In the middle ages it was believed that sleeping on a pillow stuffed with thyme would dispel melancholy. It has the properties of gathering a person's energies and of focusing them in the immediate time and space, thus increasing the person's strength in that moment. This is a strength which is not the raw force needed to overcome difficulties (for that I use garlic), but is rather a fragrance of awareness of the situation and therefore of the key needed to unlock it. Thyme really does heal wounds, especially the emotional variety. Garlic is a protective charm and brings togetherness to the family. Potatoes, beans and thyme are companions enhancing each others properties. Beans and pork were offered at the festival of Cardea, an ancient goddess of door hinges and protectorate of family life, beans were also used by the Romans at funerals. Bay laurel aids digestion and has a soothing effect. The following recipe is a great dish to bring to a friend at a time of great loss, be it the loss of a loved one or any other tragedy in one's life.

Scalloped Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole with Ham

3 pounds potatoes, thinly sliced
1 lb green beans, sliced diagonally
6 tablespoons butter
1 quart whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp dill weed
1 tblsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 c diced ham (optional)

Method: Warm cream and butter with seasonings until hot but not boiling, let it steep. Cover potatoes with water and just bring to a boil (they will not be thoroughly cooked), then drain. Steam green beans until tender. Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 1/3rd of the potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer 1/2 of the green beans and ham. Layer another 1/3 of the potates then the remainder of beans and ham and top with the remainder of the potatoes. Remove the bay leaf. Slowly pour the cream mixture over the potatoes until the dish is 3/4 full. Bake until the cream comes to a boil (check after 5 minutes), then reduce heat to 375F for another 45 to 60 minutes.

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