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Enfleurage: the Art of Soaking It In

Posted by Barbara Mansfield on

It takes patience. But in this pandemic endurance is required to brush your teeth.

Enfleurage is the only method of extracting the aroma from many types of delicate flowers, including lilac. Since moving to the Catskills in 2006, every time the lilacs bloom I think this will be the year I do enfleurage.  But, then some job or event or family emergency or random excuse comes up.

I brought home 5 or 6 bountiful branches of lilac from my friend Kristine’s yard the night before Phil was permanently laid off. He had that job at the Culinary Institute for eight years. We are accustomed to the boom and bust that comes with the variety of gigs I juggle, but Phil’s job was reliable. We can just add that to list of things we can no longer rely on. But, all this unknowable just deepens appreciation for the friends and family you can count on.

“Hey! Who wants to help me with a soap thing?” Usually when I call that out I either get no response from the fam, or a shuffle and groan followed by “…in a minute.”  This time they’re eager for something, anything to do.

We place each tiny flower, petal cup down, in refined shea butter. Flowers are laid in a very tight array.  I tell Cal and Phil the oil will draw in the aroma over time—that we have to do this for 6 or 7 days, at least. They muscle me out of the way because I’m “messing up the rows.”

The first evening it took three of us an hour to cover a 9x14 glass tray. By night two, we covered the same space in half the time, but had to remove each flower with tweezers from the first array—so the increased efficiency was a wash. But, productivity isn’t the point.

We are marking time picking flowers and placing them in rows. In this moment we’re not asking what we did today, what our plans are. We’re soaking in a quality of time we might never have as a family again.

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  • what a lovely story and perspective! I hope you have some of this at the Farmer’s Market tomorrow!

    susan goldman on
  • I could smell the fragrance as I read it, Barb. Lovely! A sweet accounting of the ups and downs of family life in A Day in the Times of Pandemics.

    Marilyn on

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