Category Archives: Cooking
I post so much about tea that I thought I would expound on it because, well, because I can.
I did a tea portion of a class before a formal Leather dinner and it was, apparently, a revelation to a lot of people, so maybe it will have some value here, too.
Tea is a lovely beverage. It is the second most consumed drink in the world, after water.
Experts say tea provides as many disease-fighting flavonoids antioxidants as fruits or vegetables.
Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that promote a healthier immune system.
White tea contains the most antioxidants, followed by green tea. Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which severely decreases its antioxidant content (though it still has more than coffee).
Additionally, tea contains a lot of other natural compounds that promote health, including vitamins C, D and K, amino acids and fluoride.
Tea has a long history of ceremony around it. According to the records, tea was first introduced to Japan from China in the early ninth century by Japanese Buddhist monks.
According to the evolution of the tea ceremony, which you can read in its entirety here, “Powdered tea is used only in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu), which was created in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the midst of Japan’s samurai-dominated medieval age (1185-1568). It is green powdered tea, which is scooped into a rather large bowl and whipped into a frothy, bitter-tasting drink with hot water poured from a kettle.”
While coffee has some of the same health benefits as tea, most health professionals agree that more than two or three cups a day is excessive and is bad for your teeth, reduces the flow of blood to your heart, can cause headaches, indigestion and constipation, and also increases blood pressure. Coffee has even been linked to greater frequencies of sterility in men.
So, in general, tea is better for you than coffee.
My information is from here, but basically all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes each tea different is the way it has been processed.
Tea can be classified according to the amount of processing that goes into the final product.
Black tea goes through the most processing, and is actually fermented.
White tea leaves are the youngest and most tender leaves that are much more rare because they are only harvested at certain times of the year. After harvest, the young tea leaves are fired immediately before any oxidation can occur which results sweeter and naturally mild product.
Because of the use of only select leaves, white tea tends to be more expensive than other tea.
Green tea is produced by preventing oxidation from occurring. The harvested leaves are initially steamed, which stops the fermentation process, before being fired. As it has been for centuries, green tea is the beverage of choice in many Asian countries.
Studies indicate that green tea may be more healthful than other varieties as well.
Let me make a statement that for me, herbal tea is not tea.
It is, in fact, an anathema and an abomination. Ick.
I like flavored teas, but I’m particular about the flavor. No mint. No apple. No pumpkin. No chocolate.
I’m lukewarm about vanilla.
I like berry flavors, though not usually strawberry. I like citrus, but I prefer grapefruit over orange.
Earl Gray is disgusting. Might as well pour perfume into a perfectly good pot of tea.
Decent tea is worth the price.
If you don’t drink tea but you’d like to have tea around for others, buy a tin of decent English or Irish breakfast tea.
Notice I said tin, not box.
Tea gets stale much faster in a cardboard box, or a paper envelope.
I am quite fond of The Republic of Tea brand. They run about $10-$14 for 50 tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea. My longstanding favorite tea is their Blackberry Sage, which I have been drinking for, literally, more than 20 years, and a new variety which I’m also liking a LOT, a Rose Petal tea, with black tea blended with rose petals and buds.
It’s sold in a tin with a tight-fitting lid, meaning that the tea will stay fresh, even if you don’t use it for a long time, and it’s a good quality tea.
If you like coffee, you know that if you come to my house and I offer you coffee, you know that if I pull out an old bag of cheap coffee from the cupboard, one that’s not been sealed or stored in the freezer, or, worse yet, a jar of cheap instant coffee, you’re probably not going to get a decent cup of coffee.
You’ll likely say thanks but no thanks, and have a soda or a glass of water.
If you pull a half open box of Lipton tea from the cupboard, boil a mug of water in the microwave and dump the tea bag in it, then bring it to me with nowhere to get rid of the tea bag, I’m not going to get a very good cup of tea, either.
Water has to be boiled over a fire. I don’t know what happens to water when you boil it in a microwave, but it does something. It makes the water flat or something. It’s disgusting.
I *love* an electric tea kettle. I use this one, and yes, I know it’s expensive. It’s worth every cent.
We use the tea kettle on average at least three or four times a day. It boils water fast and, in my view, the best thing is, it turns itself off and I don’t have to think abut it again. If you let water boil and boil, it loses oxygen and the tea isn’t nearly as good. Like in a microwave, it tastes flat.
I boil water in the tea pot for pasta, too. It’s faster and more efficient, and you KNOW slave drew is all about efficient use of energy.
