Homegrown herbs secret to chef's meals

Richard Book snips some herbs from his  herb garden.

I grew up in much simpler times.

In our home on Bluff Street, Mom used two seasonings, salt and pepper. Herbs were something I learned about much later in life.

My Facebook friend, Richard Book of Union Township, posted a photo of a herb garden that he had built, which caught my eye. Richard is an avid gardener, so while passing his house, I paid him a surprise visit.

A little history on Richard, he worked at Rockwell for 20 years. When they closed, he chose to go to culinary school in Pittsburgh to become a chef. He worked as a sous chef at many colleges and managed the Tavern in New Wilmington.

If you are like me, you have no idea what a sous chef is, so I looked it up. He is the guy who is second in command in the kitchen, after the executive chef. Since there are only two people in our home, I assume that I am also a sous chef. I actually do make my own cereal every morning, which should qualify me.

Richard was visiting the Fellows Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown and spotted a herb garden. He got the idea of making his own. He used chimney flues as his planters. He purchased them at CBS Supply on Moravia Street. He cut them for size and filled them with Miracle Gro Moisture Control potting mix.

He is now growing the herbs marjoram, French tarragon, Greek oregano, golden sage, curled and flat parsley, thyme, basil and regular sage in his flues.

Richard said he and his wife Dawn prepare meals together. He did admit that Dawn, who is of Italian decent, is better with the Italian foods than he is.

I’m not even allowed to walk through our kitchen when the executive chef is doing her thing. As a sous chef, I have in the past prepared the roast beef and ham loaf. I will now share my ham loaf recipe. Buy a ham loaf at Gilliland’s and cook it.

As I stated at the beginning, my visit was a surprise. My wife and I drove up their lane to see if anyone was outside. My wife spotted Richard and Dawn in the garage, eating dinner. I felt bad disrupting their meal and apologized.

Now you would think a sous chef and his Italian wife would be having a vast array of delicacies on a buffet for their dinner. I did get a glimpse of their meal. They were having a sandwich from Subway and a bag of Lay’s potato chips. That sounds like one of our delicacy meals. Retired cooks must think alike.

Not only does Richard prepare meals for humans, he also does it for wildlife. He told me he planted 500 tulip bulbs last fall, of which 499 were eaten by the deer. Only one lonely tulip survived. Bless its heart.

Richard certainly loves to garden. He says, “My sanctuary is my garden.” He works in it about every day. I asked if he ever takes a day off. He replied, “I’ll get a day off when I retire from gardening.”

Although my mother never used herbs, I really enjoyed some of her cooking. Fried potatoes in bacon grease and baked potatoes covered with pork chop grease were delicacies to me. No one has ever been able to duplicate that.

Salt is still about the only seasoning I use, but my wife likes pepper. What is odd to me is that there is a pepper shaker on the table, but she only uses the pepper straight out of the can. Since I don’t use pepper, I have no idea why it is on the table. That must be the executive chef’s secret.

Make your space a green space.

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