A poem after Basho … and Genmaicha, the people’s tea,

A Woman Sips Tea

after Basho

Genmaicha at noon
Saturday peace
The rose garden blooming

– Jamie Dedes

A Monk Sips Morning Tea  

A monk sips morning tea,
it’s quiet,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering.

– Basho, Translated by Robert Hass


GENMAICHA is a green tea combined with roasted brown rice. Sadly I’m getting ready to give my neighbor what’s left of my stash. We find this body is no longer tolerant of grains. For those of you who have no problems with rice, I recommend it. This particular brand is my favorite (convenient tea bags) because it combines the grassiness of green leaf and matcha with the earthiness of brown rice.  It makes for a bracing afternoon pick-me-up. I don’t find that it needs any sweetening, just be sure to brew it properly:

Now-a-days this tea is widely enjoyed in Japan and elsewhere. Originally, however, it was referred to as “the people’s tea.” The rice made the tea affordable for the poor and provided some nutrition. Genmaicha is also called popcorn tea. As the rice is roasted, it often pops like popcorn. Occasionally you will see the popped rice in the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genmaicha photograph courtesy of  BookeldOr under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Research on Parkinson’s Disease … and Ketogenic Diet for PD; today’s poem is “Vision Quest”

PARKINSON’S DISEASE: The Michael J Fox Foundation is doing a research project on genetic markers for Parkinson’s among people descended from Ashkenazi Jews. If you fit the demographic, you might want to participate. Meanwhile, they are noncommittal regarding treatment with slow-carb diets combined with intermittent fasting and supplemented with medium chain triglycerides, but there is a small hopeful study online of five people showing that symptoms were mitigated and I find that combination along with exercise is having a good effect for me. Almost no tremors. Do your homework!


NEUROPROTECTIVE DISEASE-MODIFYING EFFECTS OF A KETOGENIC DIET: One recently published clinical study tested the effects of the ketogenic diet on symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (). In this uncontrolled study, Parkinson’s disease patients experienced a mean of 43% reduction in Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale scores after a 28-day exposure to the ketogenic diet. All participating patients reported moderate to very good improvement in symptoms. Further, as in Alzheimer’s disease, consumption of foods containing increased amounts of essential fatty acids has been associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease ().  MORE


RELATED: 

Today’s poem:

Vision Quest

Writing in a far and broken country, my pen
knows its kinship with the dark forest, asks
direction of its trees, celebrates its quiet amity
over the din of plastic medicine vials, the 40-foot
serpentine specter of a cannulae, the hiss and sigh
of an oxygen compressor amid layered silences.

We are named on a long list of regional poets.
The region is the sickroom where the palm and
birch in the courtyard know their meaning and
place. Lend a shaman ear. The trees will speak
and tell you that we are found, we are here,
not lost in those vials but found in the hallowed

company of artful seekers on a Vision Quest. Call it
the hero’s journey – Strike up the hill. Cry out for
the Sacred Dream, for the purpose of your life and
its confusions. A comforting Infinity breaks through
fierce grieving embraced. The great dream comes
to you. The trees come to you. They speak in God’s
tongue, which is – after all – your True Voice. . .

Life gives, leaving behind the key to its wide and
wild essence. Unlock the door. Listen … the voices
are gentle and they mark the pathway with poems.

© 2013 Jamie Dedes

ESPRESSO … “stronger than all the religions of the world”

“The voodoo priest and all his powers were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.” Memoir From Antproof Case, Mark Helprin

What is more delightful than an espresso (that’s eSpresso, not eXpresso) to help move through the day or a caffè correto to end a good dinner and aid digestion? This is an easy-to-learn process using a Bialleti Moka Express, a stove-top espresso maker.  It’s well worth the negligible effort.  I prefer the moka pot to a machine because I feel more connected to the process and the product, it takes up less real estate in the kitchen, and it’s budget wise.

As always we start with the freshest ingredients: water – clear, cold, and filtered – and freshly ground dark-roasted coffee.  Buy it when you know you will use it right away, even if you purchase beans and grind them at home.

The Bialetti Moke Express comes in three parts: the reservoir for water, a coffee filter with funnel for the grounds, and a top piece to capture the espresso as it bubbles up from the bottom.  This coffee pot comes in various sizes to make coffee for just one person or for up to twelve.

Directions:

Fill the reservoir with water to just below the steam valve. Put the coffee filter in place and fill it with grounds, tamping them lightly with the back of the spoon. Screw the top piece in place.

Put the Moka Express on the highest heat.  Watch it because it is quickly done.  The espresso will gather in the top chamber. Serve immediately.  Sweeten with xylotol if you like.  If you care to, you might add either a lemon peel or, for a caffè correto, a little grappa. Caffè latte: One shot fresh, hot espresso for each six ounces of steamed organic dairy or nondairy milk.

