Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Carrot Cake a la Mode: Short and Stout
My last post was about stuffing everything together, but this week I'm struggling with taking things apart. Snap judgements of taste can be practical. I didn't like Oprah's chai at Starbucks- I won't order it again. But what a talent to understand why. To be able to discern it was too much cardamom, instead of thinking "meh. nah."
Flavored teas are a base with visible add-ins or have been scented with an essential oil. Earl Gray is an easy one to take apart because bergamot is the only flavor added. But chai is difficult: so many spices! Plus, like a pasta sauce or chili, everyone has a unique recipe. I often group spices together in the kitchen: oregano goes with basil! But does that limit me? Can each taste stand on its own? Bergamot in black tea is all that is needed for that distinctive experience.
Some flavors blend so well. Take apples and cinnamon: one from northern Europe, the other from southern Asia, and together they are perfect. People compliment each other too. When I am with my sister and friend, I am at my silliest. Everything can be made funny, and ridiculous ideas pop out of my brain constantly. That energy would be great to call at will, but I am an apple all alone: very nice, but no spice.
(My son and I went into our local tea shop Short and Stout, and while waiting for our brews, checked out their selection of teas to sniff. We both loved the Carrot Cake a la Mode. Making it at home with some cream and honey- delish!)
The best way to grow a skill is practice. I am making my own tea blends, learning the art of discernment. It's all personal anyway. Every scent depends on the nose and brain, both the chemical reactions and the memories attached. How can I possibly understand another's preferences if I don't even know my own?
At least once in everyone's life they will be forced to examine life's big questions: usually because of a tragic event. That's really not the best emotional state to take your first plunge into deep existential thoughts. My philosophy club students and I are trying them out now: weekly examining of what we think of this or that. Even if later in life we completely change our minds due to events outside our control, at least we have practice steeping with our own thoughts. The mind can be a scary place if you haven't lit the tunnels along the way.
I wish my world was like a simple Earl Gray, but it's not. Events are poured, emotions brew, and it can be impossible to distinguish what comes from memories, the present, thoughts for the future...or a blending of all three until there's just the flavor of life.
Move with intention.