. Favorites. For , sponsored by .

It’s not fair to say that I have participated in this weekly online event, as really it is as much TeenGirl as it is me doing the participating. Both in the searching for herbs as well as in the researching of ways to use them. Somehow, the WHB concept fit what we were already more or less doing. Wandering around our Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, looking for new, and yes, unusual, things to try.



I guess for many, it’s especially enjoyable to find the familiar. To relive that particular pleasure over and over. Always a bit apprehensive that the special something may not be available, always filled with joy to find it once again.

But I’ve never been like that.

In fact, more the opposite.

So we go on our weekly search, not for the familiar, but more for the unexpected.

And that comes in two forms. Either something we’ve never heard of before. Like Hoja Santa leaves, or Pepicha. Or, new ways to create something we’ve tried many times. Like mustard ice cream. Or frozen gazpacho soup with frozen cilantro leaves.

But, of course, even the nuttiest of explorers eventually come home on occasion to enjoy the tried and true. Refuel, as it were, on the known to build up more energy to seek the unknown.

And, of course, we can ponder what it is we reach for when we want some tried and true.



Like when I see some fresh cilantro, and just have to gently rub a few leaves and breath in that unique aroma.

Or when carefully stripping the tiny leaves off the thyme twigs and you forget what you were doing as the woodsy aroma envelops you.

Or feeling the tactilely sensuous sage leaves as they are plucked and chopped for a smoky and savory braised stew.

Or being unable to get the sliced heirloom tomatoes to the table because the fresh licorice scent of the tarragon dressing was so irresistible and all the tomatoes, with dressing, had to be eaten in the kitchen, with almost none for anyone else.

Yes, there’s oregano, and basil. And of course lemon verbena. And bay. Not to mention dill, or mint, and of course, the most often used herb of all, parsley. We put parsley on and in everything. If favorite were based on usage, parsley would win hands down.

Of course, it's always a bit anticlimactic to talk about absolute favorites. Because by definition it is the realm of the known. And it's not as if the items lower on the list are necessarily bad in any way.



But when we talked about it, the first herb we both mentioned was tarragon.

But I think that is mainly because summer has just ended. I love tarragon in the summer. On a fresh sliced tomato salad. That has to be the summer winner.

But in the cooler months, sage takes the lead. Sage, braised for a long time in stews, or sprinkled on top of things, or fried and added as a garnish. There is an old saying “Is it fair one should die when there is sage growing in the garden?”. Of course not. It adds that complex, deep, smoky dimension that takes simple food from kindergarten into the adult world.

So said, if I could only have one of the two, maybe at the end of the day it would be tarragon.

But, tarragon represents only half the answer to the question.

Because the other half is in the quest.

My other favorite herb is the one I’ve not yet tried. The one I’ve not yet discovered. The one sitting innocently at the Asian stand at the Farmer’s market. Or hidden on the shelves of the Indian market. Or offered for sale at a roadside stand on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Or something I have yet to stumble upon in traveling to Hungary, or Slovakia, or some other place I’ve yet to see all of. The one who’s exquisite flavor is just sitting there, waiting for me to discover it.

And that’s the fun. As we’ve found out week after week, the adventure is often to be able to see these things hiding right under your nose. To force yourself to look past the known, to discard preconceived notions, and to be willing to stretch a bit. And looking for ways to use the herbs. In unfamiliar cuisines. Or with new techniques. Or together with combinations that seemed unlikely before.

Even if every new discovery does not necessarily make the list of favorite herbs.

Because sometimes, the hunt is as much a part of the fun as the eating.

So, to answer the question posed by Kalyn, I have two favorite herbs. Tarragon (or sage? no tarragon! well, maybe sage, but also tarragon!!) and the one I am still searching for.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kalyn said...

Your writing is so great. I love reading each week about the interesting things you're discovering.

7:26 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn,

Thanks! But you're the one doing all the hard work, we're just having fun!

7:36 PM  

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