red tea + time = underrated ::::
My worlds collide: career, home cooking, and Tater Tots. I’ve entered into this world again. I knew this was going to happen eventually. It’s called reality, a job outside of the home, and the need to feed my family. I’ve succumbed to the frozen foods section at the grocery store. The undertow of frozen mini-quiches, TGIF Loaded Potato Skins, and bulk mac ‘& cheese are enough to down a ship, carrying its passengers into a salty, processed food death. I know, it’s not all bad, but for me, knowing every ingredient, whipping up a roast, a plateful of cookies, or a vegetable dish, now relegating my prep to only the microwave, a toaster oven, or a pot of boiling water feels a little naked. I still lean on some previous dishes I’ve photographed but have yet to write about for posting, but it’s not the same. My creative outlet timing is shorn to a mere weekend, if I even get that. Something has to be done.
There must be a compromise with the food and the creativity. Oddly, some combination of the fresh with the frozen works — at least with my kids, and surrender to the offerings of the freezer. Dukkah with tater tots, chicken nuggets with a romesco dip, and even Eggos with a swipe of peanut butter cream cheese frosting. That being said, creativity that lies in my writing and photography is so quickly squelched by my job: my head swims with MRI results, multi-faceted descriptions of back pain (dull? achy? sharp? stabbing? burning?), and the never-ending pile of electronic paperwork. My passionate descriptions of food and drink are usurped by colorful descriptions of pain, my plate of Moroccan Chicken pushed aside, untouched, the fresh limeade beading condensation and warming in the fan of the overworked computer. I yearn for the days of the flexible schedule. This: You want a whole roast chicken for dinner? Sure! becomes Hey! We have chicken nuggets in the toaster oven. Score!
So forgive my somewhat haphazard reveries of food memories these days. It’s my escape. I’ll travel to my childhood’s England laced with Brandy Snaps, Jaffe Cakes, and tea; travels through Europe eating smelly cheese and fine chocolate; my high school French class with plummeting, lemming-like food; the food abyss of graduate and medical school; and perhaps Hawaii for some tropical memories.
While Hawaii always smelled of the lovely white ginger, it doesn’t grab me the same way smelly European cheese does. Smelly cheese is the attention getter in most rooms. That suspicious odor, sending eyes darting, searching for the old, ripe sock, or a spoiled bottle of milk. It’s misleading: what exactly is causing the stink? And if it’s food, why would we want to eat it? Dare I bring it to work for lunch, reheating some campanelle with Romano, olives, pork, and mint in the staff microwave, the ripe tang wafting through the staff offices, accusatory glances still too polite to be cast my way?
What about something just simple, if not to feed my reverie, but to save me from a reputation of eating suspiciously fragrant fare in the workplace all too often. Something to tug me out of my work-space of patient histories and way too many hours spent in front of a computer answering emails. This, a cup of tea, is it.
Rooibos tea is very underrated. It is underrated in the same way time is, time we think we can make the most of by multi-tasking ad nauseum, forgetting the simple things in life. The clear, deep red color is uncomplicated. It is caffeine-free and has no tannins. If you are not a fan of black tea because of the tannic bite, you may be huge fan of rooibos. Here’s to getting back to the kitchen. And to actually use a whisk instead of punching the microwave button.
- 4 cups water
- ⅔ cup whole milk (Note: A mix of 1 to almost 1 ratio of water to milk works fine if using fat free milk)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 teaspoons cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger, lightly smashed
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons loose rooibos tea
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat.
- Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pale rust color, about 20 minutes.
- Strain the chai through a fine sieve and serve hot.