Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Woolf’


July 13, 2009 7 comments

In spring,
some sprinkle lamb with a seasoning of sea salt, with garlic, bay and rosemary, and spit-roast the meat, for a festive gathering in Genoa or Crete, but I don’t; for my gathering is of petals of my damask roses, a gathering of thousands in the uplands of Iran.

In summer,
some swim at leisure in the salt Aegean or play on crowded beach. Such opportunities are not within my reach, as I sort out the figures for the tax to be paid, on export orders for attar of roses, superior grade.

In summer too,
I receive the almonds from my bowing trees, buying sea salt from Brittany, to season a proportion of the crop, which is roasted to perfection and tied up prettily, in bags that I have made from patterned cloth. The remainder of the produce of my sheltered orchard, I shell and grind and sell for use in fine confections.

In autumn,
when the crocus corm, salt of the earth and worth the wait, comes into bloom, I take no rest. The precision extraction of splinters of stigma is an endurance test. The task is barely done, before I weigh and pack and label the insubstantial wisps, which have been set to dry, and seal each little box with wax, red for première qualité, pricing them according to the tax that will be levied and the value of the labour that has gone into the production of every gram of saffron.

In winter,
in Stockholm, some bake saffron bread for the welcoming of visitors. In Brussels, others, when dining in company, proffer pastel-tinted macaroons with after-dinner coffee. In Edinburgh, others still, invite invited guests to drink a dram and nibble salted offerings and cake of brandied fruit with, concealed beneath the icing, a layer of marzipan. In Lombardy, my stigma gild saffron risotto, for those who meet and greet in the restaurants of Milan.

Meanwhile, everywhere, glassy cubes of loukoum waft their rosy perfume, redolent of breathless days of May, bewitching children with their alchemy and getting faces sticky.

Thus the yield my harvest brings will take me to Morocco, where they lay lemons down in salt, to make a piquant condiment, added as ingredient, together with some whispered strands of stigma plucked by my own hands, to suffuse a lamb tagine with taste beyond imagining, renewing bonds with kith and kin.

For the very act of sharing a repast in rich conviviality is, itself, a seasoning, without price and tax-free.

by Rachel Woolf

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