The Kitchen Apothecary
by Hazel Paterson
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home and I for one am definitely an advocate of this. It’s a place that gives me comfort, whether that is in the gentle stirring of a light spring risotto finished with a citrusy gin, the roasting of a plump Sunday bird, or the mixing up of a potent cocktail. The kitchen is my happy place to retreat to when I need to be wrapped in a blanket of busy hands and heady aromas. Culinary scents, like any other fragrance, are so powerful because of their link to memories and places.
Whenever I bake bread and my cottage fills with its heavenly aroma, I am transported back to childhood and my mother’s weekend baking. Loaves rising in bags on sunny window ledges and then being devoured, still warm from the oven, with indulgent slabs of creamy, salted butter.
Scent can heal, soothe, and delight. With 80% of what we taste being attributed to smell, it’s a powerful sense to work with in the kitchen, particularly for wellbeing. Smells such as onions gently frying in butter with garlic, freshly brewed coffee, or a chicken roasting are comforting to us. But what about culinary scents that uplift us? Fresh, zingy citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruits, and oranges can enliven our mood. A fiery salsa with plenty of lime, crispy raw veg, and fragrant coriander accompanied by a zippy margarita will always guarantee to lift my spirits even on the dreariest of days.
I am as happy in the kitchen as I am in the fruit and veg market, surrounded by vibrant colour and fragrance - the dimples of a juicy orange, the heady scent of a heavily perfumed lychee, the turgid pop of a scarlet cherry tomato as I sneak one into my mouth as soon as I get home.
More recently I find myself turning to the kitchen to enhance my mood, working with fresh herbs from the garden like lemon balm, mint, and soothing bay that have the power to fill my senses with bright aromas. I brush my hands through the garden rosemary bush and smell the memories of roast lamb with friends. I scrunch some oregano between my fingers and I’m transported to wood fired pizzas and wine in the pub beer garden. I gently inhale the fluffy fennel fronds and I think of light summer potato salads enveloped in a herby dressing to be shared with family.
The kitchen is my apothecary, a space to create medicinal concoctions to sooth, heal, uplift and delight - a sanctuary of scent and sensation, a place to seek refuge in, a place to bring joy to others, a place I wouldn’t want to be without.
Hazel Paterson is a food writer and broadcaster based in Melton Mowbray.