Leaving the Fire for the Plants

Monticello table.jpg

I traded my 18th century open hearth cooking tools for a drying screen, yogurt maker, scales, jars & more jars.  a Japanese mortar & pestle, and the more streamline blender for the various roots.  Did I get too much smoke in my eyes, bending over a bed of hot red embers or standing in front of a roaring fire when I demonstrated & taught open hearth cooking? 

Almost ten years ago my open hearth friend & cohort, Lori, and I were invited to demonstrate open hearth cooking at Monticello Plantation, the former home of Thomas Jefferson. We chose to show mince meat pies (made with suet, apples, currents & brandy), two types of almond macaroons, two kinds of ginger cookies loaded with ginger, wine jellies "from the feet" (calves’ feet, and penny loaves (a typical bread of the day for the gentry). All the recipes were from our favorite 18th century cooks books: Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife,  Hannah Glasse’s),  and Eliza Lesley’s We even presented vanilla ice-cream from the recipe Jefferson received from France. 

Our five days of demonstrating was the highlight of our open hearth cooking experience. At the time I couldn’t imagine occupying my time with anything else but cooking with 18th century cook books. In each cookbook there were also medicinal remedies that I shrugged off at the time, never realizing that many of the medicinal receipts had merit for their time, not to mention our time. Herbs began to call me and show me another intriguing path, Therapeutic Herbalism. 

After two years studying at Maryland University of Integrated Health, I graduated with a Masters in Therapeutic Herbalism.  I just started a small one person company called Nourish with Thyme. I consider myself a community herbalist, giving educational workshops on using herbs medicinally

Several months ago I signed up with a mentor, my favorite herbalist, Rosalee de la Forét who led the Provence, France workshop last spring. So, with Rosalee’s help I started to take clients to learn the art of becoming a clinical herbalist. My plan is to continue to learn as much as I can about herbs; it will be a lifetime pursuit.

My office resides in the kitchen and garden. I grow herbs in my garden, so that I can dry them for winter use. In the kitchen I weigh dried herbs to make tea formulas, mix alcohol with ground up herbs to make tinctures and infuse oils with herbs in my yogurt maker. Later I heat up those infused oils & beeswax to make salves. Last week I made a salve using rose petals and violet & leaves infused in olive oil with beeswax, just like a herb healer living in the 18th century.