Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Curious Case of Mr Basil

In 1995 I read in a magazine that you should never consider the birth and raising of a child if you are incapable of cultivating and maintaining the life of a plant.  This seems like a solid proposition to me. 

Although it was Cosmopolitan magazine and I did at the time question the topical expertise of "How To..." girls musing on the credentials of parenthood or horticulture, I have utilised this statement as a shield to the numerous grandchildren themed conversation segues attempted by my parents over the years.

"Did you know David's daughter Lindy, well she and her husband, Michael, they are expecting their..." 

"Mum, I killed my Ficas"

"and Susan, since her daughter Andrea had..."

"Actually Mum, I've been meaning to tell you, the Pilodendron, I dropped him."

You can imagine then the risk I take in writing this post about my only and greatest herbaceous achievement.  Mr Basil.

Mr Basil's early days were fairly standard as basil plants go, spending his formative years in the fresh greens isle of Waitrose.  It was here that I found him, middle of the pack, one Saturday afternoon.  I wrapped him up, bought him home and sat him in the window of our kitchen (which receives about as constant a flood of sunlight as any window in London ever could). Then I stared at him.  He didn't do anything.  It's similar to the anti-climax you may confront by when visiting a friends new born for the first time. Little Benjamin looks cute, healthy, but he doesn't really do anything...then he does do something and you remember you really needed to be somewhere else. Fast. Apologies to any friends with children reading this, I'm not referring to your baby, he's different, of course.

One of Mr Basil's more classic accomplishments:
Lemon, hazelnut and basil pesto with roasted chicken and fresh goats cheese. 
After weeks of mediocrity and C's in school, Mr Basil pulled himself together and grew up, ferociously. He seemed to miss that awkward and uncertain teenage phase (which is good, I wasn't ready for the psychology of teenage self doubt) and went straight into his bold and cocky twenties.  The girls started coming on the scene about this time too.  Rosemary, Parsley, Chives.  Mo Honeys, Mo Growth. Our window sill became the hottest place in town. An unfortunate bi-product of his swift development, he's not quite as sweet as he used to be.  More anise and tarragon than I really like, but I expect as he continues to mature the grassiness will return with a little cinnamon and clove. But, if he choses to pursue to drama and the arts over a more rounded career then so be it. 

People come from all over the neighbourhood to see him, touch him, marvel in his shadow.  Lesser herb growers bring their failing crops from across town just to sit them close to Mr Basil in the hope they too will be inspired to greatness.  A Televangalism scout noticed him on the street the other day and left me his business card.  He thinks Mr Basil has great potential and charisma and could be a true healing saviour to other plant.  The Amazon really needs him.

I'm encouraging him to learn another language, but Italian just comes naturally.
Pasta, wild mushroom duxelle, rocket, walnuts, poached egg, torn basil and a dash of truffle oil.
But for now, Mr Basil is just weighing up his options.  I'm still watering him three times daily with a simulated rain shower every second day (this is a genetic over-compensation, my parents dogs are fed peeled grapes for breakfast, a little fake rain is nothing).  We apologise with a kind stroke every time we pick him and I always make sure I shield him from the sight of his leaves being torn over hot foccacia or being blitzed into pesto.

So there you have him. Mr Basil. But just in case you're wondering Mum and Dad, he could die any day now, don't get too excited.


gary robinson said...

peeled grapes and fake rain! fabulous, and worthy of way more than pesto...

Miss Devour said...

Thanks Gary! Moderate approaches are not the most natural to me sometimes. I'm encouraging Basil to stretch his leaves without pressuring him. For now, Italian poetry is proving popular enough at beauty pageants but I do feel Thai boxing might be his next feat.

Juanita Grande said...

I just surfed into your fabulous blog today, Miss Devour and WOW, so glad I did.

You have re-kindled my cook's flame and I thank you.

And wow, if I ever manage to actually book a table at El Bulli, I'll raise my glass(es) high in your honor!

: J

Miss Devour said...

Hi Juanita! Welcome and thanks so much too! I'm about to hit the kitchen myself for some classic chocolate mousse...I'm not sure where it falls in the nutritional pyramid...hmmm, all the better.