The chives are up, and my spirits with them. Grass, I know, is just as handsome, and almost every plant at this moment more interesting, but chives represent a tasty turning-point: fresh herbs for fresh spring food. Scattering the fine cuttings on a salad, or on the yellow of eggs, gives me quite disproportionate pleasure.
To the French they constitute, with parsley, tarragon and chervil, ‘fines herbes’: an omelette made more vivid, green specks among the marbled yellow and brown. Chives alone make Sauce à la ciboulette, a delicate dressing for fish or a salad, whether in the richer form of a speckled mayonnaise or a pale and pourable cream. One of the chef’s star turns at the Garrick Club is a little smoked haddock soufflé: you dent the crisp brown crust with your spoon and pour in the cool white and green sauce, mingling fish and salt and smoke and hot and cold and the hint of onion.
Spain has a hairier-chested equivalent to the delicate French omelette: Huevos con ajos is scrambled eggs green-striped with fresh garlic shoots. These are dishes that spell spring, to follow with fresh spears of broccoli, and very soon asparagus. Here, I’m afraid, I take issue with the Spanish. They not only blanch the beautiful green shoots into gross white digits; they seem to think that canning them is a necessary step on the way to the table.