HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA — Herb-loving regional notables Tim Haas and Jan Beane might have started from different directions on their journey toward appreciating herbs, but they’ve ended up in the same place. Now authors of several books about gardening and cooking with herbs, each less than a decade ago thought using herbs meant adding salt and pepper to a dish.
Then, almost simultaneously, they made an exciting discovery. Beane met a woman at her mother’s home one day who told her about using herbs in cooking and invited Beane over to see her herb garden. “I thought herbs came in jars and were imported from other countries. When she showed me her herb garden, it opened up a whole new world,” Beane says.
Meanwhile, Beane’s longtime friend Haas had been to another friend’s home for dinner and watched in amazement as the Louisiana woman sniffed anonymous plastic jars and threw pinches of dried greens into her pot of gumbo. “I asked how she knew what she was using, and she said by the smell,” Haas says. “It got me so intrigued that I started investigating herbs, using them, experimenting with them.”
Fortune brought these two friends’ paths together at just the right time: Haas called Beane shortly after discovering the world of herbs and they began talking about their newfound interest in the useful plants. “I was talking to her about one herb and she said, ‘Do you have an herb garden? I have one up on you,’” Haas says. He hadn’t considered the possibility of growing his own herbs, so he went to see Beane’s garden. “Of course, Jan never does anything on a small scale. It was this huge garden — and I had to have one.”
That was the beginning of a passion that has grown ever since. Haas and Beane started working together to get the word on herbs out to the world, or at least their corner of it. Both say they knew many people whose spice cabinet was limited to salt, pepper and maybe some cinnamon. “I even grew up on a farm,” Beane says, “but my grandfather raised fruits and vegetables. No one grew herbs. When I found out about them, I wanted to tell everybody.”
And that’s what they are doing. Their new book, Basil to Thyme (Champion Press, 2004), is the latest product of the education project they embarked upon. They began their quest in 1998 by creating, developing and hosting the PBS herbal cooking show, “Herbal Impressions with Tim and Jan.” Then they started doing guest appearances on other television and radio shows and eventually got their own morning radio show, “Waking up with Tim and Jan.” They toured and spoke at various seminars, hospitals and health-center workshops across the country.
Their program includes such topics as herbal remedies and creating health through cooking. “People think about diet and health — cut fat, cut sugar — but never anything about making dishes more flavorful. Or about taking an herb instead of a synthetic drug.
“There was hardly any education as far as that was concerned. Jan and I felt that we could be a vehicle for that,” Haas says.
With the busy schedule this herbal adventure involved on the road and at home, Haas found he didn’t have time for healthy eating and exercise, and his body began to show it. “I would go to these health spas and set up for shows and not have time to use the facilities. I wasn’t getting exercise and decided I was going to make time for myself,” Haas says. Apparently, it worked: In the last year and a half, he has lost 53 pounds.
Haas and Beane are committed to helping people achieve their health goals. Their new book provides plenty of recipes for healthy, simple meals, rich with the flavor of herbs.
The success of Haas and Beane’s herb adventure has been so abundant they’ve had to cut back to make time for the most important aspects of their lives. They love to write and have temporarily stopped the radio show to make time to do so. And in the midst of all their activity, their commitment to their families is readily apparent. “It impresses me that my children have caught on to using herbs. When I’m away from home, my oldest son does all the cooking and he pulls out the jars of herbs,” Beane says.
Haas adds that his family is his inspiration. He’s always trying to think of ways to make cooking easier and more enjoyable for them. “We want to cut the time so busy mothers can cook wholesome meals for their families instead of going to drive-through restaurants.”
Although they have covered the media spectrum, Beane says her true passion is writing. Haas feels the personality that works so well for television and radio translates well in their writing. “We love people and we want them to live forever, and when we write it’s from that perspective,” Haas says.
To Haas and Beane, the most rewarding part of their job is educating others. “It’s just seeing that light go on, saying ‘Oh, I understand,’ and showing people that foods don’t have to be bland. So many of us are in a rut … it thrills me to show people new things about food,” Beane says.— Jessica Kellner
Click here to read an excerpt from Haas and Beane’s new book, Basil to Thyme: Culinary Endeavors from the Garden to the Kitchen (Champion Press, 2004). The book can be ordered online from www.ChampionPress.com or www.Amazon.com; by phone at (877) 250-3354; or write Champion Press, 4308 Blueberry Road, Fredonia, WI 53021.
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