Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm going to tell you a story

In the new year, I went to Alexandria, Va down near the water in Old Town to go buy tea. I like tea. Being from Taiwan, I have a certain tea affinity. The shop was in an old building. Lots of dark wood everywhere, most prominent being the richly-stained, giant, cavernous shelves that held beautiful apothecary jars of every size flecked with coffee and tea.

The shelves opposite the tea were packed full of beverage accoutrements. Infusers of all kinds, teapots, coffee mugs, tea mugs with built-in infusers, spoons to stir tea, spoons to measure tea, decorative pots, travel mugs, coasters, complete tea sets, serving trays, biscuits, cookies, chocolate, honey, and then there were other food items like fruit preserves, olive oil and vinegar, and food accessories like salt and pepper mills, egg-poaching cups, and placemats. Everything nestled something else.

There was a wonderful young man at the counter who had been working there for two and a half years. He knew the stock of tea very well, and was very excited about it. He made fabulous recommendations despite the fact that I was only making a small purchase. I ended up only buying three ounces of tea. Of course, together, me and my companion also ended up buying a ceramic mug, a tea-measuring spoon, some hot Hungarian paprika, and an oil mister (a veritable bounty of kitchen treasures) but we did spend a good deal of time with the young man.

That's how you know when a store really cares and is excited about its product - when no matter what you buy or even if you buy nothing, staff is willing to help you smell the product. I smelled a lot of teas.

That's when he walked in. He was an older gentleman, with little wisps of white hair on his head. Clouds mildly obscuring a mountain. He had a curved nose, wide, round eyes, and some age spots. The young man who had helped me make selections of tea previously asked him if he was looking for anything in particular.

"Do you have any verbena?"

"Oh you mean verveine?"

"Verveine, verbena, whatever you call it," he smiled as the young man reached up on the shelf to grab a mid-sized jar filled with large, brownish leaves.

"Would you like to smell it, sir?" the clerk opened the jar.

"I can recognize it just by the shape of the leaves, but sure!" He seemed thankful for the opportunity. He breathed in and sighed, "Ah, the sweet smell of verbena!"

The young man took the jar to the area where they portion the tea into small brown paper bags.

"How much would you like?" He grinned, everyone in the store was loving this man more and more every second.

"You wouldn't happen to have a pound of that, would you?" He asked.

"No, sorry," the clerk chuckled softly, "There's not even half a pound here," pulling out the long, whole leaves.

"I'll take what you've got!" He was adorable, gleeful extravagance.

"Ok," the clerk smiled, pulling out more leaves. They rustled deliciously. I wondered what distinguished verbena tea, never having tasted it myself. He ambled away with his purchase, clearly going straight home to enjoy. I envied the tea shop high-roller, buying the entire stock with innocent and unpretentious panache.

Rule: Become a delightful old person and clean out a store of some sort of indulgent item.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Farmers Markets

Rule: Go to your local farmers market and eat something ripe and in season.

Do this because it will taste amazing. Do this to support farmers. Do this to support some heirloom variety. Do this because you love food. Do this because maybe you'll like something you never thought you liked before (probably because it wasn't ripe or in season).

The end.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This is what ladies like me want to do on vacation

This is what could happen:

Grab a few of your best best friends. One you love and could live with forever, one you could be attracted to maybe, one who's a little awkward, very honest, and sweet. They all love to laugh. Go somewhere with cool mornings, balmy days, and nights without too much light pollution. Somewhere with a beach, preferably, but failing that, excellent rows of tiny, independent shops and fabulous sidewalks.

This is what you pack: underwear, socks, flip flops, curling/straightening iron, blouses, t-shirts, jeans, skirts, a bikini or two, contact lens solution, glasses, brush or comb, sunblock, sunglasses, lotion, some nice shoes, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers, a small bit of jewelry, makeup, and q-tips. Fortunately for you, the friend who is always prepared has packed a camera (which you always lament forgetting), aloe (because none of you remembers to wear sunblock), mouthwash (because sometimes you don't feel like brushing your teeth), and q-tips (because you thought you packed yours, but you really just dropped it beside your bag).

There is lots of sun. There is lots of sunkissing. Possibly sunmaking-out. Your shoulders are a touch burnt, but that's ok. You spend all of your time in a bikini. You buy a bunch of cheese while giggling at the grocery store (still in bikinis). A chevre, a nice manchego, a St. Andre, a Gruyere, some random semi-soft cheese, and somebody splurges on some sort of fruit conserve. There are about a million different types of crackers in the snack aisle and you pick the one with the funny name. There is a decent amount of cooking (apron over bikini). There are lots of late-night greasy food runs. You make lots of cocktails and drink them and share them and it's ok to fart because a.) it's always been ok to fart b.) fart noises are funny and c.) we're spending a lot of time together and you just can't hold it in the whole time, ok? It's picture time and you all make your best fart faces.

Boys hold a lot of possibility and excitement and they holler like they don't know any better but it turns out they're all boring know-it-alls and you go find an excellent local jewelry shop and each end up buying some earrings. They sparkle and glint and are a great deal. Every morning you wake up and slowly sip tea or coffee or mimosas or belinis. You see squirrels or geese or some other animal that congregates on the ground and everybody decides to chase them. You start out slowly walking toward them and they edge away. Then the chase moves faster and they start to run and make a bunch of noise as they get all flustered. They honk and chatter.

You all reveal something sad about your lives. You make scrambled eggs with Gruyere and everybody is quiet and contemplative but by the time the eggs are gone everybody has put the feeling somewhere else. Maybe it is in your stomach with the eggs.

The last morning everybody wakes up and has breakfast together for the last time for a long time. It's quiet because you've been together this whole time and you're thinking of the parts of your life the others can't relate to because they live so far away. Packing is slow-going. Everyone talks in soothing tones. You touch each others shoulders or backs a lot. Everyone's hands are soft and cool. In your throat are memories. In your chest is a hollow. You swallow the memories into this hollow. It is a bittersweet pill that makes your thighs sluggish and your brain unable to draw up words to say to everyone, so all you say is, "See you soon! Have a safe trip!" You get home and are glad for your own bed. You hope she stops dating that guy. You hope the other can find a new job. You dream that they are all nesting dolls. You dream you are the biggest one. You dream they can all fit inside. You dream that you crack open and they all roll out. You wake up and go back to your life.

EDIT: Totally forgot to put down a rule.

Rule: When you're on vacation, you should be able to wear whatever you want and eat whatever you want.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Read this

Rule: Read this.

If cooking means anything to you, you should like it.

I'm not sure how I feel about her writing (I've only read this, and obviously it's a short work), but she seems like she might be worth checking out. Anyone out there know anything about her?