The kitchen smells wonderful right now.
There’s bread cooling on the counter, caramel rolls rising in the oven, and herbs hanging from the cupboard doors.
The bread is a staple. I always make my own because it’s just plain better. This particular loaf is bulgar wheat, to which I added some oatmeal and ground flax seed. If you’re gonna eat carbs, they might as well be good ones.
On the other hand, the caramel rolls are a seldom-seen treat, and would hardly qualify as good carbs. At one time, these or something like them were a Saturday morning tradition. Every other day of the week started with some sort of nutritious breakfast, but on Saturdays we threw caution to the winds and had homemade rolls or coffee cake and generous helpings of bacon. If you’re going to roust kids out of bed on a non-school day, this kind of breakfast lets you get away with it.
At this stage in my life, I’m watching numbers–blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, you name it, I’m trying to tame it. Breakfast is now cottage cheese, oatmeal, or–if I’m feeling really daring–toast and peanut butter. And shame on those heartless Facebook people who post one decadent picture after another of succulent treats dripping in butter and layered with brown sugar, chocolate and gobs of peanut butter, or stacks of bacon-and-cheese and… Need I say more?
I guess it was a fit of nostalgia–or one of those Facebook pictures–that sent me to my cookbook today, leafing through the pages until I found those one-rise caramel rolls of long ago. It felt really good to mix that brown sugar and cream in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, and then line up the rolls, filled with sugar and cinnamon, to rise in the oven for tonight’s treat, tomorrow’s breakfast, and a space in the freezer for later. Take that, Dr. If-it-tastes-good-spit-it-out!
The herbs are newcomers. Over the years, I’ve learned to cook with them, and have reached the point where I’m tempted to take my own herb supply with me when we eat at a restaurant. None of them put garlic and thyme on their grilled pork chops, or cover a pork roast with fresh rosemary. Even the scrambled eggs are pale imitations of the garlic-and-pepper laced versions that come to our table.
So, although I’ve learned to love herbs, I’d never grown my own–until last year. Four little plants that were so much fun I doubled their numbers this year. Basil, of course, my very favorite herb for any savory dish; hot-and-spicy oregano; parsley (which I’ve decided is pretty insipid); lemon thyme (so wonderful on fish!); and the tea additives–peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm and my very favorite, chocolate peppermint.
Every now and then during the summer I grab my scissors and whack off the newest growth, tying the stems with strings for hanging upside down to dry. We have no basement and no attic, but I do have cupboard doors with knobs. Every door sports something in various stages of desiccation. And, I learned the hard way to label each little bundle, because it can be hard to tell one bunch of dried herbs from another.
When I’m cutting and tying, the herb oils stain my hand with lingering scents that I’m loathe to wash off. When I’m grinding the dried herbs for use later, bursts of taste waft through the house even though my tongue is in my mouth.
Through it all, I feel so very domestic. That’s the only way I can describe the self-satisfied contentment I get from growing and using my own herbs. The same feelings accompany bread-baking and hanging clothes on the line to dry. I think it harkens back to the days when the family’s daily well-being depended on these little hands-on activities for which there were no short cuts. It’s caring for each other in a basic way that demands time and attention and the love that takes the drudgery out of it. It somehow feels more wholesome, more personal, than hamburger-helper or pop tarts.
And the resultant smells in my house? They’re the original and best room fresheners.