When Flowers Trump Food

People sometimes speak the interference a woman’s perfume can run with the flavors of food, and then there’s the matter of cigarette and cigar smoke concealing the tastes and aroma of a meal. But what about flowers? While they most certainly grace a dinner table, they can be distracting to the point of taking over—and not just because of their fragrance.

My brother grows flowers. One spring he gave my mother a dozen peonies to take to a Seder. Now peonies are picked when the buds are so small you might well doubt that they will open to their full potential. But they do—and fairly quickly once they’ve reached a certain point. My mother was a doubter and she tossed the peonies in the sink— an inadequate gift.  But at the last minute she had a change of heart, gathered them up and Magliette Calcio A Poco Prezzo brought them to her host who set them on the table. Just as my brother knew would happen, they opened during the long course of the Seder. Between readings and sips of wine, the guests were unable to ignore the peonies, and they talked about them as the meal progressed and the crimson petals unfolded in the candlelight. Their scent, which is clean and elemental, does not interfere with food, but you cannot turn away from their bloom, which is so glorious with its rich layers of satin petals that they can distract one from the matters at hand, which are many during a Seder.

Twice I’ve been at dinners that were overtaken by another opening flower, a night blooming cereus.  On the first occasion we were the guests of a couple we were meeting for the first time, friends of friends, earthy, sophisticated farmers whose kitchen served in part as a greenhouse.  Before sitting down to dinner, Anthony pointed out an awkward looking plant and an odd, egg-shaped bud in the corner of the room. It had been swelling for over a week and was about to open. He promised it would be quite a treat.

Petals lay close to its body, like narrow strips of paper and about as impressive. There was a small opening about the size of pea at the distal end from which leaked a musky, tropical scent. As the bud slowly opened, the scent grew heavier and sweeter and it spilled into the room with increasing force. The petals began to lift and widen, the opening grew larger and larger.  And here we were, four strangers getting to know one another over a meal, but it was as if a dazzling slut had wandered into the room and sidled up to chat. It was impossible to ignore her company.

Anthony had cooked an unusual fava bean, harvested from a particularly rowdy row of miscellaneous vegetables, which he first toasted, then braised. Carol made a luscious slump, dumplings covering the fat Chester blackberries we’d been eating from the vine only hours earlier. There was more, too. The flower’s perfume http://www.magliettedacalcioit.com and the beans fiercely fought ffor attention, but the beans soon lost. The dinner conversation was jerky for it was interrupted each time one of us would glance over towards the flower and exclaim how much more open it was now! By the last glass of wine, the bloom was a starburst. Except for the beans and the slump, I can’t recall a thing we ate, but it must have been something good for Anthony is an exceptional grower of the most interesting edibles. It’s just that the flower took over.

night bloomer

A few months later we had a similar experience with a night blooming cereus and again, with a person we didn’t know, a prospective Greek teacher. This time, the plant was located in our bathroom. There were several plump buds and we were pretty sure this would be their night. We had tended these plants for many years, but this was the first time we had ever had the promise of a blossom. We were excited, although we knew from out experience with Anthony and Carol that the flower would be sure to disturb any conversation. But dinner was already in motion and you can’t tell a flower to bloom another time.

We sat down and just as before, the petals slowly lifted and peeled back while we ate and drank and tried to study the Greek alphabet. Although the plant was two rooms away, that tropical perfume was drifting into the kitchen in waves.  Every ten minutes or so one of us, including our guest, felt compelled to get up Cheap NFL Jerseys and check the flowers’ progress. It was during dessert, when the blooms went unwatched, that they opened fully. At that point we simply put down our forks, got up and all went into the bathroom and admired them.

The bathroom, you’ll have to admit, is an odd place to congregate with people you don’t know, but it didn’t matter. We were all smitten. And what was for dinner? I’ve no idea. The flower completely trumped whatever food we had enjoyed.

8 comments to When Flowers Trump Food

  • Deborah,

    What a beautiful, delightful essay. I used to have a cut flower CSA, and there is no doubt to me flowers can be as evocative and consuming as food. They add such sensual pleasure to the enjoyment of eating and socializing. (Not to mention the tastiness of some.) And night blooming cereus–the fragrance, the timing, the heartstopping opening–a worthy distraction from any meal. I’ve only seen one bloom once, years ago in Arkansas, but you’ve inspired me to find my own to tend.

  • Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for you comment. Curiously, our plant is from Arkansas – it was my husband’s grandmother’s plant and we’ve tended it forever. Such a homely plant – until it makes that flower. Well worth caring for – A cut flower CSA? Where? What a good idea – or maybe not, given the past tense.

  • Love this love this LOVE THIS. Love. THIS. Invariably, I am often seated next to the one woman in a NYC restaurant who has taken a bath from head to toe in Shalimar, which doesn’t so much “work” with my meal (whatever my meal is, frankly). But the fragrance of fresh peonies? Oh heavens……heaven.

  • Thank you Elissa!
    And what would Shalimar compliment? Shalimar and franks?
    Skate wings? Parsnips?

  • Deborah,

    We grew organic cut flowers in Berea, KY, before we moved to Winters, CA. (Now I buy flowers from your brother at the Davis Farmers Market.) It was a good little business. Even though Berea is not a wealthy area, people got excited about flowers and were eager to buy them.

  • Shalimar and gefilte fish?
    Seriously, I am just now discovering the joys of fresh cut flowers on the table—so lovely.

  • You buy flowers from my brother? Small world! Thank you for you reply. It’s good to know that people still respond to flowers with joy. It’s a luxury I am firmly committed to.

  • I love this story. I’ve never seen the night blooming cereus, but can picture the drama unfolding from your description. In a way it reminds me of waiting for the first summer berries- almost there, almost there… divine!

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