Cogitation 19 Friday 8 May 2020 Dandelions are considered a stubborn weed, a scourge to people who want weedless lawns. Out come the weed killers, the get-them-by-the-roots tools, the lawnmower, the heated words. Still, others welcome dandelions as food, a nutritional treat either cooked or raw. I was happy to recall eating such a salad years ago when I found a recipe for Dandelion Bacon Salad in the Simply in Season cookbook, by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, (Herald Press, 2005)
The cookbook was commissioned by Mennonite Central Committee “to promote the understanding of how the food choices we make affect our lives and the lives of those who produce the food.” I won’t be fixin’ a dandelion salad even though I have fond memories of such gathered from a field my dad, or older brother, cultivated for planting oats or barley. My mother prepared the salad hot, with bacon, vinegar dressing and chopped hard-cooked eggs. Dandelion lovers will have their own favorite recipes or get one from the seller of wild greens at their local farmer’s market.
The dandelion’s an innocent plant that either displeases or delights people, or leaves some somewhere in-between. A grade school classmate’s grandmother made dandelion wine, a taste he shared, sweet as I remember. Checking online this week, I learned that dandelion root is used as an herbal tea beverage. On our grocery shopping trip I picked up a package of Organic Roasted Dandelion Root tea bags. No kidding. The directions say to brew it for 10-15 minutes. I made a cup. The tea has a pleasant taste, with bitter notes, surprisingly good and satisfying, regardless of the medicinal claims.
English poet, writer, broadcaster Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) mentioned dandelions in a poem, Parliament Hill Fields, that recalled a childhood experience. He described a short trip on a horse-drawn tram from Kentish Town to the family’s home in leafy Parliament Hill/Highgate in north London where he grew up.
Parliament Hill Fields
“Outside Charrington’s we waited, by the ‘STOP HERE IF REQUIRED’, / Launched aboard the shopping basket, sat precipitately down, / Rocked past Zwanziger the baker’s, and the terrace blackish-brown, / And the curious Anglo-Norman parish church of Kentish Town. / Oh the after-tram-ride quiet, when we heard a mile beyond, / Silver music from the bandstand, barking dogs by Highgate Pond; / Up the hill where stucco houses in Virginia creeper drown– / And my childish wave of pity, seeing children carrying down / Sheaves of drooping dandelions to the courts of Kentish Town.”
I suppose the children were gathering dandelions to either take home for food or to sell to people who lived in bustling but poorer Kentish Town. I can smell the bread at the baker’s, hear the music from the bandstand, barking dogs, see the lush Virginia creeper covering houses, and feel some note of nostalgia in seeing children gathering up seasonal greens.
Dandelions are innocent markers of how these days flow on. For the most part I’m in the blooming, bright, positive-minded element, but not entirely. My expansive mood comes from being engaged, reading, walks, musing, photographing, writing, cooking, connecting, sleeping, sheltering. The vexing, restraining stuff comes from the elevated uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis. Wash hands, use a mask around people places, keep physical distance, wait for the day we know will come when we’ll be free of Covid-19, at least have a vaccine for it. I get that. But.
I’m doubly vexed with leaders and a slice of the public who believe that this devastating, horrific Covid-19 illness will be eradicated, like dandelion tufts, just blow away, as the country opens up. It’s wishful thinking that downplays scientifically valid information to make informed decisions about testing, treating and tracing to stop the coronavirus’s rapid spread.
What I can continue to do to take care of myself is something akin to sequenced action in an emergency on a plane to first fit the oxygen mask on me before helping the person beside me. Keep taking care of yourself. On occasion I come across an article that speaks to that point, such as “Focus on right now: How to mentally prepare for more Covid-19 uncertainty,” by Adrienne Matei in The Guardian, May 5, 2020. It’s worth a Google.
Matei sums up the piece, including a quote from Dr Tasha Eurich, a self-awareness researcher: “If you find yourself worrying, Dr Eurich suggests assessing your wellbeing in the moment–and appreciating what you do have. ‘To me, hope for the future can be replaced by hope for the present–gratitude.'”
Matei’s article is hopeful, helpful, realistic, reassuring, “for the day when this is all over.” We’ll be done with it. We’ll find ways to cope, save lives and livelihoods. We’ll stop the spread. We’ll count our blessings, then and now.
National and global medical and scientific communities will press on toward a vaccine and related treatments. We will see a new day, thanks to the power of the global village.
Keeping their distance
Empty campus, full of spring
Neighborhood blooms and blossoms
We’re going on a walk among dandelions. I learned today that they’re named for Middle French, dent de lion, lit., lion’s tooth. Who knew?