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PARSLEY: NOT ALWAYS GHARSTLY

Parsley
Is gharstly.
Ogden Nash, American poet (1902-71)

Only an honest man or a pregnant woman can grow good parsley. The seeds have to go to the devil and back seven times before they sprout, so they take at least a month to show signs of growth. And if you give a plant to a female, she will promptly become pregnant.

Despite those old wives' tales, parsley, a member of the carrot family, has been cultivated since the days of Ancient Rome. Americans use it mostly as a garnish, while European and Middle Eastern cooks use it instead of salt. The stalks are an essential ingredient for a bouquet garnis and the finely chopped leaves are used in many sauces and butters.

Parsley leaves are high in potassium and can be used chopped fresh in salads, sandwiches, casseroles,  and soups. You can make a nutritious, tasty meal from chopped boiled eggs, cooked brown rice, fresh and finely chopped parsley, salmon and lemon juice It's also a main ingredient in the wonderful Middle Eastern dish, Tabouli.

Last year, several Australian gardeners marked Sydney's 2000 Olympic Games by planting living Olympic rings, using parsley for the green ring. This year, Sydney City Council used parsley as a decorative plant in a 90,000-plant flower display, as part of Australia's celebration of the centenary of Federation. The Sydney Morning Herald's Column 8 reported that parsley lovers stole many of the pots from the displays, adding "In Martin Place, a man was seen picking marigolds and putting them in three shopping bags. They are... edible flowers that can be used in a yuppie salad mix."

Next day, the Herald said: "Dr Max Lake, better known as a wine expert, is also an expert on the phenomenal power of parsley. 'The Americans grow more of it than any other nation and discard over 50 per cent of it on their garnished plates,' he tells us. 'Little do they know that it produces one of the most seductive body odours, androstenone-based, for both sexes. It takes a few hours to get to the sexual scent [apocrine] glands, but a steady diet of it is virtually certain to procure a result, so to speak. Its medieval herbal reputation was formidable. They understood what we have unlearnt, excluding Sydney's new parsley thieves. I discussed this at length in Scents and Sensuality [1989], just reprinted, and in the new Fragrances of Love."

June Meyer is another authority on parsley. She displays a wonderfully nostalgic 1925 family portrait. June was born in Chicago in 1934. Her mother, Theresa Rose Sehne, father Frank John Wischler and grandmother Elizabeth Rose Heinz cooked Hungarian and Transylvanian dishes.

"I would like to welcome you to explore my Heirloom Hungarian Recipe Page," says June. "These are authentic, old Hungarian, family recipes, never written down until now. They have been handed down for many generations in my family. I want to preserve them for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. These recipes are from Austria-Hungary and Transylvania. This is wonderful, hearty peasant food, stick to your ribs, and very satisfying to eat."

June learned the recipes by example and by making them. "All girls learn to cook at their mother's elbow.," she says. "I watched and helped and learned. When I married, I continued to cook the only cuisine I knew."

Check out her recipe for Authentic Hungarian Parsley Stuffing for Chicken, Turkey or Veal. "This recipe is generations old. It was the only stuffing we ever used and I think it is the best I have ever tasted. My Heirloom Stuffing is filled with chopped fresh parsley. It is the primary flavor, along with celery, onion, butter. The texture is firm, like a meat loaf and is cut in slices. The women in the family would compete with one another to make the most tasty and best stuffing.

"This is not for anyone who is counting calories. But this stuffing imparts the best flavor to the chicken, turkey or veal. I am sure that once you taste this dressing it will become a favorite of yours also."

June's Authentic Hungarian Parsley Stuffing for Chicken, Turkey or Veal

(Enough for a small turkey or big chicken.)

  • 1 large loaf of sliced white bread or 2 small loaves
  • 1 onion
  • 6 ribs of celery along with leaves
  • 2 or 3 bunches or 2 cups or more of FLAT LEAF PARSLEY (Do not substute curly)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) of butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4 whole raw eggs
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Cut bread into cubes, put into large mixing bowl.
Finely chop washed parsley and place in bowl with bread cubes.
Dice 1 onion and saute with butter in frying pan till translucent.
Slice or dice ribs of celery and celery leaves and saute along with onions.
Add 1 cup of cold water to onion, celery and butter mixture to cool it off.
Add 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to bowl with bread and parsley.
Add 4 raw eggs to the bowl of bread and parsley, along with the onion and celery mixture and mix well with your hands. The stuffing should NOT be hot when you stuff the poultry. Really PACK the stuffing well into the bird. Any stuffing that does not fit can be stuffed into the cavity formed by the skin over the breast when it is separated by your hand to form a pocket. Roast your bird as you normally would. Baste the bird with butter and juices cooking out. When bird is done roasting, you should be able to carve up bird and open the breast area to lift out the loaf of parsley stuffing and slice into portions.
Don't forget to make a wonderful gravy with the juices.
It is also good the next day cold from the refrigerator.

POSTSCRIPT.  In researching this article, I wanted to check exactly how Ogden Nash had spelt Gharstly in his oft-quoted Reflection on Parsley (see headline). I found a very interesting site containing a huge amount of information about the great poet and humorist. After sending an email to the webmaster, I received a friendly reply from Frances Smith, the poet's grand-daughter, who runs the site as a tribute to her famous relative. She recalled that "he was quite mystified by the fact that even as a child I adored parsley (and brussel sprouts, too)!"

Copyright 2002

  Eric Shackle   

Story first posted August 2002

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