This video demonstrates the process. (If you are view this from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to watch the video.)

Photo credits: The header photo and the Bialetti are courtesy of Bialetti. The espresso cup is courtesy of Lemone under GFDL.

“An old American who lives in Brazil is writing his memoirs. An English teacher at the naval academy, he is married to a woman young enough to be his daughter and has a little son whom he loves. He sits in a mountain garden in Niterói, overlooking the ocean. As he reminisces and writes, placing the pages carefully in his antproof case, we learn that he was a World War II ace who was shot down twice, an investment banker who met with popes and presidents, and a man who was never not in love. He was the thief of the century, a murderer, and a protector of the innocent. And all his life he waged a valiant, losing, one-man battle against the world’s most insidious enslaver: coffee. Mark Helprin combines adventure, satire, flights of transcendence, and high comedy in this “memoir” of a man whose life reads like the song of the twentieth century.”

 

The Language of My Grandmother’s Hands; يانسون‎‎ Yānsūn (Anise Tea)

I hold the imprint of her hands as they stirred her homemade yogurt-starter into warm milk for labna لبنة‎‎ , yogur árabe, wonderfully thick and sour. She’d pour the mixture into a jar and wrap the jar in a military issue blanket, placing it next to the radiator to ferment the yogurt. All six of her sons and one of her daughters had served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. My thrifty grandmother saw no reason to toss the blankets they brought back from their service in Europe and Africa.

Clearly, frugality ruled in my grandmother’s house. Soap chips were sowed into pieces of clean rag and used until their lather was spent. Newspapers were exchanged with the junk man for precious pennies. Even when I was too old for a stroller, she’d have me clamber into an ancient one, my weight allowing it to serve as a walker when we went out. No need for medical equipment. Really, I suspect my grandmother would put today’s recyclers to shame.

I can remember my grandmother’s hands as they served us cinnamon-scented chicken and rice,  gray steam rising from soup bowls.  I see her hands buttering khubz خبز‎‎ (bread) to go with tea or coffee, and I see them packing loose yānsūn يانسون (anise) tea into a jelly jar for my Uncle Anthony to take on a business trip. For sure she expected hotel food to cause stomach upset. No need for Tums™ and other such when there’s a delicious healing tea to drink. After all, as far back as their Phoenician progenitors, yānsūn has served the Lebanese people well for both pleasure and health.

The health benefits are not just an old-wives tale. In fact anise or aniseed – used for teas, sweet and savory dishes, and arak عرق (Leventine spirits) – does have healing properties. It’s a diuretic and a carminative. It’s a digestive. It is even said to be good for colicky babies and nursing mothers. Like its flavor-cousin, fennel, it’s a breath freshener. For those of us who avoid sugar, it’s sweet enough not to need any.

These days I like my anise combined with camomille, which is also a tradition and not just for the Lebanese. Tasty! Relaxing! Calming! Lovely after dinner  …

… and here’s today’s poem:

The Taste of Baklava

Honestly, there are times
when the taste of baklava
finds my tongue and speaks to me
in the language of my grandmother’s hands,
when the honey and fresh mint in tea
vitalizes my very being ~
and I remember everything
. . . . . everything
even the scent of you, your eyes
the way we lingered over dessert,
tapered candles flaming wisps of hope,
your red roses wilting in a crystal vase,
dropping velvet petals like dreams
on the white damask of our forever

© 2017, post, poem and family photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved;  photograph of Arabic tea courtesy of wallla3a under CC BY 2.0 license.

Eeyore’s Thistle (Artichoke); featured tea, Lady Grey; featured poet, Pablo Neruda

“Welcome to my little thistle patch.” Eeyore’s Thistle Patch by A. A. Milne

Artichokes are a starchy veggie but high in Vitamin A and potassium and. . .The artichoke’s spiny green flowers, which are eaten like a vegetable, contain a substance called cynarin. A recent study showed that this compound may help rid the body of artery-clogging cholesterol and lower triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.” CBS Better Nutrition

It’s probably easier to pick out a good artichoke than it is to pick out a good melon. The leaves need to be tight and green. When you squeeze it, it should make a squeaky noise. That lets you know its fresh and moist.The choke should feel heavy for its size. My own preference is for artichokes that still have some stem attached, which is good to eat and helps the choke retain moisture.

To prepare the artichoke for cooking:

  • With a sharp knife tip and top the choke; that is, cut the stem off so that it will sit flat in the pot and on the plate; trim the top.
  • Peel off the smaller lower leaves on the outside of the choke. Usually just one layer will do it.
  • With a kitchen shears or other sharp scissor, trim the thorny tip from the top of each leaf.
  • Pressing down on the choke, spread the leaves open a bit. Or, you can do it my own eccentric way, which is to take the ball of the choke in my hand and bang the top of it against the side of your clean sink.
  • Rinse well inside and out under cold water. If you use a veggie wash, which is a good thing to do, make sure you run water though the inside to clear it all out.

