This post is a special post for International Kitchen Garden Day which was celebrated yesterday.
The humble herbs have been faithful companion to both cook and gardener for centuries. Anyone with room for a herbaceous plot in their outdoor space is blessed indeed, and so is their food. Flavour and fragrance runs careful riot in rows here and reminds us of the difference one small sprig or sprinkle, one leaf, might make to the whole of a meal. Likewise, one person with a full and flavoursome faith may make ordinary tasks fragrant, done as they are for the love of God. And so the kitchen and its garden can become places where the Lord’s hospitality is shared out, where people may come and discover that his ways do indeed taste good, and the smallest gesture of kindness rises as a pleasant aroma.
Traditionally a kitchen garden was a walled off piece of ground near the kitchens of a large house, where the vegetables and herbs needed to keep a busy household running would stay sheltered from the wind and be quick to fetch for the harassed scullery maids, almost like a living larder. Nowadays walled gardens are rare, but the immediacy of such freshness is a practicality still much appreciated by many, and lots of people have vegetable plots or allotments, or even grow their herb gardens on a windowsill or in a window box.
All this makes me wonder, who or what the flavours are that we would be lost without? Who are the stalwarts that we go to for wisdom or solace that are so close or so available that if we aren’t careful, we can become guilty of grabbing a few leaves whenever we need to, taking them for granted? Aunt Rosemary, Brother Basil, Father Thyme?
As a writer, my mind immediately goes to the books that I always have near to hand. My life’s window box contains my Bible of course, but also my journals, and those people who have had most to contribute to my learning: Richard Rohr; Teresa of Avila; Brother Lawrence; Francis de Sales; and so on, but also those books that bring a hint of magic into my life by taking me back to my childhood: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Series; Johanna Spyri’s Heidi; C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. And the wit and hilarity of Jane Austen, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are always close by. But doesn’t each one have their own resoundingly individual flavour? Doesn’t each writer, each artist, each person, each soul, have an essence that enriches our experience? Jesus used the image of salt to help us understand how to live out our lives as flavoursome taste-bringers.
I hope then, that we can all learn how to be our individual, appealing and wondrous selves, singing our own song, writing our own words, speaking with our own voice, expressing our true selves and not one of us exactly like another. This world is God’s kitchen garden, and perhaps we might imagine him walking slowly through the rows, in the cool of the evening, rubbing his fingers on our leaves and delighting in the fragrance that rises, savouring each plant and what it brings to the mix.