A Zoo In My Lovage

By the end of the last post, I had figured out that one of the prominent flavor notes in lovage is quite similar to fenugreek. If you cut some, or, better, tear it, your hands will become insistently perfumed with the persistent aroma of the plant. When people dismiss it with variations of the “it’s like celery” line, that’s a cop-out on par with the “tastes like chicken” descriptor so loosely applied to things as different as mushrooms and alligator. Lovage doesn’t taste like celery, though it approximates it visually, up to a point. It’s much closer to fenugreek, with a whiff of caraway and a citrusy tang.

So, with hands thus contaminated, I made the rounds of the garden and gathered other things. The early planting of tatsoi was done, fixing to bolt, so I pulled it all, cutting the roots right into the compost pile. I try to leave as much dirt in the garden as possible; the outdoor sink is a boon, but needs some tinkering to fix a leak, and now there are wasps building a nest under it so there’s more to it than just turning it over and reconnecting the hose. It will likely wait until winter, knowing me.

I did get some asparagus, the first of the year, which is coming in fast now that we finally got some rain. There’s a profound difference between watering with a hose and rain; the long, cool days with steady drizzle interrupted with hard pours penetrates the soil in a way that a sprinkler can’t. The seeds can tell the difference; they leap up with a day or two of rain even after diligent hand-watering throughout the drought. Fuckers.

Anyway, this soup. Another frugal masterpiece, it had a precociously short list of ingredients. Some chicken bones, simmered with bacon rind, lovage, and onion to make a fragrant stock. About a cup of basmati rice lurking in back of the pantry drawer. A couple of carrots, some leftover lentil salad that people brought over for a dinner and we didn’t finish, sliced duck prosciutto, the asparagus, the tatsoi, some fish sauce for umami, and a chiffonade of lovage leaves for a reinforcing garnish.

The curry-adjacent odor of lovage has inspired me to come up with a couple of uses for it in the near future, before it all goes to seed (and I harvest the seed to use as a spice). A curry-type application, for sure, and a vinegar because it’s so aromatic and sharp. This time around, it was just a flavor for the soup. A glorious, one-off, random soup that meshed lovingly with the cool of a suddenly sunny spring evening. The transitional meals, they are the best.

2 comments to A Zoo In My Lovage

  • Not for nothing, Peter, but I believe you’re stretching the meaning of the word “frugal” in your description of the “frugal masterpiece,” which contains duck prosciutto.
    Sounds delicious.

  • Peter

    Always an editor, aren’t you. Anyway, if I spend $16 on a whole breast, and cure half of it, and use 10% of that half, sliced thin, in my soup for three people, how is 80 cents anything other than frugal for such a lavish flavor enhancement?

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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