To cook:

 Fill a pot large enough to accommodate your artichokes with enough water to come about half-way up the chokes. Set them in the pan. Peel and sliver one or two large garlic cloves per artichoke. Slip the slivers in between the leaves. Top with a spoonful or two of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Himalayan pink salt and black pepper.  Toss the stems and some extra garlic cloves into the water. Bring the water to a boil. Cover. Lower heat. Simmer for approximately one hour. (Timing will depend on the size of the artichokes.) To see if they’re done, test with a butter knife, which should easily move through the center of the choke.  When the artichokes are cooked through, remove them from the pot – holding each over the pot for a minute to let the water drain out and then place them on individual serving dishes.

How to eat an artichoke:

As the video notes, some like to dip the leaves in butter. I have known people to use garlic mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, or an array of other sauces that suit their taste. I am a purist.  A bit more salt maybe for me, but that’s it. I don’t want or need anything to mask the artichoke flavor.

Now my peasant roots will show. A quick grain-free soup:

Don’t waste the cooking water. It’s full of flavor and nutrients. Leave the stems and garlic in the pot. Add a cup or two of minced carrot, onions, celery and cauliflower rice. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Taste for seasoning. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Ladle this soup into serving bowls and top with a dollop of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese or vegan parma.

Featured Tea:

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Enjoy with a hot cup of Lebanese style Lady Grey tea. What makes it Lebanese? Serving it with a spring of fresh spearmint. If you like to sweeten it, I would suggest using only Xylotol made from birch. This is what I use.

And with that here’s the poem and poet of the day.

Ode to the Artichoke

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Uncurled
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
Artichoke
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Burnished
Like a proud
Pomegrante.
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Were
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.But
Then
Maria
Comes
With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Bottle
Of vinegar
Until
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Then
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.
– Pablo Neruda
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Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Parral, Chile
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), b. Parral, Chile

“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and they descend ….. I bow to them . . . I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them . . I love words so much … The ones I wait for greedily … they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish… They are foam, thread, metal, dew … I stalk certain words… They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… And I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them …. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves … Everything exists in the word.” Pablo Neruda in his Memoirs

Photo credits: California artichoke courtesy of Karen Fayeth; Neruda photo is in the U.S. Public Domain, 1966, Neruda recording his poetry

Buttered Coffees and Teas: Everything they’re cracked up to be …

Like me, you’ve probably seen them: all the articles touting buttered coffee and – less frequently – tea for both health benefit and heavenly flavor.

The idea of buttered tea wasn’t new to me, but …

I’d read about the Tibetan custom of drinking black tea with salt and yak butter, often with tsampa (roasted barley flour) as well. Nonetheless, the thought of drinking buttered coffee or tea held no appeal until it became clear that I had to up the fats in my diet and eliminate fast carbs (sugars, grains and starches) in order to transition my brain from running on glucose to running on ketones and my body from carb burning to fat burning. This meant focusing primarily on healthy fats (organic extra-virgin cold-press olive oil, organic coconut oil, grass-fed butter, medium-chain-triglycerides [MCT oil]), moderate vegetables, tidbits of berries, a modicum of seeds and nuts, and adequate protein from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.

Such transitions also involve intermittent fasting.  I have a six-hour window for “feeding” and don’t eat for eighteen hours. This allows the body to rest and regenerate. It controls insulin production and inflammation and – nice bonus – it facilitates clear mind, physical energy and weight loss.  I lost eighteen pounds in two months. Buttered coffee or tea makes fasting easy. It’s delicious and satisfying and, since there’s no insulin spike, it doesn’t break the fast. I find I never feel deprived.

Buttered coffee drinks were popularized as “Bulletproof Coffee™” by Dave Asprey, an entrepreneur self-described as a bio-hacker, someone who hacks his/her body for the sake of good health, high energy and peak physical and mental performance.  Hacking is tech-speak for gaining access to a system, so bio-hackers experiment with their body-systems to target the best ways to eat, sleep, exercise, and supplement.

Because I’m a writer, I think of it more as reframing, as in reframing a scene or a story line, or as a sort-of physical version of cognitive reframing. Instead of reframing the irrational and maladaptive, we reframe neurodegenerative disease and dysfunctional metabolism.

There are three caveats for the switch to high fat:

  • Go slowly.  If your body is used to a low-fat diet a sudden increase in fats will result in uncomfortable and embarrassing gastrointestinal issues.
  • A high-fat diet MUST be combined with low carbs. High fat and high carbs will put the pounds on and damage your lipid profile, putting your health at risk.
  • Consult with your doctor.

Since I’m not a medical professional, that’s enough said by me. If you’re interested research: Low-carb High-fat (LCHF), Ketogenic, Whole 30, Paleo, and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diets.

