A surprise Elixir by Hildegard of Bingen

 

Mouth-watering dishes from the CERVO Restaurant

After sitting down to a meal at the Zum Hirschen, Edith our main host serves us a hot herbal tea with a decidedly intriguing aroma. Her explanation of this unusual amouse bouche: before meals, we serve herbal teas prepared in accordance with the recipe invented by Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval saint and renowned herbalist. Slowly sipping this hot infusion before the meal, helps to heighten awareness of the food that the body is about to ingest. This ritual helps our guests more consciously appreciate the dishes prepared in our kitchen. Seeing my husband’s look of mild scepticism, our host added with a wink of the eye: just as St. Hildegard invited her students to indulge in prayer, we indulge the desires of our guests who ask us for second helpings.

After the salubrious elixir, a platter of watercress and homemade bread, with a knob of herb butter was put before us. In this contest of fragrances, I could easily pick out the tell-tale aroma of cumin. Refined and frugal at the same time, I thought this simple dish brought us a little closer to the modest fare that might once have satisfied the medieval pilgrims at the hospice. As for us, we were pleasantly surprised.

During our stay at the Zum Hirschen, we enjoyed the traditional Tyrolean/Trentino dishes reinvented by the excellent house chef, not to mention the complimentary hot elixir that enabled us to experience the potency of Hildegard’s medicinal herbs for ourselves. And when the new guests arrived, my husband explained to the couple the table next to us who were suspiciously eyeing the elixir: you should know that St. Hildegard of Bingen’s herbal wines and infusions really work!