2.07.2010

Have you tried tahini?

Tahini! Versatile, energy-dense, and delicious, tahini is made from sesame seeds that have been soaked. Tahini may be most familiar as a traditional ingredient in hummus.

Raw tahini is available (for a price) but most store-bought tahini seems to be made from roasted sesame seeds that have been ground into a smooth rich paste.

You can also make your own pretty easily, though I haven't tried it yet.

What to do with your tahini:

*Drizzle on your salad, quinoa, or toasted GF bread

*Blend with ginger, lemon juice and fresh ground black pepper for a salad dressing or sauce.

*Combine with wheat-free tamari soy sauce, a smidge of sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Add minced green onions and black pepper. Toss with your completed vegetable stir-fry. (Don't heat it too much, put it on already cooked food.)

*Dip apple slices in a bowl of tahini for snack.

*Blend tahini with salt, lemon juice, and garlic, with a little water. Use as a sauce for kale or spinach.

Like all oily rich foods, keep tahini the fridge in a glass container.

Real tea: Confessions of an aspiring tea snob

Real tea is made from leaves from camellia sinensis. White, green, macha, oolong, puerh, and black tea all come from this plant. Real tea is, obviously, gluten free. Strangely though a fair amount of packaged bagged product known tea is not actually tea and is not gluten free.

A fair number of Celestial Seasonings teas contain gluten. Bless them, they started clearly labeling their boxes a few years ago.

I am not opposed to GF herbal tea-like brews. I drink rooibos when I don't want to imbibe caffeine. I will drink bagged actual tea when its offered. I just don't think it tastes anything close to as good as real tea. In the privacy of my own home I drink tea. Mostly oolongs.

I have a full leaf tea for work, a straight forward Dragonwell which can stand up to ten or more infusions and a fair amount of abuse in the form of oversteeping and excessive water temperature. I keep a tea pot, cup, and thermos at my desk.

As I write I am drinking a Formosa oolong (Tung Ting, charcoal roasted) from my favorite tea shop in the City, Red Blossom Tea Company.

Other fine tea emporiums, which also do web business, are Cooks Shop Here in Northampton, Massachusetts and Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco and North Berkeley.


I found real tea when I was living in a remote Buddhist retreat center in the mountains of central California. I'd grown up in a cold climate drinking wonderful stinky loose lapsang souchong, and bagged Earl Grey & English Breakfast. Good stolid tea. Comforting and dependable, but not transcendent by any measure.

At the Zen center there were tea enthusiasts who would gather in the mornings or late afternoons and brew full-leaf tea for each other. There were also Japanese tea ceremony practitioners--a lovely but very different offering. One summer morning when I was luxuriating in a day off from work, a serious monk whom I held in regard offered me a cup of green tea he was drinking. It was called Clouds & Mist. It smelled and tasted like a murky heaven, clear and clean but with a body that deepened into a kind of marshiness. The next time I was in the City I went to Imperial Tea Court and spent my stipend on tea.

I chased the remembered taste of Clouds & Mist for a few years, ignoring the central wisdom of tea practice: there is only this one unrepeatable moment. I confessed to the monk years later that I was still looking for that rapturous Clouds & Mist and he laughed at me kindly.

"Any green tea could be called Clouds & Mist. Among green teas only Dragonwell is always some form of the same processing, same leaf, but with different grades. Someone could sell you tea factory floor sweepings labelled Clouds & Mist. Do you know how many tea plantations there are in China? Thousands! And every harvest is different. You'll never taste that tea again."

He went on to point out that the water at the retreat center was natural, mineral-rich, barely treated spring water, that temperature and barometric pressure all influence the tea's taste.

I understood and I stopped yearning for my memory of that tea, that morning on the screened-in porch in the wilderness.

...

I am not suggesting that celiacs ought to drink full-leaf tea, though it is hailed as having all sorts of health benefits.

I seek and drink tea because it's a sensual enjoyment--the look, smell, and taste of full leaf tea, drunk from a simple bowl, is beautiful. Beauty as I read or write at home is a treat. Beauty in the midst work on a psychiatric crisis team is sustaining. It's like drinking stillness.

We give up a great deal in order to care for ourselves. There's little ease or spontaneity in having to interrogate everything you put in your mouth. For me, real tea is an accessible pleasure.


But real full leaf tea is so expensive!

It can seem that way. But once one does the math, drinking really good tea is cheaper than drinking mediocre coffee. I spend approximately a hundred and eighty dollars a year on tea. I usually have four teas of differing grades and characteristics. A daily Dragonwell and three oolongs. One to two tablespoons of leaves in the pot, and then I infuse them up to twenty times. I drink the same leaves all day. The taste deepens, changes, and then lightens. Cheaper than three dollars a day on latt├ęs. For me, more enjoyment.

What about caffeine?