Meanwhile, to the point of this site: here’s how to make delicious frothy buttered coffee. I promise you, it’s addictive.

  • using filtered water brew eight-to-ten ounces of coffee
  • use two heaping teaspoons of your favorite beans, freshly ground – NO instant coffee

Additions:

  • over a few weeks work up to two tablespoons of MCT oil (start slowly and start when you have a few days off from work)
  • one tablespoon unsalted butter from grass-fed cows

One or more possible additions depending on your taste preferences:

  • one tablespoon organic heavy whipping cream (grass-fed if you can find it)
  • alcohol and gluten-free vanilla or almond flavoring
  • one teaspoon organic cocoa powder
  • quarter teaspoon organic turmeric
  • xylitol made from birch to taste.

I actually like my morning coffee with just a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom.  To make buttered tea just substitute your preferred morning tea for the coffee.

Lastly, be sure to whip up your blend in a personal blender or Bullet.

And with that, here’s todays poem:

Over His Morning Coffee

Over his morning coffee he sat,
dreaming of yesterday’s spring
and the hill country of his youth,
remembering summers of peace
and autumn days when he thought
life a forever thing. The world lay before
him then, a ripe field awaiting harvest.
Now beside this sad cup, a winter hand,
so withered and so gray, an old man’s
hand he barely recognized as his own.
Then his gaze found her playful smile.
In the hazel warmth of her eyes he
felt like spring again, the rich loam of
her love yielding a gentle harvest of joy

– Jamie Dedes

© 2015, poem and post, Jamie Dedes;  Bowl of Tibetan Buttered Tea courtesy of Yosomono under CC BY 2.0 license.

 

Not My Mom’s Harvard Beets … green tea with pomegranate … featured poet, Myra Schneider

My mom loved Harvard beets, which she prepared using canned beets.  Actually, not bad, but I always have to play with my food and how wonderful to play with fresh sweet and earthy jewel-toned beets.

It’s too hot to use the stove or oven, so I microwaved the beets this evening, setting the scrubbed whole beets in a covered dish with a few spoons of water.  Depending on the size, they’re done in 10-15 minutes. Once cooked, it’s easy to rub skin off under cold water and then dice the beets into a serving dish to cool while adding delicate slivers of red onion.

Dressing: 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3/4 olive oil, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard or to taste, salt to taste. Whisk together in a small bowl and use to lightly dress the beets and some greens. Neither should be swimming in the dressing. Layer the beets over the greens and top with crumbled blue cheese or feta.

A fruity Green Tea with Pomegranate seems to go well, iced in this case with a spritz of lemon.

© 2017, post and photograph, Jamie Dedes


And now, today’s featured poet, the award-wining Myra Schneider …

ROOT VEGETABLE STEW

When dark nights eat up afternoons
I sweat onions in sunflower oil,
weigh out carrots, a swede,
and tapering baby parsnips
with old-age skins on flesh
that fattened underneath the light
in a cradling of clay, grit, stones.

I take the swede, a misshapen globe
marred with scars, cut it in two.
The apricot bulk makes my head
hum with summer. I slice up
the snow-white parsnips, then tip
lentils, seeds of a butterfly-
petalled plant, into the pan.

Opening the door to throw peelings
in a pail, I bump into snouting cold.
It smells of woodsmoke, bites
as I stare at the park bristled
with black. Frost is stiffening leaves,
grasses, and I feel myself woven
to this land’s Saxon past when winter

was a giant who trampled crops in fields,
snuffed breath with icicle fingers –
though this was not the country
of my forbears, though rootlessness
was a wound I bore till turned thirty,
I was warmed enough by love
to put down roots in myself.

When chill sinks its teeth in my ribs,
I retreat to the stove, dip a spoon.
The heat-swollen lentils are melting
among the hulking vegetables,
and yellowbrown as November woods.
I add lemon and fried spices,
stir them in, ladle the stew.

© Myra Schneider (Shared here with Myra’s permission)

Myra Schneider’s latest and recent books are Persephone in Finsbury Park (SLP), The Door to Colour (Enitharmon); What Women Want(SLP). More at Myra Schneider website where you can also order Myra’s books.

HERE is a wonderful interview with Myra on the occasion of her 80th birthday earlier this year. Who wouldn’t want to gather and savor the voice of so much experience: thirteen collections of poetry, children’s books, author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Yourself: Transforming Personal Material. Myra has collaborated on more anthologies than I can count, is a poetry coach and champion of women poets, a consultant to Second Light Network of Women Poets and a poetry editor.  Myra’s professional life seems like it is and always has been quite full and busy. Yet along the way – even when coping with catastrophic illness – Myra is able to take a breath, pick up her pen and inspire.

