MINT Symbol of Hospitality from The Spice Cookbook, 1964
“One of Ovid’s tales of godsend goddesses, written years ago, was inspired by mint-symbol of hospitality. Philemon and Baucis, man and wife, were living in Phrygia, a country in Asia Minor. The land was so poor, this couple had scarcely sufficient food to keep them alive. One day two strangers knocked at their door, asking to be fed. Despite their poverty, Philemon and Baucis were delighted to have guests and prepared the best meal possible from their meager supplies. Wanting to fill their humble home with an inviting fragrance, they rubbed their table with mint leaves. At that point their anxieties were passed – the guests proved to be Zeus and Hermes, incognito. The hovel was soon transformed into a temple, and priests ministered to all the needs of Philemon and Baucis for the duration of their lives.
Mint, plant historians claim, came originally from the Mediterranean shores. Mythology offers a far more romantic story: mint was once the nymph Mentha, unfortunate to have attracted the eye of Pluto. Persephone, his jealous wife, pursued Mentha and trod her ferociously underfoot. Pluto, unable to control his wife’s fury, changed Mentha into a delightful herb, ever after sacred to this god of the underworld.
Mint was well known and highly esteemed in the ancient world. We read in the Bible that the Pharisees paid tithes of mint, anise, and cumin. In Greece, crushed mint leaves were used as a perfume for the arms and to scent the bath”.
Minty Sweet Pea and Zucchini Soup with Garlic Shrimp
- 4 cup sweet peas, if you don't have fresh ones, use frozen
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 4-5 scallions, rinsed well and chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 4 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tsp finely minced garlic
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard seeds
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine the sweet peas, zucchini, potato, chopped scallions, and broth or water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 minutes. Add mint. Stir in the cream. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor until smooth. Heat the soup, stirring occasionally for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shrimp and garlic to the pan and season with some of the salt, pepper, and ground mustard seeds. Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque throughout about 2-3 minutes. Season the shrimp with more of the salt and pepper mixture.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, add cooked shrimp, garnish with the mint and serve.
Fresh sweet peas and garlic shrimp make a simple, but delicious combination of flavors. The aroma of mint is an ideal complement to the sweetness of cooked vegetables. You may serve this soup hot or cold. If you’ve never served a chilled soup before, this is the one to try. Fresh and light, it’s a perfect way to celebrate summer.