If you don't want caffeine, don't drink real tea. White teas have the least caffeine but it's still pretty close to the amount in green tea. Oolong has a higher caffeine content, and puerhs and black teas more than oolong.

Bear in mind that caffeine in high quality green teas don't seem to have the same effect on the drinker as the equivalent caffeine in other beverages. People report not feeling uncomfortably activated or jittery. Some speculate that this is because of the amount L-Theanine in the young leaves of green tea.

The caffeine in tea tends to create a softer effect than coffee infamous rise and crash. But again, if caffeine doesn't work for you, obviously, don't drink it.

I am not particularly sensitive to caffeine though I have certainly experienced the uncomfortable nervousness and crash of too much coffee. When I drink cappuccino (two super smooth espresso shots with foamed milk) a few times a month to celebrate the weekends, I may get a bit bouncier for a few hours.

2.06.2010

Every Saturday is like Christmas Eve

Because tomorrow is the farmer's market that's held down the street from my house and the farmer's market is where the fresh-pressed pomegranate juice comes from.

It's so tart and zingy that the friendly seller offers all sorts of suggestions for diluting it.

Add sparkling water! Add another juice! Mix it with vodka!

To hell with all that. Drink it straight and feel the power!

In case of emergency

Today for lunch I had brown sushi rice with raw dinosaur kale and Tasty Bite Bombay Potatoes and Jodphur Lentils. I am eating my expired emergency kit purchased in October 2008. (And though the boxes state they expired last July, the food tastes fine.)

Actually, denial runs deep in San Francisco. My so-called kit consisted of ten boxes of Tasty Bite meals on a shelf in my closet. I guess I'd always imagined that when the shaking stopped, I'd run into my closet on the second floor of the house and throw the food and anything else at hand into a bike pannier and ride away across thickets of downed power lines and oceans of glass.

Recently, affected by footage from Haiti, I was able to conceptualize more likely scenarios. One of my housemates and I envisioned how to protect the house baby in the event of a big quake and I realized that I would very much want to stay with my housemates and to be able to help the City. Now the plan is to have real personal earthquake kit ready.

I've just done my taxes and happily the Feds are returning me quite a lot of money. I intend to take a stack of bills (and the bike coalition membership that allows me ten percent off everything I buy) to our venerable co-op to assemble a real emergency bag following Joanne Bradley's instructions.

Her ideas seem solid. Joanne was escaping flooding, an unlikely event in our neighborhood. I will tailor my improved kit with earthquake in mind. I'm expecting to need to be totally self sufficient in terms of food for five days and water for three. The Red Cross will certainly bring water--but not gluten-free food. In the event of a major earthquake, if I were uninjured, I would be working/volunteering so I would need at least 1500 calories a day to be able to function effectively. After water, I am prioritizing energy dense foods that don't require preparation or cooking.

1) 3 1/2 pounds of nuts
2) 1/4 pound dried coconut shavings
3) 1 pound Goji berries/Golden Inca berries
4) 24 Raw Revolution food bars
5) 8 GF Tasty Bite entrees (Only 200 calories each but sometimes one needs to eat something resembling a meal)
6) Fish oil tabs
7) Multivitamins
8) Wipes, tissues, and hand sanitizer in a Ziploc
9) Migraine meds/Tylanol/Naproxen
10) Wooden bowl/hashi/wooden spoon/Leatherman
11) Black tea bags (I am habituated to morning caffeine.)
12) Dried GF soup packets (for comfort more than nutrition)
13) 4 Green & Blacks 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars
14) Matches
15) G/F nutritional drink powder
16) Water
17) Panties & socks
18) Sunblock
19) Windbreaker
20) Long underwear
21) 3 Survival blankets
22) The Pocket Zen Reader
23) An extra pair of eye-glasses

I expect that everything on this list will be pretty heavy and it may exceed my bag's capacity. I'll be packing it into the tough water-proof wheeled carry-on I got on sale early last year (photo above). Joanne suggests including a three cup rice-cooker but I don't want to depend on having access to electricity. I'd be more likely to pack my campstove since I'd likely wind up living in Golden Gate Park with approximately 100,000 other people. It's likely that I would give away a lot of the kit, and possible that it would be stolen. I'd rather have something to lose then to be utterly unprepared.

...

During the Katrina disaster the American Celiac Society reported receiving very little support for their efforts to get gluten-free food aid to survivors. The first gluten-free food pantry in the entire country opened only last year.

...

Regarding GF Tasty Bite foods: They taste good, appear to be mostly unsugared, are made from food instead of industrial products, and are packaged to have a long shelf life without preservatives. For example, the Bombay Potatoes ingredients list reads, merely, Potatoes, Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Onions, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Ginger, Garlic, Corn Starch, Coriander, Chilies, Cumin, Spices. (Yes, they capitalize the ingredients. Very respectful.)