The Seminoles, Eli Lilly, and the Ancient Saw Palmetto of Florida

Florida’s vegetation reminds me of a willful, obstinate child. You know, the one who seems to be everywhere all at once and defies  all the rules, crossing the line on limits, chocolate smeared across her face, filched from a secret and forbidden stash. Wild and ungovernable, in other words. And saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is one of the wildest…

“Nothing is More the Child of Art than a Garden”*

In the dead of a winter night, I dreamt of a green, sun-filled garden, filled with the thick fat leaves of a jade plant, the feathery tendrils of ferns. I stood in a glassed-walled room, misty with gauzy air, as many dreams are wont to be. Before me, on the other side of the glass,…

Letting Go of Things that Matter Not

I have a story to tell. It’s not the usual story that unfolds here. It’s a story of meeting up with the inevitability of mortality. As I lay on a stretcher in an ambulance barreling down I-81, sirens blaring at 9 o’clock on an ink-black night, I wasn’t thinking of literature. I wasn’t thinking of…

From the Tudor Kitchens of England to the New World

During these cold and fraught winter days, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of the Tudors, rulers of England from 1485 to 1603. It’s a very different world from the one I’m currently living in. But it’s not without its own moments of violence, political wangling, and greed. That’s the intriguing thing about history….

Elinor Cooks the Christmas Goose

[Note: This is a portion of a larger work in progress.] Elinor waited until Daniel and Julian left the tavern’s kitchen. Then she tightened her apron and turned to the large wooden worktable facing the hearth. The white goose lay in the market basket, its neck tilted at a squared-off angle, its sightless eye pointing upward,…

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme … and Lavender

First, a pinch of etymology. The Greeks called lavender nardus after the Syrian city of Naardus, from which comes the word “spikenard.” (More on spikenard in a second.) As for our word, “lavender,” we must once again thank the Latin language for lavare, meaning, “to wash.” A member of the mint family, and cousin to…