If you wouldn’t drink your water in a glass with ice, then you probably don’t want to drink it boiled for tea, either. I wouldn’t, anyway.
Louisville is very lucky, we have very good water, I don’t bother to filter it, it tastes fine straight from the tap. If yours doesn’t, then you need to at least use water that’s gone through a filter.
Technically, green and white teas should be steeped with water JUST before it boils. I do use fully boiled for all of it, unless I happen to be standing by the tea kettle.
Tea made in a mug is usually too strong. We have three teapots, because we might have a pot of black tea and a pot of green all going at once. One teabag makes one pot of tea.
Before you pour the boiling water in the teapot, you should rinse it out with warm water, so it’s not a cold pot. You shouldn’t make tea in a silver or metal pot, because it will taste metallic.
Black tea is usually steeped for three to four minutes, green and white for one or two, but I’m really not a purist about that. It depends on how strong the tea is.
If you’re using a tea bag, you’re supposed to take it out after that length of time, though I don’t bother most of the time. If it’s very strong, or very black, I do take it out because it gets bitter.
If you’re a real tea drinker, too, you probably have a tea cozy, to put over the tea pot to keep it warm.
We have two. One for black, one for green.
We do a lot of loose tea, too, and because of that, we do a lot of blends. We have three or four tea infusers, the little cup of plastic and mesh that fits down in the pot to hold the tea leaves. We use about a teaspoon of tea for a pot, maybe a bit more, depending.
I don’t like small cups, I like a big mug, People who like big mugs tend to not want to refill it as often, people who like small cups really often hate cold tea.
I really dislike coffee, always have. I have my own travel mugs for tea that are not EVER used for coffee, ever, ever, ever. Once you’ve put coffee in a travel cup, it always smells of coffee.
I can’t make tea in a hotel room using the coffee pot, either, the water tastes disgusting.
I’ve been known to take a tea kettle with me to a hotel room.
I will warm a cup of tea in the microwave, but I don’t boil it. I prefer not to have to, but I won’t turn my nose up at it.
Now, have I totally intimidated you so you’ll never make me tea?
So, it is the night before Christmas.
slave drew got home from his lake house, I made dinner for us tonight – pasta with salad and rolls – and also a Mediterranean Fish Casserole and Orzo Pilaf for tomorrow’s meal with friends. I’ll make a pumpkin pie during the day tomorrow.
drew opened one of his gifts from me, a book on insects. If you know slave drew, you know the thing he likes the most is information. He’ll pour over it and in six weeks know more than is really appropriate about insects.
The puppies got to open one of their presents, some greenie bones. They have a couple more gifts under the tree for tomorrow, but if I told what they were and the puppies happened to read my blog, then the surprise would be ruined.
We ate some of the candy I was given yesterday, until I made drew move them into another room lest I eat them all.
We are happily home until dinner tomorrow with friends, though if slave drew actually stays home all day, I’ll be surprised. There will be, I imagine, recycling that simply must be done, or a run to Starbucks, if Starbucks is open on Christmas day.
Disliking coffee, I have no knowledge of or interest in the answer to that.
When I was a kid, we would open one gift on Christmas eve. Over the years, sometimes I’ve done that, sometimes not.
We didn’t really have a lot of other traditions. We usually did a jigsaw puzzle over the holidays, played cards. I learned to play Pinochle young and we played it a lot.
I don’t remember what Christmas dinner was, probably a ham, given that my mother didn’t eat poultry of any kind, or fish.
There were no traditions of an ornament every year, or pancakes for dinner on Christmas eve, or a day watching movies in pajamas.
Our Christmas tree was always a pinyon pine, the state tree of Nevada. Pinyon pines are one of the pitchiest trees in the world, it seems. We never bought one, that I remember – poor, remember?
Our tree was usually one from a classroom. Do schools still do that, have a tree in the classroom? Probably not, but we did then, and by the time school let out, there were trees for free if you wanted them, so that was usually our tree.
I looked through my photos and these are nearly all the photos I have of my childhood Christmases. There were maybe three or four photos more, but not from other years.
The thing that strikes me is that I am rarely smiling in the photos.
The first one was when I was about three. Family friends – Aunt Bess and Uncle Charlie – had given me a ceramic poodle, with rabbit fur for a coat and a rhinestone collar. I had it for years. I don’t know what ever happened to it. It was a very frivolous gift, the kind I never got from my mother.
You can see our wild Jetson-esque curtains in the next photo. I was about six. I don’t remember anything I got, other than a baby doll that another family friend, Aunt Rose, had given me.
