Culinary Herbs

In these days of jaded appetites, condiments and canned goods, how

fondly we turn from the dreary monotony of the "dainty" menu to the

memory of the satisfying dishes of our mothers! What made us, like

Oliver Twist, ask for more? Were those flavors real, or was it

association and natural, youthful hunger that enticed us? Can we ever

forget them; or, what is more practical, can we again realize them? We

may find the sec
et and the answer in mother's garden. Let's peep in.

The garden, as in memory we view it, is not remarkable except for its

neatness and perhaps the mixing of flowers, fruits and vegetables as we

never see them jumbled on the table. Strawberries and onions, carrots

and currants, potatoes and poppies, apples and sweet corn and many other

as strange comrades, all grow together in mother's garden in the utmost


All these are familiar friends; but what are those plants near the

kitchen? They are "mother's sweet herbs." We have never seen them on the

table. They never played leading roles such as those of the cabbage and

the potato. They are merely members of "the cast" which performed the

small but important parts in the production of the pleasing tout

ensemble--soup, stew, sauce, or salad--the remembrance of which, like

that of a well-staged and well-acted drama, lingers in the memory long

after the actors are forgotten.

Probably no culinary plants have during the last 50 years been so

neglected. Especially during the "ready-to-serve" food campaign of the

closed quarter century did they suffer most. But they are again coming

into their own. Few plants are so easily cultivated and prepared for

use. With the exception of the onion, none may be so effectively

employed and none may so completely transform the "left-over" as to

tempt an otherwise balky appetite to indulge in a second serving without

being urged to perform the homely duty of "eating it to save it."

Indeed, sweet herbs are, or should be the boon of the housewife, since

they make for both pleasure and economy. The soup may be made of the

most wholesome, nutritious and even costly materials; the fish may be

boiled or baked to perfection; the joint or the roast and the salad may

be otherwise faultless, but if they lack flavor they will surely fail

in their mission, and none of the neighbors will plot to steal the cook,

as they otherwise might did she merit the reputation that she otherwise

might, by using culinary herbs.

This doleful condition may be prevented and the cook enjoy an enviable

esteem by the judicious use of herbs, singly or in combination. It is

greatly to be regretted that the uses of these humble plants, which seem

to fall lower than the dignity of the title "vegetable," should be so

little understood by intelligent American housewives.

In the flavoring of prepared dishes we Americans--people, as the French

say, "of one sauce"--might well learn a lesson from the example of the

English matron who usually considers her kitchen incomplete without a

dozen or more sweet herbs, either powdered, or in decoction, or

preserved in both ways. A glance into a French or a German culinary

department would probably show more than a score; but a careful search

in an American kitchen would rarely reveal as many as half a dozen, and

in the great majority probably only parsley and sage would be brought to

light. Yet these humble plants possess the power of rendering even

unpalatable and insipid dishes piquant and appetizing, and this, too, at

a surprisingly low cost. Indeed, most of them may be grown in an

out-of-the-way corner of the garden, or if no garden be available, in a

box of soil upon a sunny windowsill--a method adopted by many foreigners

living in tenement houses in New York and Jersey City. Certainly they

may be made to add to the pleasure of living and, as Solomon declares,

"better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox with


It is to be regretted that the moving picture show and the soda water

fountain have such an influence in breaking up old-fashioned family

evenings at home when everyone gathered around the evening lamp to enjoy

homemade dainties. In those good old days the young man was expected to

become acquainted with the young woman in the home. The girl took pride

in serving solid and liquid culinary goodies of her own construction.

Her mother, her all-sufficient guide, mapped out the sure, safe, and

orthodox highway to a man's heart and saw to it that she learned how to

play her cards with skill and precision. Those were the days when a

larger proportion "lived happy ever after" than in modern times, when

recreation and refreshment are sought more frequently outside than

inside the walls of home.

But it is not too late to learn the good old ways over again and enjoy

the good old culinary dainties. Whoever relishes the summer cups that

cheer but do not inebriate may add considerably to his enjoyment by

using some of the sweet herbs. Spearmint adds to lemonade the pleasing

pungency it as readily imparts to a less harmful but more notorious

beverage. The blue or pink flowers of borage have long been famous for

the same purpose, though they are perhaps oftener added to a mixture of

honey and water, to grape juice, raspberry vinegar or strawberry acid.

All that is needed is an awakened desire to re-establish home comforts

and customs, then a little later experimentation will soon fix the herb


The list of home confections may be very pleasingly extended by candying

the aromatic roots of lovage, and thus raising up a rival to the candied

ginger said to be imported from the Orient. If anyone likes coriander

and caraway--I confess that I don't--he can sugar the seeds to make

those little "comfits," the candies of our childhood which our mothers

tried to make us think we liked to crunch either separately or sprinkled

on our birthday cakes. Those were before the days when somebody's name

was "stamped on every piece" to aid digestion. Can we ever forget the

picnic when we had certain kinds of sandwiches? Our mothers minced sweet

fennel, the tender leaves of sage, marjoram or several other herbs,

mixed them with cream cheese, and spread a layer between two thin slices

of bread. Perhaps it was the swimming, or the three-legged racing, or

the swinging, or all put together, that put a razor edge on our

appetites and made us relish those sandwiches more than was perhaps

polite; but will we not, all of us who ate them, stand ready to dispute

with all comers that it was the flavors that made us forget "our


But sweet herbs may be made to serve another pleasing, an aesthetic

purpose. Many of them may be used for ornament. A bouquet of the pale

pink blossoms of thyme and the delicate flowers of marjoram, the

fragrant sprigs of lemon balm mixed with the bright yellow umbels of

sweet fennel, the finely divided leaves of rue and the long glassy ones

of bergamot, is not only novel in appearance but in odor. In sweetness

it excels even sweet peas and roses. Mixed with the brilliant red

berries of barberry and multiflora rose, and the dark-green branches of

the hardy thyme, which continues fresh and sweet through the year, a

handsome and lasting bouquet may be made for a midwinter table

decoration, a fragrant reminder of Shakespeare's lines in "A Winter's


"Here's flowers for you;

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;

The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun

And with him rises weeping."

The rare aroma of sweet marjoram reminds so many city people of their

mother's and their grandmother's country gardens, that countless muslin

bags of the dried leaves sent to town ostensibly for stuffing poultry

never reach the kitchen at all, but are accorded more honored places in

the living room. They are placed in the sunlight of a bay window where

Old Sol may coax forth their prisoned odors and perfume the air with

memories of childhood summers on the farm.

Other memories cling to the delicate little lavender, not so much

because the owner of a well-filled linen closet perfumed her spotless

hoard with its fragrant flowers, but because of more tender

remembrances. Would any country wedding chest be complete without its

little silk bags filled with dried lavender buds and blooms to add the

finishing touch of romance to the dainty trousseau of linen and lace?

What can recall the bridal year so surely as this same kindly lavender?