Sunday, June 4, 2017


PATCHOULI...smells like what?

   It often happens that while we're paying for our groceries the check-out person, usually young, exclaims that someone must have sprayed for bugs. The first few times the bug-spray thing happened we put our noses in the air trying to detect the smell of poison.  After many “smell of bug spray” incidents, we finally put it all together. It was the patchouli oil we were wearing that the cashier thought was bug spray.  Sad.

   An old friend once said that patchouli (pa CHEW lee) smelled like "ground-up old hippies".  Some say it smells like dirt.  Patchouli happens to be our favorite fragrance.  It is interesting to note that if an older person is at the cash register there will usually be a question about the good scent we're wearing.  The appeal of smells and the memories they invoke definitely vary from generation to generation but bug spray?


   In the early 1800s colorful silks and shawls were shipped from the Orient to Europe and between every piece of fabric were layers of patchouli, Pogostemon cablin, a member of the mint family that would repel moths and overcome the musty smell that could occur from the long ocean trip. This scent became an indicator of authentic oriental goods but European merchants began to purchase the dried leaves and use them to scent their own products (early false advertisement).  Patchouli oil and incense became popular in the US in the 1970s with the counterculture movement, the hippie era, often used to cover the smell of marijuana. 


          Patchouli’s woodsy, earthy fragrance is one of the most important perfumery plants.

   The oil is obtained by steam distillation after a controlled fermentation, producing thick, rich-brown oil. Ten years ago the price of one pound of patchouli essential oil from Indiawas $50.00 in the US market. Today the price is $160.00 for the same amount with prices varying widely depending on crop success as well as demand; it recently sky-rocketed to $200 a pound (that’s just 16 oz.!). 


 Patchouli is easy to grow and loves hot weather, afternoon shade, lots of water and light fertilizer.  This herb will not survive outside in cold weather but semi-woody cuttings root easily in fall or winter.

   So if you want to have fun with young check-outers, or if you just really like the smell of dirt (we obviously do), tuck some patchouli leaves in your hair or dab a bit of the essential oil on your wrist.  Seriously, we think patchouli is grounding (there’s that dirt connection again) and natural…kinda’ like ground-up old hippies, and we’re not trying to cover up anything…anymore.          

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcakes

2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 hard-boiled egg yolks, mashed
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and halved or quartered (depending on size)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping cream
Sift flour, 1/4 cup sugar and baking powder into bowl. Add chilled butter pieces. Using your fingertips, work butter quickly and lightly into flour until mixture is consistency of very fine crumbs of sand. Add cream and egg yolks and stir with fork until dough just comes together.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead briefly, just until smooth dough forms. Do not overwork. Pat or roll out dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Using floured 2 1/2- or 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out 4 rounds of dough. Gather up dough scraps, reroll and cut out 2 more rounds.
Put rounds on lightly buttered baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake on middle rack of oven at 375 degrees until biscuits are golden brown and firm to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes.
Toss strawberries and sugar together in bowl. Whip cream several minutes until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate. Transfer biscuits to cooling rack and cool 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully split biscuits in half and set tops aside. Place bottom halves on dessert plates and heap strawberries onto them. Generously spoon whipped cream over strawberries and replace biscuit tops. Serve immediately with any remaining whipped cream on side.
Makes 6 servings. Each serving contains about: 642 calories; 421 mg sodium; 208 mg cholesterol; 44 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.96 gram fiber.