 

Lucious, lip-smacking Tahini recipes; featured tea, iced Lebanese lemonade tea; featured poet, Michael Steffen

… If form follows function, 
it stands to reason that pain is the fate of all “brainy” things –
cauliflower, coral and raspberry clumps, the florets that sizzle
in my spiced tahini.
The Veggi Life by Michael Steffen 

Hummus photo above courtesy of Beyrouthhh under  CC BY  3.0  License

These dips are tasty with veggies for healthy, low-carb high-fiber snacking.  But first the tea ….

The PDQ version: Iced Lebanese lemonade Tea, combine equal parts unsweetened black tea with sweetened lemonade and a teaspoon of rosewater for each four cups. (You’ll find the most reasonably priced rosewater in ethnic groceries.) Add or pour over ice.

Here’s my  tahini collection: all good Greek, Lebanese and Turkish peasant food. They are not only healthy and flavorful but budget-wise.

TAHINI AND LEMON

Thin two-or-three tablespoons of tahini with fresh lemon juice for a quick and easy dip, spread, or sauce for falafel, fish or fried vegetables. I don’t care to thin it with vinegar, but some people do. If it sounds appeal, try this with white vinegar instead of lemon.

SPICED TAHINI AND LEMON

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, best quality you can afford
  • Pinch of Aleppo Pepper, or to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh, cilantro, minced fine

Place all ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender and process.  If it is too thick, thin with added lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Place in a serving dish and top with the minced, fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with your favorite bread or crudités.

TAHINI WITH YOGURT

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup thick Greek yogurt, can be nonfat
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skinned and minced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of  Aleppo Pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced, fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients except the lemon juice and cilantro in a blender.  Add the lemon juice and process again. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Place in a serving bowl and top with the cilantro. Serve as an accompaniment to fried fish or vegetables.

TAHINI WITH GROUND ALMONDS

Makes about one cup of dip

  • 1 cloves of garlic, skinned
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Pinch of Aleppo Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Prepare as above and serve as an accompaniment to cold turkey, chicken, or ham or as a veggie dip.

TAHINI WITH EGGPLANT, Baba Ghanouz

Makes about two cups   

  • 1 large deep-purple eggplant, trim a slice off the ends
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley or cilantro, minced fine
  • 1/2 Roma tomato, diced
  • 3-4 Kalamata olives, pitted and minced

Wash and dry the eggplant and char it over hot coals (best) or under a broiler.  The skin should blister and blacken. When done, run the eggplant under cold water while gently removing the skin.  Squeeze out the bitter juices and then mash the eggplant by processing it in a blender. Slowly add lemon juice and tahini alternately.  Then add the cumin, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning as appropriate.  Place in a serving bowl and top with the tomatoes and olives.  Serve with gluten-free bread or crackers or crudités.

TAHINI WITH CHICKPEAS, “Hummus” or Hummus bi Tahini

Note: “Hummus” means chickpea and “bi” means with. The addition of tahini to other legumes does not turn them into chickpeas. So, for example, “white bean hummus” is not hummus. It’s  white beans with tahini. (Sorry!  This is a pet peeve.)

Makes about two cups.   

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, open and drain
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice or more to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, best quality you can afford
  • Smoked Hungarian Paprika
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced fine

Place the chickpeas, tahini, and garlic in the blender and process.  Taste and add salt and lemon juice as appropriate.  If the dip seems too thick, you can thin it with some more lemon juice.  Place in a bowl and top with a spoonful of olive oil, a dusting of paprika, and the minced parsley.

  • When pomegranates are in season, you can top the hummus bi tahini and baba ghanouz with pomegranate seeds instead of the above.

– Jamie Dedes


And now, our featured poet ….

MICHAEL STEFFEN is an American poet living in upstate New York. His collections are No Good at Sea, (Legible Press in 2002)  Heart Murmur (Bordighera Press, 2009) and Bad Behavior (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2012).  Winner of the 2008 Bordighera Poetry Prize judged by Michael Palma or Heart Murmur (recommended). Michael was awarded a 2002 Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. f. His work is published in many literary journals.  Michael has an MFA in Creative Writing Program from Vermont College. You can read more of his poetry on his website and order his poetry collections from there. Michael’s Amazon page is HERE.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony … “For the Love of a Good Cuppa” by Karen Fayeth

An Ethiopian woman roasting coffee at a traditional ceremony. Photo courtesy of Sam Effron under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

A coffee ceremony is a ritualised form of making and drinking coffee. The coffee ceremony is one of the most recognizable parts of Arab, Eritrean and Ethiopian culture. Coffee is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If coffee is politely declined then most likely tea (shai) will be served.  [Wikipedia]

FOR THE LOVE OF A GOOD CUPPA

by

Karen Fayeth

This year The Good Man and I had the chance to celebrate the Fourth of July with some good friends. There were six of us total (three couples), and we met at our friend’s house for a special treat.

One of our crew had just recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia. She and her husband are in process of adopting an adorable baby boy and she had to make a visit to work through the paperwork with the local courts.

