There is something about food that is akin to love.
There is something about cooking that is love in action.
Maybe it’s just my Southern roots running deeper into my soul than I imagine, but for me, on some core level: Food equates to Love. Now this is not true just on the romantic level, but all types of love. Food for the homeless as a response to your love for community and compassion for humanity. Food for your friends for all the joy they bring to your life. Food for the grieving because you have felt their pain. And lets not forget those nights when you cook simply for yourself, because you are happy with who you are.
I guess it’s because food is both a basic need for survival and an indulgence that can awaken the senses, unveiling countless variations of pleasure. It satisfies on a core level and it touches our higher sensibilities. Taste evokes memories of people, smells take us back to events we had forgotten and the act of preparing a meal can remind us of who we are.
Both my Mother and Father shared the kitchen growing up. My Mom did most of the cooking, providing us everything from bacon and eggs to liver and onions to her amazing Monkey Bread to keep us occupied while she put the finishing touches on Christmas morning. My did was the special occasion cook. He fired up the grill for holidays and pulled out the waffle iron for his pecan or bacon waffles for birthday breakfast when all our friends had spent the night. (They were so light and crispy I have yet to recreate them successfully.) Even when they forced me to eat my liver and onions, I knew everything had been prepared out of love for my brother and me. Now this ‘act of love’ is a part of who I am.
This weekend however food and the romantic side of cooking did mix. I was filled with an almost tangible excitement as I’ve been playing around with those amazing Indian spices trying to perfect a cup of simple Masala Chai. You see I found out my new boyfriend really likes Chai. He was spending the weekend with his Father, and before he was headed out of town I was looking up the history and methodology for authentic masala chai.
There is apparently no ‘one true’ recipe for the spicy milked tea, but instead as many variations as there are regions and families in India and beyond. So for 4 days I’ve been testing cup after cup. Here is my favorite recipe so far. I’m just so caffeinated right now that typing is getting little hard. I hope he, and you, enjoy it!
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
- 1 green cardomom pod
- 1 star anise star
- 2 cloves
- 3 black peppercorns
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 2 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
- 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick – broken
- scant 1/4 cup honey
- 1 rounded tablespoon black Assam tea
- Place your dried spices in a mortar and roughly break them up to release their flavors. Make sure your cardamom pod is broken enough to release the inner seeds. Do not grind or pulverize the spices.
- Add the water and spice mixture to a small pot and place on medium heat. Add the sliced ginger and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and gently boil the spices for about 7 minutes. You do want the liquid to reduce slightly.
- Add the Assam tea to the water and boil for 3 minutes more.
- Add the honey and cold milk. Slowly let the tea heat until it just begins to simmer.
- Remove from heat and strain through a sieve into a large mug