One of my favorite tricks to liven up a meal is to play around with different spices. I love adding pepper to different foods--mac n cheese, potato chips--it gives it such a strong, distinct flavor. My Boo-Hoo Flu Soup was probably saved from banality by the heady mix of tarragon, rosemary, and thyme, and I discovered, after sampling different dishes at one of my favorite diners, that a layer of nutmeg in lasagna adds a beautifully rustic kick that distinguishes my lasagna from all the others in the world. In other words, I am a fan of herbs and spices.
But more than just their flavors, I like the idea of herbs and spices. There's something very intriguing about the fact that my little spice rack would have made me the Bill Gates of the 15th century, and it's nice to think that while our meals may have changed, my late, great, medieval ancestors probably shared a fondness for cinnamon (I mean, I assume). And herbs, with their little home garden feel, have all sorts of interesting properties and qualities that you just don't find in things like Twinkies (or I guess Twinkies probably have interesting properties, but none of them would really make you want to eat them).
This is just a long way of saying that I'll be starting a new column focusing on the herbs and spices chefs rely on every day, and even longer way of saying: I'm growing a garden!
The idea for my own herb garden came about many, many months ago, when I was frustrated at having to buy huge packets of basil and cilantro when all I really needed were a few leaves. Growing up, my dad maintained a lovely little herb garden which we regularly raided for tomato sauces and fish seasonings, but I remember it almost as much for the sheer entertainment of breaking off the leaves and smelling all the delicious fragrances.
I finally decided to start my own little garden today, with potting soil and seeds from Home Depot (observation: my local Home Depot's gardening department had been completely ransacked, with barely any seed packets left, while the Home Depot in my building in Manhattan had literally hundreds of options. Astoria beats Manhattan in the green thumb war?). My first container is now sitting outside my porch, looking adorable. While my prowess in the garden is probably about as impressive as in the kitchen (which is to say, not much), I'm hopeful I'll have cheery little shoots soon, which I can obsess over and take pictures of like I was an expectant mom (except expectant moms don't plan on eating their babies. except for hamsters).
I'll regularly update my little garden's progress, in hopes that by July-August I'll finally get to enjoy some lovely, organic, home-grown herbs. Unless I forget to water it, which happens sometimes...