While in country visiting her baby son and patiently working though the long process, she was treated on several occasions to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

On our Fourth of July holiday, she wanted to share this ceremony with us, her friends.

About the coffee ceremony, here’s a quote from Ethiopian ambassador Haile-Giros Gessesse:

“Coffee has social value in our society. It is deep rooted in our culture. The coffee ceremony in local areas is used mainly for social gatherings. In the mornings and evenings parents, especially mothers gather together for a coffee ceremony and also use it as a platform for exchanging information in their surroundings. It is a means of communication. When people sit down they usually spend three hours finalizing the ceremony, starting with the preparation, and then roasting to brewing it.”

Our friend had hauled home a big bag of green coffee beans, water hulled (the good stuff) not fire hulled, and we sat outside in the beautiful sun while she told us about the ceremony.

First, she roasted the beans on the grill. We watched as she shook and swirled the pan, much like a slow Jiffy pop motion.

When we all agreed that it looked like the beans were at a good medium roast we all took in a whiff of the fantastic aroma from the pan.

We then took turns using a mortar and pestle to smash the beans down to a nice grind.

It was satisfying work to smash, smash, smash those crispy beans and release the beautiful scent and oils.

The grinds were then put into a French press and once brewed, a round of coffee was poured into six cups.

Yuuuummmm! It had a floral aroma and tasted so light and delicious. So amazing with just a touch of sugar and nothing else.

In keeping with tradition, we had three rounds of coffee while we discussed our lives, the news of the day, baseball, and got caught up with each other. This is part of the ceremony, the community, the support, the friendship.

Now, I love a great cup of coffee, but I rarely drink caffeinated coffee. After three cups I was ready to clean my house top to bottom, jog a thousand miles, and throw a 98mph fastball.

But it was a happy caffeinated high.

I was honored to be a part of the ceremony and I can hardly wait until our friends bring home their baby boy. I hope to we can continue to give him a sense of community and family…maybe even over a cuppa or two…or three·

© 2017, Karen Fayeth


(c) Karen Fayeth

Born with the eye of a writer and the heart of a story-teller, KAREN FAYTH‘s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico and complemented by an evolving urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she conducts business throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Central America. Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include three features in New Mexico Magazine and short stories in Ragazine, The Griffin, Jet Fuel Review and The Tower.

Contact Karen at karen-at-karenfayeth.com or visit her blog at blog.karenfayeth.com

Coffee Dark, Poetry Light … How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee … featuring poet and short story writer Dan Roberson

Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water. ~The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, [England 1674] to Keepers of the Liberties of Venus; The Worshipful Court of Female Assistants, &c. from the Several Thousands of Buxome Good-Women, Languishing in Extremity of Want

No need for the men to prowl the cafés at night once the Buxome Good-Women started making perfect coffee at home and drinking it too. These days some of us drink it round the clock and we all recognize that a morning without coffee is sleep.

Tips for the perfect brew:

  • Pick your coffee maker. Preparing one streaming-hot fresh cup at a time makes a difference . My daughter-in-law bought me a ceramic one coffee dripper. Love it! Next on my list is a glass one. Both options are preferable to plastic, no worries about leaching plastic into your brew.  These one-cup drippers work well, they’re affordable, straight-forward and don’t take up a lot of kitchen real estate.  You can purchase larger sizes to prep coffee for family and/or guests.
  • Pick your filter. Unbleached filters only.
  • Fresh cold filtered water. Brita 18 Cup UltraMax Water Dispenser works well.
  • Quality beans. We enjoy Kicking Horse.
  • Store beans properly. In other words, keep a small amount hand in a tightly sealed container and store the rest double-wrapped in the freezer so the oils don’t get rancid.
  • Grind your beans fresh. You don’t have to spend big bucks on a grinder.  My son and I have both have Epicas. Efficient. Space-saving. Affordable. For uniform grind, don’t do too many beans at once.
  • Use the correct ratio of grinds to water. Two tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water.
  • Use the correct water temperature.  In sort, be sure to use boiling water.

Enjoy!  And now here’s Dan Roberson’s poem:

Never More

Something was playing with the cat,
Maybe it was the wind and nothing more.
But gusts of wind blowing this way and that,
Continued to rattle the creaky back door.
It had to be the wind and nothing more.
I woke from my tortured dreams,
“Someone is playing with my keys,”
“But the cat will keep intruders out,
If it is small, or nothing at all.”
In my dreams something shook the door.
“Please, please,” I pleaded. “Please, no more.
You must be a fake, for goodness sake,”
Or nothing but my dream and nothing more.”
The wind began to pound and roar.
I pulled the covers over my head.
“I hope I don’t wake up bloodied and dead.”
But it was nothing, nothing but the wind,
Howling, howling at my door.
I lit a fire, waited for it to grow high.
I started the coffee brewing,
And waited to see what the wind was doing.
“Nevermore,” howled the wind,
“Do I want to hear your snore.”
“I like the rain, the constant dripping,
The leaves rustling against your door.
But your snore! …. Nevermore.”

