Forgotten Herbs, New Roots


Photos: Classiq Journal

Earlier this month, in my September newsletter, I was writing that autumn feels like the beginning of a new year. It inspires all sorts of things. Finding new roots in all aspects of life. The crisp air that awakens your senses, the land and vineyards that are laden with ripe fruit, the garden still abounding with herbs, there is a connection with nature that feels very real and strong. “Food and its preparation teaches me every day about nature, balance and strengthens my respect for all forms of life,” writes Mona Petre, Romanian graphic designer, photographer, storyteller and the author of the book Ierburi uitate: Noua bucatarie veche (Forgotten Herbs: The New Old Cuisine). This is a collection of botanical findings and culinary experiments inspired by the spontaneous flora, taste associations, culinary archeology and old world cooking techniques. It’s authentically inspiring and nourishing.

It’s a journey back to nature, a rediscovery of the land and its richness, ripe with gentle life lessons and unique recipes with edible plants. This is a cultural as much as a cooking endeavor. In the times of glossy cooking books that measure their worth by the popularity of the celebrities on their covers, this is the real thing, in all its rawness and simplicity. Its worth lies in the endless benefits the readers have by learning, discovering, cooking from its pages. In the times when eating sustainably has more to do with privilege than with mindfulness, knowledge and social responsibility, and buying locally is more a promotional device than an intentional, purposeful act, this book is an invitation to going out, looking for and finding it locally, in nature. How about that for a change? Knowledge is wealth.

Inspired by a five-petal flower, the book has five main chapters: From Nature, From the Garden, Flowers, Fruit and Mushrooms, without falling into the category of a vegan manifest or a simplistic inventory of insipid ingredients. It’s a book for everybody. “Mona Petre brings back to life plants we considered history, literature and folklore,” writes Matei Pleșu in his forward to the book. The truth is this wonderful book brings back to life the plants of my childhood, which fortunately have more or less remained part of my family’s legacy and way of life, and makes them part of everybody’s present day. My wish is for others to discover them, too (an English version of the book would be so very welcome and necessary) and be reminded of the bounties and edibility of the nature around us.



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