The Reasons We Use Rosemary

Contributed by on 15/01/11

This is how it happens. First it’s an experiment, then it’s a novelty. Then it’s habit. It’s just what you do.

We sit and eat and talk and the chicken is tender and aromatic and tasty, tangy with salt and rosemary. Until a few years ago I had never tasted rosemary, which seems surreal to think of it now.

Chicken without rosemary? The two things seem to go hand in hand, now. We’ve become boring about it. Instinctively, we grab a few leaves from the garden whenever a recipe calls for chicken, even if it doesn’t call for the seasoning.

We eat a lot of chicken, too, and that’s another habit. Like the wine, which we sometimes go through phases of drinking too much of.

A couple of years back, we lived in a house with a garden that was far too lovely for a rental property. Back then, I wouldn’t know a herb garden if I fell through one into a magical fantasy dimension, but there was this lovely semi-circle brick bench in our borrowed garden, with pine green branches that fell around your shoulders when you sat there. The scent of rosemary fell around you with them, like a cloud.

You all already knew what that smells like, but it was all new to me. All new to our dog, as well. Most of the time with a dog, they seem to do one random thing after another, with an expression on their face that always looks either tragic or expectant, and you’re never entirely sure how much of an intelligence is driving their actions, but in that house our dog was forever walking in, her fur smelling of rosemary, and in this house she chooses to rub the same scent into her back as well. Except for the times when she comes in followed by a gust of mint, which it turns out was also growing here when we bought the place.

You knew about rosemary, and you already knew that it’s the most natural thing in the world to put it with chicken, too, but for us at that point we really didn’t have a clue.

There are odd little watersheds in your life, that aren’t really particularly dramatic, but over time have a more impressive cumulative effect. Like a decision that takes you into a parallel universe, but instead of it being a place where all monkeys can fly, or Sarah Palin is presidente for life of the USA, the differences are more subtle, like you prefer Indian food instead of Chinese, or the pizza places think it’s normal to put pineapple on their pies.

In this case, the thing that changed was working out that we could use the rosemary from the bush as seasoning when we were roasting chicken. It might seem like a ridiculous thing, but the realisation that you can use the same stuff that grows in your garden in the kitchen isn’t something that everyone is born with, and once you break through that particular barrier, suddenly it’s like you’re Richard Briers in The Good Life.

Mmm, Felicity Kendall.

To begin with, it feels like the weirdest, tastiest thing in the world. Then before long you can’t imagine a roast dinner that doesn’t fill your house with that aroma. Before long you’re making your own chicken stock, and growing your own courgettes in the garden of your own house. And then eventually, it doesn’t feel that special making a soup entirely out of home-grown carrots, but you resent the hell out of buying ready-made stock cubes.

And then it’s just your life. It’s just what you do. It’s like you’re living a whole new life, that’s a fairly close facsimile of the last one. You go through maybe a thousand of these little iterations in a lifetime, and most of the time you don’t notice them happening. They don’t change you, but they do change the things you do, which is near as hell the same thing. You take up the same space, but you leave a different footprint.

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