There’s another photo showing it, but not the cool curtains, which I’m sure were second hand from someone.
The last photo is probably the Christmas I remember best. I don’t know if my mother happened into some extra money or what, but it was the only Christmas I ever remember a gift from my mother that was really special.
I’d seen the doll in the local variety store, the only one in the town, really, where you could buy toys. I remember going in to look at it weekly, knowing absolutely that I would never have it.
It was some price so beyond the realm of what was possible that it never honestly occurred to me that I would get it. I don’t remember how much, maybe $20? But this was the early 1960’s, $20 was a lot and my mother was not the sort to sacrifice what she wanted in order to give her children special surprises. Not in her nature.
So, I would go and look at the doll, and never ask for it, because I knew I couldn’t have it, so what was the point?
Then one week, two or three before Christmas, it was gone, and I knew it had been bought and I’d never see it again. I remember feeling bleak about it, even that young, because at least I could visit her before, now she was gone forever.
And then, on Christmas, there was a box, a large one, and the doll was in it. There wasn’t much else, it wasn’t really a big Christmas, though I remember the container of Felix the Cat bubble bath you can see there.
I remember being kind of stunned. Note the expression isn’t one of a child jumping up and down with excitement, or gleeful.
I had the doll for years, she wore some of my baby clothes, and I made clothes for her. I kept her in pristine condition – I took care of my toys because I knew that there’d not be replacements if I ruined them.
So, that’s my memories. Tomorrow will be busy, and I hope joyous for all of you.
I hope that you and yours are also comfortably ensconced somewhere.
And for all of us, I wish for peace.
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
So said Oliver Herford,
I memorized that poem as a kid, and I have thought of it every single December since, as well as other times, too. Today was the first cold day we’ve had, the first day I actually wore a coat out during the day to run errands.
Actually, yesterday was a bit more of a dark of December kind of day, today was brighter.
I made no cookies today. I did look at cookie recipes and got some cookie ingredients.
One of the places I looked was an old cookbook I had picked up at a yard sale somewhere, the kind that was some mother or grandmother’s COOKBOOK, the one where she stuck the recipes she really wanted to keep, the ones written in various hands, or with the notation of who had given the recipe.
There were some very early Weight Watchers menus which seem to have adopted the policy of making food so unappealing that no one would want to eat it and you would thus lose weight.
While this may seem like an unlikely theory, it’s the only one I can come up with to explain recipes such as Liver Royale (boiled chicken livers with garlic, onion and a dill pickle made into a sort of pate), Sweet and Sour Liver (liver with a sauce made of pineapple, vinegar, tomato juice and artificial sweetener), and Liver Chop Suey (cooked with celery and cabbage, on a bed of bean sprouts.)
And I like liver.
Not THAT liver, but I like liver.
And then there are the recipes where they are trying to make you think it’s going to be something good. Cheese Danish is actually cottage cheese with cinnamon and artificial sweetener broiled on toast. The Popcorn Bowl is actually sliced green peppers, cucumbers, celery and chunks of cabbage, which you can “nibble to your delight.”
Then there are just the dated recipes, like Barbecue Tuna, Chess Pie – Oh My!, or Six Cans Casserole, made of cans of cream of celery, mushroom and shrimp soup, with a can of crab meat, shrimp and mushrooms, served over rice.
One thing I found that I enjoyed was three menus from Christmas Coffees, some kind of ladies luncheon that had a typed menu with recipes and the name of the people making it.
There was a tea or coffee punch, or a rosé wine punch, always a country ham with biscuits or rolls and then very civilized luncheon foods like crab meat dip and melon balls soaked in wine. They are dated 1966, 1968 and 1973.
There are recipes pulled out of magazines and newspapers, including one from 1974 which advertises a two-carat solitaire ring for $6,000
It amazes me that someone would put this in a yard sale, because surely those recipes meant something to the family, but obviously not.
My favorite thing, though, was this poem, written in painfully neat script on a large index card. I began with a poem, I’ll end with one, too, though “poem” is a bit of a stretch.
“A favorite recipe for a starry-eyed bride,
Who has, it is told, captured Somerset’s pride.
I wish them the blessings which life can bestow
And hope they’ll return to ‘ole Louisville’s depot.
We’ll miss ’em while living in yonder peach state,
And an unexpected visit might be this couple’s fate.
If chance we don’t see them in many a day,
We’ll listen for news of triplets in May.”