Celery is a rather underrated vegetable (or we should say herb). Sliced and simmered in a little water, it makes a perfectly good side dish; and the leaves can be chopped as a herb. However, its main use is as one of the vegetable trio — along with onion and carrot — which, chopped and sautéd together, make mirepoix (see under “M”). Mirepoix is the tremendously useful and versatile base for dozens of dishes, none of which contain any obvious taste of celery (for the celery-haters among us are almost as vociferous as the brassica-loathers), but all have the added savouriness only celery confers.
Celery salt is salt mixed with celery seeds. Its most sublime purpose is to serve as a dip for boiled quail’s eggs.
Celery has a reputation for protecting against the effects of drunkenness, hence the celery stalks in Bloody Mary cocktails. According to Alexandre Dumas, himself writing in around the 1860s, this is nothing new: ‘Celery is the plant which, in classical times, people would garland themselves with during their meals, to neutralise the strong effects of wine.’
Dumas also provided this recipe for a celery salad: ‘Celery which is full, tender and fresh, seasoned with aromatic vinegar and oil from Provence and a little good mustard, and then eaten as a salad is really delicious. It awakens the stomach to activity and gives one both an appetite and a sort of alacrity which lasts for several hours.’
Celery and cheese is delicious. Prep the celery like a cut flower: cut the bottom off a stalk and stand it in water. In a few hours it will be at maximum crispness. If you bake a Camembert, you can dip stalks of celery into it (rather like a fondue).