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Majestic Basil, King of the Herbs

October 22, 2017

I was shopping in Waitrose this afternoon – I can’t afford it, but I just felt like it – and I happened to stop by the herbs stand in the fruit and veg section, where I noticed that all the little plastic packets of herbs were adorned with shouty alliterative slogans announcing the amazing qualities and mystic properties of the herbs therein. For example, parsley is described as “VITAL, VIGOROUS AND VIBRANT”. Dill is billed as “DELICATE DILL – FEATHERY FRAGRANT FRONDS OF FLAVOUR – THE ANCIENT SIGN OF FORTUNE”. Then there’s “ELEGANT AND EMINENT” Thai basil, “THE SWEET HOLY HERB, REVERED FOR CENTURIES”. I think they are going for a sort of Buddhist temple vibe with that one. For mint they have gone for a jazzier, more minimalist vibe: “COOL, COOL MINT”. Then there is “ THE BEAUTIFUL BAY LEAF, SAVOURY OR SWEET”, followed by the explanatory note “THE ESSENTIAL BOUQUET GARNI OR ‘BACCALAUREATE’ – GARLANDS OF BAY TO HONOUR THE SCHOLAR”.

It must be fun to work in Waitrose’s creative department. My favourite of all was “MAJESTIC BASIL, KING OF THE HERBS – ONCE REGARDED SACRED TO THE GODS, BASIL STILL REIGNS SUPREME.” I can’t hear that in my mind without imagining Donald Sinden playing King Lear.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    You’re more high brow than me. The Basils that came to my mind were Brush and Fawlty.

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    Having seen Donald Sinden blunder his way through Othello many years ago I am not sure I am quite ready for his Lear. However, on the subject of basil, I always enjoy its shared etymology with basilica; the seat of an emperor or bishop, for whom the noble herb was deemed appropriate. And I am writing this from New York where last night our waitress offered us spaghetti with ‘bayzil’. I loved this so much that I had to get her to repeat it, just as I repeated it to myself all the way home; ‘bayzil, bayzil…’

    • Simon Carter permalink

      Wonder if Basil Rathbone was also a Bayzil?

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