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April 23, 2007
A Robust Side Dish . . . Lavender?

Pretty colors, in nature, send messages. This is true of frogs with toxic skins, and it is also true of pretty, pretty flowers. 

This message, in polite society, is often mistaken as one of softness. This is an error, one that has led to the long-time culinary neglect for something as simple as lavender.


It is assumed, because of lavender’s blue color, that it is something best relegated to the bath tub, the potpourri pot or even the tea infuser. If one were to say “lavender” and “dessert” to you, you might nod your head in unspoken agreement, because this is the way things sound like they are supposed to be. If one were to say “lavender” and “robust side dish” to you, you might say, “Yes, one will follow the other.” That the two might be one in the same has not often crossed the popular mind. It is time to correct this misperception.


This is a lesson best learned not necessarily through a main dish, but through something that will play a supporting role in your meal. This way, you are introduced to the concept of strength through color gradually and can approach the matter at a later date in a more strategic manner.


It starts with our unassuming friend, the potato. Color-coded name is irrelevant, but size is not. Best to stick with something small and easily pushed around with your common kitchen utensil, something either categorized in potato talk as being a fingerling or perhaps simply “new.”


Size here does matter. If you think that there is even so much as a smidge of a chance that the potatoes might be too big for your purposes – if there is even the slightest worry that the potato might seize control – by all means feel liberated to cut them into smaller pieces.


Place your potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Sprinkle on the water some dried lavender buds.


Boil the water with potatoes and lavender in it, and continue cooking your potatoes until such time as they are soft enough that you can easily skewer them but before they begin to lose form in the water.


You will notice something here, a piece of foreshadowing. Your kitchen might take on a smell that is both robust and also mildly exotic. Certainly, you say to yourself, this isn’t the same lavender that you’ve always known. This isn’t the same lavender that you find in high-end soaps, or in certain herbal teas or even the odd dessert.


This, you say to yourself, isn’t the girl you married. She is complex and full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve gotten to know lavender, she removes another veil from her face, and turns into someone entirely different.


If the prospect of this hasn’t excited you, it’s because you are lying in the cold, cold ground.


Once your potatoes have reached this point, it is time to drain them. Do not dispose of the lavender buds that have boiled with your potatoes. Instead, take them and dump them on top of your potatoes. There is still one leg of this journey, and you will want lavender and potato to complete it together.


Take a thick skillet and melt butter in the bottom of it. Toss in the potatoes and stir around to coat them. Over these, sprinkle some thyme. Stir all of them together, and sprinkle in more dried lavender buds. This will help ensure that you will lock in the robust flavor that you first smelled when the potatoes boiled.


Heat these until the white part of the potato begins to brown. Your potatoes are already cooked, and this will both seal in flavors and unleash those in need of unleashing.


When this is finished, apply salt and stir to again coat.


Your potatoes are now finished, and it’s now time to pick a side dish. It’s worth noting that this is a serious side dish with serious implications. It is wise to choose carefully what you eat this with, because this would be a rare opportunity where the supporting cast members are more powerful than the main players. This is a situation worth avoiding, because a dinner where the main event is upstaged by mere potatoes is the kind of affair that could live long in one’s personal lock box of personal humiliations.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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This is Column # EB029. Request permission to publish here.