It's a slow day around here; I'm fighting a cold, and all I can think about is delicious chicken-n-rice soup. I cut up two chicken breasts and throw them in a pot of chicken broth with a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, lots of salt and pepper, some thyme, some cooked rice, and of course. . .
The bay leaf!
After an hour or so, I'm eating the most delicious soup, and I start thinking about that little bay leaf. What does it do, anyway? Why did my mom always put them in soups and sauces but remove them before anyone could accidentally eat them?
I find a home economics site that answers all my questions about the poor, misunderstood bay leaf. To summarize, the bay leaf adds a subtle but absolutely necessary flavor. Without it, you definitely notice. The soups and stews fall flat. The roast doesn't pop. The sauce doesn't sing.
Folks remove the bay leaf because it irritates the digestive tract if you eat it.
I also learn this: You can fragrance a home with a lovely woodsy smell if you simmer water with bay leaves. You can also stick one inside a potato, bake it, and then enjoy a flavored baked potato. Check out the home economics site to get all sorts of recipes with bay leaves.
So I think about that essential but subtle bay leaf (that's also dangerous if consumed). It reminds me of essential things--although subtle--that hold a certain power. Prayer, for example, so very subtle and yet, it changes something.
Do your recipes include bay leaves?