Pickity Place: herb and spice and everything nice
Mason, N.H. — The story of Little Red Riding Hood is familiar to everyone, but not many realize the house used for illustrations in Elizabeth O. Jones's version of that ancient fairy tale is now a museum, a restaurant, an herb greenhouse, and a garden-gift shop.
The charm of the story is reflected in the delightful little red house built in 1786, now bustling with pre-holiday activities - from the frosty, fragrant herb gardens, bordered by huge trees ablaze with fall colors, to the bustling kitchen, its shelves being stocked with herb jams, jellies, and other good foods for the holidays and coming winter.
From the moment you wend your way deep down the country road to Pickity Place you will see that gardening, harvesting, and enjoying herbs and flowers year round has become a way of life for the occupants, Judy and Dave Walter.
From a small herb shop eight years ago, the original Pickity Place has grown to over three acres of herb gardens. The restaurant serves five-course luncheons , the gift shop specializes in handmade items, and the greenhouse grows more than 300 varieties of herbs.
''So many of our customers asked for the recipes for the herb dishes we serve in the restaurant that we decided to take time out and put them together in a book,'' says Mrs. Walter, an herbalist who writes and lectures on the subject and gives tours of her own herb gardens.
''At Christmas,'' she continues, ''we like to bring in the fresh scents of evergreens from the woods for holiday decorating: mistletoe, the plant of peace; the traditional holly with bright red berries; laurel for graceful garlands; and rosemary, signifying remembrance and friendship.''
The Walters also bring a tree into the house on the first day of December, so luncheon guests can enjoy the fragrance throughout the month.
''Our tree decorations are handmade,'' says Mrs. Walter, ''cornhusk angels, handcarved doves, strings of red wooden beads, cinnamon sticks tied with bright ribbons, and chains made from woodchips.''
In the restaurant, each of the menus has a theme taken from ancient farming holidays and the festivals of countries around the world.
In the fall Michaelmas - the festival that signified the end of harvest in Medieval Europe - is the theme. The New England aster, often called Michaelmas daisy, decorates the dining tables, and bushels of the first tart apples are brought into the shop for people to munch on as they browse.
Orange pumpkins are piled into the old wagon in the yard at Halloween, while the wood-burning cookstove makes things cozy inside and friends come by to stock up on winter herbs and spices.
The Red Riding Hood Museum, Herb Shop, and Greenhouse are open daily except Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are advised. The five-course luncheon is $8.50, and a children's basket is available at $2.50 plus tax.
The Walters' newly published cookbook is divided by month, with a colorful description of the monthly festival themes, attractive sketches of various culinary herbs, and recipes of the season.
The soft-cover book features a color photograph of the house on the cover and is available for $8.95 plus $2 postage from Pickity Place, Nutting Hill Road, Mason, N.H. 03048. Christmas Wassail Juice of 2 lemons 4 cups orange juice 4 2-inch sticks cinnamon 2 tablespoons whole cloves 2 tablespoons ground allspice 1/4 tablespoon grated nutmeg 1 cup sugar 2 quarts apple cider
Combine all ingredients except cider and simmer 10 minutes. In another pot bring cider to the boiling point. Combine mixtures, strain, bring to a boil again and serve. Holiday Cheese Log 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3/4 cup chopped pecans 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Combine all ingredients except pecans and parsley and beat 2 minutes on medium speed in mixer.
Stir in 1/4 cup pecans. Cover and chill 1 hour until firm.
Spread chopped parsley and pecans evenly on a sheet of waxed paper. Form chilled mixture into log shape and roll in parsley and pecans. Wrap and chill several hours.
Serve with crackers or thinly sliced rye bread.