Burnt Snow, my first novel, was released in 2010 by Pan MacMillan Australia. White Rain, the sequel, is due soon. As part of a trilogy about witches, earth magic, curses, love and revenge, this blog archives my research into the world of the witches - as well as my own magical saga as a new author.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peace, Lily! A Reader Suggests Detoxification by Flowers

This post is a sequel to my previous "I can't believe that people actually read this" article form the other day. Yesterday, I was complaining about antennae growing out of my head. Today I am ordering a peace lily. Why? Because they've been proven by NASA to actually detox the air around you. No, I am not joking and yes, this was messaged to me by someone who reads this blog.

They look like this:

Ooh, pretty!

Peace lilies are called spathiphyllum and come in numerous varieties. They detox the air - specifically, they absorb formaldehyde and benzene - and you only need one plant per room to keep its air fresh and chemical free. Apparently, they are NOT recommended for homes with plants or children, as their nifty toxin-inhaling properties make you violently spew everywhere if you eat them.

But if you know someone without pets or children who's got, you know, antennae growing out of their head, you should buy them one. There is a company in London doing a delivery of a potted peace lily for £20. They're good plants for domestically irresponsible, as they like shadows and only need to be watered if their soil feels dry.

And lilies are gifts with impressive symbology. The Archangel Gabriel, no less, presented one to Mary at the Annunciation, and Mary is often represented with lilies in Western art. Although hers was a Madonna lily (and from a different genus), the symbolism of the flower still holds; lilies, interestingly, represent both purity (because of their pure white colour) and sexual energy and fertility. In the latter case this would be because of the, um, impressive pistils and their particular location within the petals. Give the photo a good stare if you don't immediately see what I mean.

The combination of the symbolism of purity and sexual energy OF COURSE results in lilies being associated with motherhood and fertility. Lilith, the "unsuitable" first wife of the Biblical Adam, was actually named after the lily. [If you haven't heard of Lilith, fret not; she'll make an appearance in the this blog at a later point], but the association with the flower is shared by all kinds of mother goddesses, like Astarte, whose European name is Eostre. This makes a lily a particularly good gift for the season, as upcoming Easter, unsurprisingly, gets its name from the Eostre festival.

In flowers-as-a-gift symbolism, a present of lilies implies your intentions are motivated by purity, majesty and honour. This is one of the reasons that they are popular at funerals - to "honour" the dead. There is a memorable scene in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber that features lilies in this context, but I'll leave this to your own delightful discovery.

Interestingly, perhaps because of their power to "honour" a recipient, lilies are recommended for those bothered at home by troublesome ghosts. They do not banish ghosts, but appease their tempers and thus prevent them from causing harm or mischief. 

Those amongst the living, though, who remain intrigued by the detox properties of plants are also recommended to find refuge amongst ivy, gerbera daisies and bamboo palms

And by the way...

It's March, meaning that the Great Len Deighton has updated his seasonal eating recommendations in The Len Deighton Action Cookbook. For those of you here in the Northern Hemisphere, take note that you can now consume with impunity:
  • FISH: carp (until the 14th), catfish, chub, cod's roe, conger eels, gurnard, John Dory, lemon sole, ling, mackerel, mussels, oysters, perch and pike (until the 14th), salmon, salmon-trout, scallops, smelts, tench (until the 14th), whitebait and witch.
  • HOME-GROWN FRUIT: Apples (Cox's Orange Pippin) and rhubarb.
  • IMPORTED FRUIT: apples, grapes and pears, granadillas, grapefruit, mangoes and strawberries.
  • MEAT: All meat - with a particular recommendation to try British lamb.
  • POULTRY: Guinea fowl and duckling.
  • HOME-GROWN VEGETABLES: Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages (particularly Savoy - perfect in colcannon, yum), celeriac, kale, parsnips, new potatoes, radishes, spring greens, spring onions, sprout tops, swedes and tomatoes.
  • IMPORTED VEGETABLES: Broad beans, endives, salsify and white cabbage.
And one cheeky recipe thrown in, for the marvellous colcannon:
  • Colcannon: Boil enough quartered potatoes as you'd want for mash, leaving the skin on. While the potatoes are boiling, melt a large knob of butter in a frypan, adding a chopped brown onion and, then, when it's soft, four rashers of chopped bacon and half of a chopped cabbage (preferably Savoy). By the time the cabbage is soft, the potatoes should be done. Strain and mash the potatoes in their pot with buttermilk, adding the vegetable-and-meat mixture. Return briefly to the heat and season with lots of cracked black pepper and salt. Excellent with soda water on the side.

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