April 11 ...
According to the Gregorian calendar, the plant for this day, dedicated to St Leo, was the Dandelion (Leontodon taraxacum), a member of the sunflower family which is far less grand than the signature member, and in fact usually considered to be a weed.
My appreciation of the dandelion is coloured by two childhood perceptions. One was the sincerely repeated folktale that if you picked dandelions you would wet the bed. This was clearly not a belief confined to the north of
‘Dandelion and Burdock’, for those of you uninitiated into its delights, is Britain’s answer to root beer or sarsparilla – or is it that root beer and sarsparilla are America’s answer to Dandelion and Burdock? The modern drink is a completely dandelion-less, burdock-less, artificially-coloured, artificially-flavoured, highly sweetened bastard offspring of what was once a medicinal concoction. Many herbs and wayside ‘weeds’ were once used extensively for their medicinal value - dandelion was used for everything from ‘inward bruises’ and pleurisy to liver disorders for example. Medicine was cheap in those days – you just went out and picked it, no dispensing fee charged.
Dandelion was also a useful salad green or pot-herb, and still could be, if we bothered with it – as the French still do. It seems that the Americans used to use it this way too (do you still?)
These are relished by many as well as spinach cooked in the same way. Take the young leaves before the plant blossoms or while in bud, mash quite clean, boil tender in salted water, drain well and press them dry. They can be served plain with melted butter or can by chopped and heated afresh with pepper, salt, and a little butter rolled in flour, and a spoonful or two of gravy or cream. A lareg quantity should be boiled, as they shrink very much. The dandelion is considered very healthy, and the slight bitterness is relished by most persons.
[Jennie June's American Cookery Book. 1870]
Monday’s Story …
Chicken pie without the chicken.
Quotation for the Day …
Speaking of food, English cuisine has received a lot of unfair criticism over the years, but the truth is that it can be a very pleasant surprise to the connoisseur of severely overcooked livestock organs served in lukewarm puddles of congealed grease.