© 2017, Dan Roberson

(c) Dan Roberson

DAN ROBERTSON (My Blog) Wrote this poem in response to a writing prompt over at The Poet by Day. He didn’t send me a bio and photo (or, maybe I forgot ask for one) but I’ve known him long enough to write a little something off the top of my head. Dan is a former teacher (high school I believe) and a father. One daughter is an accomplished artist. He’s a natural-born storyteller with one – maybe two – collections of short stories that were published some time ago. Dan’s been sharing stories and poetry on WordPress since November 2010. He is also the former owner of an online shop. Dan’s gentle spirit and strong intuitive sense is revealed in all his work. He studied journalism and communication at Cal State Sacramento. J.D.

How to Make a Good Cup of Tea: Orwell, Me and The Empire Tea Bureau

“One should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.” George Orwell

Orwell is right.The type of cup does count. Mugs – “the cylindrical type” – work because they hold the heat better.  So that’s the first order of the day:

  • Use a good mug
  • Use fresh filtered water. (My choice: Brita 18 cup Ultramax.)
  • Use fresh quality tea. (I LOVE Mighty Leaf. Get a green tea sampler. Wonderful. Recommended … and you have little time to fuss with loose tea or matcha, Mighty Leaf’s tea bags will still provide you an excellent experience.)
  • Once you’ve heated the water, heat your mug or teapot by swishing it with some of the hot water before you brew your tea), only then drop in your tea bag and pour in the water.
  • Watch the water temperature and brew time.  Different teas require different temperatures and brew times. (There’s no one-size-fits-all when making a proper cup.)
  • Do not use boiling water (100C or 212F) for green tea. It destroys the nutrients. Use an instant read thermometer and heat to 80C or 180F.
  • Steep green tea no longer than 2-3 minutes to avoid bitterness.

I Binge on Poetry Mug

A friend sent this video. Vintage 1941.  It’s a kick-and-a-half, though except for the one-size-fits all suggestions regarding water temperature and steeping time, the six tips are pretty much spot on. Enjoy!

 

Writers and Their Cafès

WRITERS AND CAFÉS go together like coffee and a biscotto. Perhaps the connection started in the place where coffee houses first evolved, Ottoman Turkey. There it is said the men met over small, sweet cups of Turkish coffee to socialize and entertain one another with backgammon and poetry.

Later, when coffee came to Europe, the Viennese cafès were de facto office sites of many well-known writers. The Austrian journalist, Alfred Polgar (1873-1955), admired for his witt at Vienna’s Café Central, wrote that coffee houses were “a place where people want to be alone, but need company to do so.” Maybe writers needed the noise and the caffeine to keep up the will and energy to face one white page after another.

CAFÈ CENTRAL, Vienna

Boris Vian (1920-1959), the French polymath (his abiiities included writing and poetry) claimed that “if there had not been any cafés, there would have been no Jean-Paul Sartre.” That’s an exaggeration of course, but one with which we might agree makes its point. I’ve read that Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir hung-out in Paris at Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. The former was also a favorite of Rimbaud.

We are told that Pushkin found courage in coffee – not alcohol – before his last and fatal duel in 1837 at The Literary Café in St. Petersburg. Byron, Casanova and Henry James had their favorite coffee houses in Vienna. Lorca met Dalí at the Cafe de Oriente in Madrid, and Kafka worked on Metamorphosis at the Café Stefan in Prague. Oscar Wilde was famous in coffee houses throughout Europe, though perhaps not for having pen in hand.

HEMINGWAY, HADLEY and Friends, American Ex-pats in Paris

The connection between writers and coffee houses was well established by the time the lost generation was meeting in Paris in the 1920s. Hemingway wrote about Cafe La Rotonde and Le Dome Cafe in The Sun Also Rises. He also frequented the Dingo Bar along with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Djuna Barnes.

The Pedrocchi Cafè  (1831) in Padua, like many of the old coffee houses, is still in operation and is one of the world’s largest. It was Stendhal’s home-away-from-home …

… and so the affinity continues into recent times. The Elephant House in Edinburg is the “birth place of Harry Potter.”

THE ELEPHANT HOUSE, Edinburg, “the birthplace of Harry Potter

Photo credits ~ Header photograph  selection of Bialetti moka pots at Koffiebranderij BOON in The Hague, by Takeaway under CC BY-SA 4.0. Next photo courtesy of morgueFileCafè Central and Hemingway and Friends are in the public domain and via Wikipedia. The Elephant House Cafè is courtesy of Nicolai Schäfer licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikipedia.

Simple Pleasures

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

IN A WORLD GONE MAD …

…we still have civilities: morning coffee, afternoon tea and poetry.

