Continental / Italian / Flat Leaf Parsley
I have been trying to keep my continental parsley from going to seed by cutting off all the emerging flower stems but this may be a waste of time as a plant always makes up its own mind what it wants to do regardless of any human intervention. It did get me thinking about the word 'Continental' and how it may disappear from general use in the coming 'Asian Century'. For Australians, the word had its peak of popularity amongst the beau monde who travelled abroad in the 1950's and 60's ,coming home in search of anything sophisticated to remind them of their time in Europe. Author Ted Moloney had probably got the ball rolling in 1952 following the publication of his book Oh for a French Wife. However the most European style food on offer, if you were dining out, was Spaghetti Bolognese, Steak Chasseur or Wiener Schnitzel. Olive oil was purchased from the chemist shop, garlic and strong tasting herbs were not in general use. Though continental parsley started to become more readily available from the middle of the 1970's, it was really curly parsley which reigned supreme. Used primarily as a garnish and for decorating trays of meat in butcher shop windows, it most likely had more nutritional value than the plates of food it was displayed on.
Herb gardening books of this era in Britain coined the term continental parsley perhaps as a reminder that it was really a bit foreign and undesirable, linked not only to their weedy and poisonous Fool's parsley, Aethusa cynapium, but to all those strange meals consumed abroad. Though credit was given to the Germans who cultivated a particular variety known as 'Hamburg' where both leaves and roots were used to make suppengrun, a strong tasting and hearty vegetable broth.
My favourite use of continental parsley is for gremolada, that mix of chopped garlic, parsley, anchovy fillets and lemon zest as a final pre-serving topping to Osso Bucco Milanese.
My least favourite use of the word continental is when it precedes the word breakfast, as it then amounts to little more than a cup of tea and a look around.