The Bread of Kings by Teresa Lust

Fake Pies and Pig Thighs by Rachel Komich

An Essay in Which Pam Greer Oozes Out of Her Clothes by Richard LeBlond

On Pierogi(s) by Mark Lewandowski

Vegetexting by Jennifer Bal

The Benefits of Eating Too Much in the Desert by E. M. Eastick

A Question of Taste by Meredith Escudier

The Beauty of Pizza by Austin Rogers

Marmalade: The Melomeli of Modern America by Michael Pennell

Three Elizabeths, One George, Hot Cross Buns, and Hampstead Heath by Paula Panich

Duck by Eileen Shields

Food for Thought by Kathryn Jenkins

Playing Mass by Catherine Scherer

My Big Fat Orthodox Thanksgiving by Ruth Carmel

The Astrophysics of a Sandwich by Raychelle Heath

Tantric Chicken by Mara A. Cohen Marks

Full by Kelly Ferguson

Monkey Eve by Carolyn Phillips

Capon by Natasha Sajé

The Paella Perplex by Jeannette Ferrary

The Right to Eat by JT Torres

This Isn't Supposed to Happen in the Morning by Heather Hartley

Recipe for Winter by Khristopher Flack

Step One by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Flour Fool Meets Great Poet and Pie Instructor by Amy Halloran

Everett by Jason Bell

The Intrigue of Aaron Barthel by Kristy Leissle

Personal Sugar Defense Kit by Sari M. Boren

Kitchen Tirade by Eric LeMay

Eat Dessert First by Iris Graville

Parsley by Natasha Sajé

American Zen Breakfast by Dick Allen

This May Make You [Sic] by Paul Graham

Prisoner's Thai Noodles by Byron Case

Lavender Fields by Susan Goodwin

Ménage à Fongo by Kathryn Miles

All That She Could Make with Flour by Katherine Jameison

Weasel by John Gutekanst

Into the Deep Freeze by Jason Anthony

Defining Gluten by Ann Lightcap Bruno

The Text(ure) of Pleasure by Tara Deal

On the Perils of Food-Buying in a Foreign Land by Tony Eprile


by Natasha Sajé

June 2013    

Seven years ago I bought two flat-leaf parsley plants for my rocky garden in the foothills of Salt Lake City. The Latin name for parsley, petroselinum, comes from the Greek word for stone, petro, because parsley could grow on arid hills in Greece.

I was then married to a chef who taught me to wash and dry it well, then chop it with a freshly sharpened knife. He would tie up the papery bright green flakes in a cloth to keep in the refrigerator. When I close my eyes, I can see his knife flashing like a shooting star through the pink salmon flesh, not losing any meat while filleting it. When you know how to do something, you can do it faster, and with the speed comes elegance.

From a website on herbs, I read that parsley, as a biennial, is “a headache to most gardeners. It sprouts from seed the first season, but usually does not flower or fruit until the second, after which it dies. Many experienced gardeners sow seeds of biennials every year to save the trouble and uncertainty of wondering when they must be planted in order to survive permanently.” I now have thousands of parsley plants that seed themselves, with new ones springing up in the most unwelcoming crevices. One area some five feet in diameter, under a pine tree where nothing has grown before, is thick with waist-high parsley plants at all stages. Their vigor and unpredictability please me.

It is four years since Tyrone died, of lymphoma. Now my partner is Laura, a vegetarian whose idea of cooking is following the instructions on boxes. She’s awed by my cooking, which I keep telling her isn’t anywhere as good as Tyrone’s. The Greeks didn’t use parsley in cooking, but it was revered as a symbol of oblivion and death and as a funeral herb. Myths say that parsley grew where the blood of Archemorus was spilled when the child was left alone and then eaten by serpents. I think of the hundreds of vials of blood taken from Tyrone during his illness.

