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Until I visited Santa Fe I had no idea that there was a patron saint of cakes and cookies. But sure enough, there he was in a little shop that sold a really astounding variety of saintly goods – Saint Von Nicholas of Myra.

Often when someone travels from our office they bring back candies or treats from the place they visited—salt water taffy from the beach, chocolates from Vienna. In keeping with that same spirit, I picked up one to the little St. Von Nick icons as an office gift. Since he was the patron of cakes and cookies, I decided we could hang him up in the area where we always share treats at work and maybe he’d have a beneficial effect on our supply of baked goods.

When I got back to the office I hung him up and sent an e-mail message to the department:

“Rather than bring you back something perishable from Santa Fe, I elected to bring a gift that (I hope) will keep on giving: A small wooden icon of St. Von Nicholas of Myra, Patron of Cakes and Cookies. I will hang St. VN over the usual cake & cookie place, and if we’re all very, very good perhaps he will bless us. Soon.”

When I arrived at work the next morning at 8:30, a colleague said, “Vicki! Did you see? The saint worked!” A pan of brownies graced the treats counter beneath the icon.  They were brought in by a co-worker who had not been in the office on Monday, and therefore had not yet read the e-mail. Truly a miracle.

I once wrote a story called “Nonperishables,” about a woman who decides to enter her pound cake at the state fair, but ends up giving it to a friend instead. “What’s the use of pouring your love into a pound cake,” she asks, “and then having three bites taken out of it just for purposes of criticism? You should spread them around! You should give them to the poor, the bereaved, the sick, and the lonesome. You know what? That’s what’s nonperishable! Not the cake, but the thought and the love that make you give it.”

I am looking at a counter filled with love right this minute. I have zucchini bread, and low-carb peanut butter cookies, and leftovers from a delicious Thai lunch. Not to mention bouquets of flowers, which feed the soul and are themselves perishable. All of this to help me heal from a small surgery. It’s working like a charm, too.

I wonder if we shouldn’t have special healers with the power to write prescriptions for brownies, fruit pies, breads, and cookies, casseroles and soups and salads. I think there could be a great deal of value in that.  And no risk of dangerous side effects, even in the event of an overdose.

On the day that St. Von Nicholas set up residence in our office, a gentleman, B., came to my doorway and explained that while he liked brownies just like everyone else, he was really a pound cake man. So later that week I took a pound cake, sliced, individually wrapped, and packed in a basket. I set the basket beneath the icon at 8:30, and at 9:30 B. brought the empty basket to my office.

“We need more,” he said.

I shook my head. “I hope you got more than one piece,” I told him, since he really was the only reason I had made pound cake in the first place.

His big blue eyes got rounder—and yet they conveyed a terrible sadness. Then he held up four fingers.  

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I found a book some years back that almost appears to have been homemade. It’s called Handbook of the Bach Flower Remedies, by Philip M. Chancellor.  “Illustrated!” the yellow cover promises—without the exclamation point, but the word is printed very emphatically in black lowercase letters.

The idea that flowers might cure an illness is appealing to me.  What a soft, nontoxic sort of cure that must be—gentle, fragrant, like a blessing.

Chancellor’s book describes the work of Dr. Edward Bach, who created tiny brown bottles of flower and plant extracts that are dispensed with an eyedropper, which makes it all seem more medicinal to me. Bach developed a spectrum of cures in the 1930s: Honeysuckle for someone who feels stuck in a happy past and unable to enjoy the present; Crab Apple for general cleansing; Heather for persons who are unhappy if they have to be alone for any length of time. The Flower Remedies are quite specific. The most important remedy of all is the Rescue Remedy:

The Rescue Remedy is a composite Remedy which Dr. Bach formulated for use in emergencies.  It is not … a Remedy in itself, properly speaking; it is composed of five Remedies.  Nevertheless, because of the lifesaving possibilities inherent in the Rescue Remedy, it is almost an obligation for every practitioner to have some made up and ready for instant use.  Dr. Bach himself, and many of his adherents, both lay and professional, made it a practice to carry a small bottle of the Rescue Remedy with them at all times.  The Rescue Remedy could well save a life during an emergency when seconds count, and before qualified medical help arrives.

Formula

The five Remedies which compose the Rescue Remedy are:

Star of Bethlehem, for shock.

Rock Rose, for terror and panic.

Impatiens, for mental stress and tension.

Cherry Plum, for desperation.

Clematis, for the bemused, faraway, out-of-the-body feeling which often precedes fainting or loss of consciousness.

Use it for a great sorrow, for some sudden bad news.  Use it after any accident, whether severe or inconsequential…

We have been trying our own Flower Remedies this summer, all aimed at the inconsequential, day-to-day accidents like an inability to sleep. We planted lemon verbena, chamomile, and sage; we already had mint and lavender, basil, oregano, and a really nice rosemary bush. The fragrances alone are probably curative. Here are some of the remedies we’ve been trying:

Chamomile-mint tea. This has been a very nice tea, and it truly does seem to help us sleep. I use about a dozen chamomile flowers and six or eight mint leaves and steep them for about five minutes. Plain old mint tea is good, too, and is supposed to be good for the digestion.

Lemon verbena-mint tea. Not as delicious as chamomile, but a pleasant tea that is also relaxing but apparently should not be taken for more than 10 days in a row. That makes me nervous. There’s a recipe on The Splendid Table Web site for lemon verbena sorbet, and I intend to try that as soon as we run out of yesterday’s generous batch of (see next item).

Basil-buttermilk sorbet. I know. Basil belongs in pesto and buttermilk belongs in biscuits. But I got the recipe through the grapevine at work, and it is – exactly as promised – outstanding. The recipe is simple—the only ingredients not in the name are limes, sugar, and water—and the result is amazing. Choirs of angels sing every time I take the lid off the tub I packed it in. It is kind of like a margarita, and it’s the perfect cure for 108-degree days. I’m going to try a batch using some of our mint, and see if it tastes like a mojito.

Tonight we’ll be eating flank steak with homegrown sage. I’m not sure if sage has curative properties, but our plant is doing well with too much sun and not enough rain, and we expect good things from it.

It’s nice to eat (and drink) flowers and leaves from the garden, with or without medicinal value. This year, even the hydrangeas have looked edible, especially the classic snowball bushes, which have been particularly fine. They seem to thrive here even in extreme heat. There’s one house that I pass on my way to work that is surrounded by the most gorgeous snowball bushes I’ve ever seen—they are pure white, fresh, and beautiful. I told my mom that they looked so good, I was tempted to stop the car, pick a single blossom, and eat it like a snow cone. I imagine that it would be as delicious and cool as coconut cream. And I’m sure it would cure whatever ails me.

Annabelle hydrangea. Photograph by Don Sessions, http://www.donsessions.blogspot.com/

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