Foods containing the name Mary within, rosemary, marigold, are linked to Marian legends. Mary Gardens, popular in the middle ages, were walled gardens, such as where the Virgin Mary received a visit from the angel gabriel, The Annunciation, containing herbs and flowers. The three flowers most connected with the virgin are roses, lilies and iris. It was Jesus’ mother who asked him to transform the water into wine at the wedding at Cana, so she obviously liked a drop.
The other biblical Mary, Magadalene, was associated with healing ‘balm’ or ointment and often pictured holding a white jar. Mary Magdalene’s last days were spent in the south of France, not far from Aix en Provence. I went to visit her cave, an atmospheric place, filled with monks’ chants, up stone steps carved out of a mountainside near St. Maximim la Sainte Baume a couple of years ago. Lawrence Gardner, in his book The Magdalene Conspiracy, maintains that Mary is not a name, but a title, like ‘sister’, which is why so many women in the bible are called Mary.
In Catholic Europe, the 15th of August, when Mary was ‘assumed’ into heaven, is a feast day. There will be fishes and loaves, fruit, (notably pears and pomegranates, both redolent of womb imagery and figs which clearly represent ladies’ front bottoms and is actually Italian slang ‘fica’ for cunt) herbs, almonds and flowers. The colour blue, of Mary’s cloak, representing heaven is also important in the symbology, whereas Mary Magdalene is generally pictured wearing a green cloak, the colour associated with the earth. The Henry VIII song ‘Greensleeves’ was reputedly about a prostitute, many of whom wore green in medieval times (to hide the grass stains?).
I’ve been playing around with ideas for this forthcoming Sunday’s menu:
Stuffed day lillies (if still out in my garden)
Red mullet in a salt crust
Cheeses made by monks or from areas associated with religion, like the Cathar cross.
Marigold custards or figs with mascarpone
Update on menu:
Looks like day lillies are finished.