I am surprised to read that most gardeners prefer curly-leafed parsley so as not to confuse the plant with poison hemlock, conium (fool’s parsley), a neurotoxin. I recognize the difference: hemlock leaves are lacier, and the plants thrive only in early spring. They need the moisture that parsley does not. Hemlock leaves are rank when crushed, while parsley has an aroma that suggests the kitchen. When I eat parsley I feel pure, as though I am giving myself the greenest of green. I am, of course, for parsley is filled with vitamins. Da springen die Vitamine, my father would say, when looking at a mound of parsley ready to chop into potato salad. Parsley, like spinach, contains oxalates, which interfere with calcium absorption. But its volatile oils are antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, K, and folic acid are abundant in its leaves.

When Tyrone became ill, we turned up our already good diet into a fever pitch of excellence, buying only organic fruits and vegetables, cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates. I’ve kept it up since he died, finding myself unable to consume anything that isn’t fresh, as if I could be causing my own demise. Sometimes, I know, this is a neurosis.

Parsley contains apiol, an oil which Hippocrates used to regularize menstruation or cause abortion, something still practiced in the Middle East, where abortions are mostly illegal. It would be difficult to eat enough parsley to do harm, but high doses of the extracted oil cause kidney and liver damage. Parsley is a diuretic, and men with swollen testicles used to be treated with a topical paste made of parsley and snails. Parsley was smoked as a cannabis substitute in the 1960’s. Parsley paste draws out the venom of poisonous insect bites. I will try this the next time I am stung by a yellow jacket.

I love using the roots in stock, where they deepen the flavor.

Parsley sweetens your breath. When I began dating Laura, I used to go out to the garden and eat parsley before kissing her.

My friend Catherine hosted a potluck in the 80’s where most of the guests brought tabbouli, that Middle Eastern salad of bulgur wheat and parsley. The salad is ubiquitous, but like most common things, can achieve sublimity if treated carefully. Now that I have a parsley garden, I am rarely satisfied with other cooks’ tabbouli because it does not contain enough parsley, and what there is, is flavorless. The poorer the soil, the more concentrated the flavor of the herb, which explains why parsley bought in a store doesn’t taste as good as home-grown on rocky construction debris. I like making tabbouli with short grain brown rice, with sprouted mung beans, or with quinoa, and I use a lot of parsley. It is, perhaps, an acquired taste to someone used to a mere dusting of parsley garnish, but Laura is a convert, and perhaps you will be, too. Here is a recipe:

Begin by gathering 11 quarts of parsley sprigs. Yes, this is a very large bowlful, larger than you think you need and larger than you want to need. But the parsley will make your tabbouli worth eating. Wash the herb (I soak it in cold water, lift it out, and use a salad spinner to dry it). Then wrap the already fairly dry parsley in a towel. At this point you can chill the parsley and cook the grain. If you are using quinoa, cook two cups of rinsed quinoa in 3 cups of salted water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Let it cool, then fluff it with your fingers.

Chop the parsley with a sharp knife. This is time consuming, but do not take the shortcut of the food processor whose blades tear and then puree the herb, making pesto.

The other flavor components of tabbouli are supplied by lemon juice (at least four lemons for the quantity above) and ½ large red onion or 1 good sized shallot, minced. I also like to add minced hot pepper (green or red), and ½ cup dried currants, plumped up first in hot water, and fresh chopped mint (try ¼ cup). When these things have been added to the very large bowl of chopped parsley and the cooked, cooled quinoa, you can add salt and pepper and olive oil. The salad keeps for a week, and tastes better the next day.

I never seem to tire of it, but perhaps that’s because parsley is a two-season herb in Utah. New plants come up in spring and fall, while in the summer I can only use the trimmings of soon-to-seed plants, those mature and tough side leaflets. Moreover, unlike rosemary, parsley doesn’t do well in pots. After the first real snow, its cells break into glassy chlorophyll wetness, sweet, but good only for flavoring soup. I don’t make tabbouli in the winter or summer because I know it’s just a matter of months until the springy and resilient green plants will be everywhere, just a few months until, once again, I’ll have more than I need.

  Natasha Sajé is the author of three books of poems, Red Under the Skin, Bend and the forthcoming Vivarium; and a forthcoming book of prose, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory. Sajé teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and in the Vermont College M.F.A. in Writing Program.

Photo used under Creative Commons.