Spotlight on Italian herbs: Bay

The very first time I came across bay leaves  was in the soups and stews my mother used to prepare for me and my family with love and a special eye towards herbs and spices. She was the one who advised me to be careful not to use too much of it because the flavor would increase during cooking. I  did not totally refuse the strong and aromatic smell but I wasn’t really keen to have it on my plate. Let me add that the dried, brown, partly crumbled smelly pieces did not look very appetizing either. Therefore, when I moved  to Tuscany and started to write my first books about the people and their food I was quite astonished to find a completely different bay. The leaves, in fact, were glossy, dark green on the upper side, light green on the lower one, very aromatic and spicy, perfect to give a special touch to venison, ragù, fish, stews and other tasty dishes. I was equally surprised when I saw the dimension of the plant: vigorous bushes often used as hedges or big trees, ten to fifteen meters high. By now I was curious to learn more about this giant. Of course I knew from school that Cesar loved to wear a bay leaf crown but already centuries before him the ancient Sumer people used to award the winners of the boxing matches with bay. The Greek deity Apollo declared the plant sacred because it was considered a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, triumph and glory. Whoever distinguished himself through brave and fearless acts had the right to wear bay wreaths.  A little at a time things changed and if a famous English writer at the beginning of the 20th century exclaimed …”Is there something more beautiful in life than a bay crown?”…a German colleague found bay …“a bitter leaf, for the one who is longing to possess it and the one who has it”. By the end of the 20th century  an Italian author talks about bay as  “mere vegetable fading quickly away”. Today, leaving out the use in kitchen the leaves find a certain application for its antiseptic, calming and stimulating properties.

Bay Infusion

The use of bay leaves or berries in the cosmetic field  is not very large but lovers and walkers of high heeled shoes will surely appreciate this footbath recipe – specially after a whole day on your feet.

1 handful of bay leaves/1 liter of water

Bring water to boil and add the bay leaves. Simmer for about ten minutes, then turn of the heat and leave to infuse until the water is lukewarm. Pour into a basin, add hot water and enjoy your footbath for ten to fifteen minutes.

Magic to attract money

The magical field, at the contrary, is rich in small rites and  secrets capable of changing your life.

Of fundamental importance is your tenacity! Money will come – or at least it should…

1 liter of water possible spring water (purity)/1 spoonful of bay leaves (success)/1 cinnamon stick and some basil leaves (money)/1 handful of cloves (good luck)/1 small spoonful of ginger (overcoming of the difficulties)/A sage sprig (happiness)/½ spoonful of grated nutmeg (good luck)

Cook all the ingredients in boiling spring water on a low flame for about thirty minutes, then remove from heat and leave to cool. Pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Spray under the soles of your shoes and around your house or apartment.

Sachets for cupboards

Your nature is practical and you don’t believe in magic but would like to use bay leaves because you like the smell? Prepare  sachets for your cupboards: no moth will survive…

2 spoonfuls each of the following herbs:

Orris root (herbalist’s shop)/Bay/Lavender/Marjoram/Rosemary/Sage/Thyme Handkerchiefs or pieces of cotton or linen/Ribbon

Transfer all ingredients into a container with a lid, mix them very well and leave in a cool, dark and dry place for a couple of days. Transfer the mixture on the cloth, close with a ribbon and distribute in the cupboards.

Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany

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One Response to Spotlight on Italian herbs: Bay

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