My definition of a lovely lunch: Start with a fresh apple (Fuji is good) cut into slices. Add several chunks of a favored cheese like Asiago Fontina or Port Salute and a slice of good artisinal whole grain bread. Fill a small dish with natural peanut butter & place a few select pieces of dark chocolate next to it on your plate. Brew up a decent cup of Earl Grey tea & find a spot where people will leave you be for a while. I like going to Bryant Park on a nice day or slipping into a vacant office to gaze out the window onto Manhattan island while I feast.
You will enjoy the many culinary combinations you are able to make; apple & cheese, bread & cheese, peanut butter & apple, apple & chocolate, chocolate & bread, chocolate & peanut butter, chocolate & peanut butter & bread! The tea helps bring it all together in a harmonic syncopation that warms your entire body.
This makes for a delightful, healthy & impressive lunch that powers you for the remainder of the afternoon.
Have fun & get inspired to improvise.
Yesterday I was turned onto this wild thing, NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It piqued my interest as it’s a challenge to write a novel in 30 days. You see, I fancy myself a writer and I just know that “great American novel” is sitting in my underutilized brain, waiting for a great unexpected slice of time and money to come driving at my door screaming at me to put aside silly, every-day concerns and grab that pen and paper. Oh fantasy – you are as a deep drink of single malt scotch.
You commit to write 1000 words (about 3 pages) every week day for a one month period; no kidding. The writing has to start on the first of the month and end on the 30th and you actually submit your pages every day and their fantabulous computer will do the word count and post it for the world to see (the number count, not the words.)
Compelling – intriguing – terrifying – insane – just my cup of tea
Well this was a once a year thing and began yesterday – November 1 – and I could not get on the web site before midnight to register. There were so many hits, their server was probably gasping for wattage – or whatever it is servers depend on for survival – and I sat there looking at the blinking arrow on my screen wondering if this was going to happen. And alas it did not.
My fantasy dissipated before my eyes. Then the ID dropped by for a visit and started to berate me for being so stupid as to think I could have managed such a feat; “You, write a novel? Oh Come On!” The Alter-Ego wasn’t much help either pointing out; “well, you are in graduate school and November – as everyone knows – is when you should be working on your final thesi…” Bla Bla Bla. Thanks a lot.
Now, I know what you – my dear reader – is probably thinking. “You don’t need some national Nanowamu thing…whatever it is…to write 1000 words a day. You can do that on your web log.”
Yeah, I know.
But the idea of joining a million other folks in a great challenge held some kind of an allure for me. It’s like JK Rowling’s vision of children, all over the world, sitting down to read her Harry Potter novels all at the same time. She put a great deal of money and effort into making sure her books were released on ONE DAY ONLY just for the fulfillment of her vision. You have to admire that. She can pretty much pull off whatever turns her on these days. Go JK!
So – a missed opportunity – a dream to defer for another year. I will watch with rapt attention at the end of the month to see how many novels (or novellas, as they point out) get done. And I will definitely put myself on the calendar next October to sign up early on NaNoWriMo and join the game. One never knows what one will pull out of one’s brain when faced with a challenge.
While working a 9 to 5 job in Morningside Heights it was a simple joy – in the midst of a typical office day – to stop my work for a moment and brew a pot of tea. I’d sit at my table with All Things Considered droning in the background and sip away while the world swirled right outside my door. I worked hard to earn those fifteen (ok, twenty) minutes of respite and they were precious to me; afforded me a moment out of time to reflect and be present. I guess one could consider it almost like praying without all the Baruch Hashems.
With the morning cup of coffee barely a memory, a good piece of work handled and the sun well past high noon, I turn my sights to the anticipation of tea. My ritual is loosely based on the British High Tea model. Below are a few simple steps to achieve what I like to call, the Tea Zone.
Establishing the Moment
My typical afternoon tea involves a healthy pinch of Earl Grey (double Bergamot if available and loose, if you please) into my art deco tea pot with matching cup and plate; a gift from mother on the occasion of my 38th birthday. Though some may argue, I find the afternoon tea best served with a pinch of sugar, whole milk and three oatmeal biscuits on the side. Once fresh water is brought to a rolling boil, pour it over the leaves, top the pot and wrap it up in a clean white dish towel to steep for five to eight minutes (note: it is advisable to leave the handle of the teapot unwrapped so not to get too hot.) During this time, prep the cup with half a teaspoon of sugar and a drop or two of whole milk. The biscuits may be arranged in a pleasing manner on an accompanying plate, affording them the dignity of a good presentation before being utterly consumed. Sit back and appreciate the moment you are about to create.
The Ritual Pour
While lasting only a second, the pouring of the tea is a very important moment of passage in the afternoon rite. Start by unveiling the teapot from its warming wrap. Taking care not to burn your hand, grasp the handle firmly and dispense with confidence. Starting close to the cup, move the teapot up high over the vessel to increase the agitation of the pour, thereby helping mix together the sugar and milk. Notice the curling lines of steam and the gurgling nature of the pour. Smell the sweet essence of the tea and allow it to tickle your nose as you watch your cup come to life. You are entering the Tea Zone.
If you are brewing loose tea you have the added pleasure of handling the tea strainer. Being right handed, I strain with my left. It is a tiny feat of dexterity to pull off a pour-with-strainer but a few practice runs and anyone who cares will look as expert as the Queen of England. This is most impressive when entertaining friends or co workers.
The Tea Zone
There is nothing quite like those first few sips of tea; flowery and bitter. The insides of your mouth may tingle but relax and let your tongue dance luxuriously with the flavors. Next you will notice the roof of your mouth taking on great warmth and radiating it to your nasal cavity then your brain. This is the axis of the Tea Zone.
Make every effort to remain in the Zone as long as possible. When the initial wave of bliss begins to recede, reach for the first biscuit and bite into its buttery, crunchiness. Follow with another sip of hot tea. You may allow yourself to emit a fully satisfactory sigh with eyes closed if so desired. Repeat until tea and biscuits are gone.
The Tea Zone, with its clearly defined entry point has a very gentle process of egress which may take up to an hour to complete. While the necessary clean up of tea leaves and biscuit crumbs may leave some feeling mildly depressed, rest assured this is only temporary.
TZt Warning (Tea Zone time)
The lingering warmth of the Tea Zone is designed to carry you through the latter part of the afternoon and deliver you safely into the transition period towards evening. This is why it is important to observe the strict Tea Zone time (TZt) of 3:20 to 4:45pm during the work week. Entering the TZt too early may cause premature bouts of bliss followed by deep seeded disappointment that you still have hours to go before the work day is over. Enter TZt too late and you interrupt the dynamics of the time/space continuum that is the transition from afternoon into evening, causing confusion and possible dizziness. Plus you will most likely need to go to the bathroom shortly after leaving the Tea Zone and its best to time this well so as to avoid an uncomfortable commute home.
Happy drinking, my dear reader.