Look Up, Look Down: Escaping to the Real World

When spring peeks stealthily through the trees, the smell of the air transports me – as it were – to my grandmother’s vanity table. There I used to sniff her talcum powder, inhaling an aroma reminiscent of flowers, patting my face with the fluffy white powder puff, until I looked like a singer in a…

With Time and Frost, Things Fall Apart

Fall can be a bittersweet time, a time to look forward to cool-crisp nights, hearty meat-and root-vegetable stews, and the smell of burning leaves, that is, you’re allowed to burn them where you live. On the other hand, the coming of fall and frost signifies the end of the growing season, and the beginning of…

Waiting for Pears

I bought four very green, very hard pears four days ago. Waiting for them to ripen made me think about how quickly everything happens in our lives today. There’s something soothing about watching the ripening process, something profound actually, because no matter how much I might have wanted to make a pear cake, I just…

Lavender Fields Forever

No smell of cow patties flitted through the air, thank goodness. After all, just before lunch who wants to contemplate biting into a sandwich perfumed with the stench of manure? We  stood on the knoll about the Maison Beliveau and watched the black-furred cattle, including two hefty bulls, running down the hill, hell-bent on cozying…

The Random Herbalist: Charlemagne, St. Gall, and the History of Medicine

The history of medicine, a fascinating subject, shows how people began to understand more and more about the corporeal body. Herbs played a big role in the evolution of this understanding, and medieval monasteries encapsulated this knowledge: The curriculum of these cathedral schools embraced originally the Trivium, (arithmetic, grammar, music), and the Quadrivium (dialectics, rhetoric,…

The Random Herbalist: Monks and Plant Migration

Along with dill, which we’ve briefly brushed by, other plants also traveled with the monks as they made their way across Europe: To the monks, who in their way were great gardeners, we are indebted for the introduction of several plants ; and since in many cases the ancient monastery has disappeared, the flowers which…

The Random Herbalist: The Roman Influence on Monastic Gardens

With this post, I celebrate a year of writing “Gherkins & Tomatoes!” Thank you so much to everyone who visits the blog. I look forward to the coming year! The Romans wielded profound influence on the architecture and organization of monasteries … and, hence, on us … centuries later. According to Viollet-le-Duc : —* ”…