Welcome to a  celebration of simple pleasures featured here along with book reviews, author interviews, tasty recipes and photographs of gardens, trees, flowers and the occasional winged creature. My hope is that when you visit Coffee, Tea and Poetry, you’ll remember to take a breath, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and settle in. Take a step away from news, chores, duties and the often devastating disruptions of the world. 

It has always seemed to me that poetry and culinary arts are companionable practices. I love to write in the kitchen, to sip my way through the lyrical while fresh tomatoes are melting into ragù or yeasty bread dough is rising. I’ve wanted to combine these pleasures for my own joy and that of others, and thus was Coffee, Tea and Poetry born. Come visit often and let me know what you think and what you’d like to see here. At this writing, the site is still in process. I hope you’ll bear with me and stick with me through the growing pains.

Thank you for your visit. I hope you’ll come often and  I wish for you the very best in life, the courage to meet its challenges and the wisdom to recognize its gifts, even when they come in disguise  

Jamie Dedes 

The lovely tea set above if from Gracie China by Coastline Imports Porcelain 3-Piece Tea Set for One, Blue/Violet


Lebanese Coffee, Cardamom Scented; featured writer, Freya Stark

“We found a little side valley for lunch, and made a salad and cooked the coffee.”

Letters From Syria, Freya Stark

A blend of dark coffee beans ground with cardamom, prepared in Lebanon, a Turkish ground

As a child I lived for a while with my Lebanese grandmother, my Sidto. Every Tuesday afternoon some of the ladies who traveled to the U.S. with her would come to visit. They’d bring store bought-cakes. This was a luxury and a delight. It was something they didn’t have to slave over.

My grandmother would serve coffee. Sometimes it was regular American coffee and sometimes it was Lebanese coffee, a sweet treat fragrant with cardamom. It is the cardamom that distinguishes Lebanese coffee from Turkish.

The coffee, called Al-Qahway in the Arabic, is integral to all entertaining, a hallmark of Lebanese hospitality, which is legendary.

Note: Generally I prefer and recommend purchasing whole beans, however Maaatouk is perfectly blended and ground, delicious and convenient.

 

Hand Hammered Thick Solid Copper Turkish Coffee Pot Small, Arabic Greek Stovetop Coffee Maker Ibrik Cezve Briki with Brass Handle

Lebanese coffee is prepared in a narrow, long-handled brass pot, called a rakweh, and then poured into a demitasse.

It is generally served sweet (mazbuhtah), moderately sweet (wahsat), very sweet (helwa) or, at funerals, bitter (murrrah).

This recipe is for two servings. Just multiply the ingredients to prepare the coffee for more people.  This is an easy prep process.  Don’t be intimidated.

The recipe

The ingredients:

For two demitasse cups, medium sweet:

water

2 tablespoons dark-roasted coffee, ground for Turkish Coffee

2 teaspoons organic sugar

2 cardamom pods

The preparation:

Pour two demitasse cupfuls of water into the rakweh. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat, and add the coffee and sugar. Put the pot back on the heat.  The coffee will foam up.  Remove from heat and let the foam subside.  Add the cardamom pods. Put the pot back on the heat and let it foam again.  Remove from heat.  Let the foam subside.  Do the process once more. Pour into cups.  Drink hot, hot, hot.

This is my favorite set, not only because of the colors but we are a family of three: me and my son and my daughter-in law. Three Espresso & Famous Turkish Coffee Cafà Cup Mug.

“There is a certain madness comes over one at the mere sight of a good map.”

FREYA STARK (1893-1993) was an explorer and travel writer, an adventurous woman who was ahead of her times. As a child she was often ill and housebound. When on her nineth birthday, she recived a copy of One Thousand and One Nights, her facination with what was then called “the Orient” began. As an adult she lived in Lebanon and Iran and was the first Westerner to travel western Iran wilderness. She traveled in Southern Arabia, rare for a Westerner, and all over the Middle East. Her books and her biography are facinating reading, not least because they make for a great vicarious adventure. Jane letcher Geniesse’s biography, Passionate Nomad, The Life of Freya Stark, is a recommended read.

Spinach Pilaf (Spanakorizo); featured tea, camomile; featured writer, Katherine Mansfield

“How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.”

Camomile Tea, Kathrine Mansfield

A calming herbal tea, camomile, and a nerve-steadying and calcium-rich Greek spinach pilaf makes a lovely lunch. Greeks love their camomile, and I’m told and have read that in Greece many like to collect wild camomile.

BICI Glass Teapot, Hand Blown Borosilicate glass, Stovetop Safe, Removable Stainless Steel Infuser and Flip Top Lid, includes an Infuser Saucer. 40 oz (4-5 cups)

Camomile Tea

Preparation:

Bring hot water to a roiling boil. Water should be at 183 degrees fahrenheit for tea. Pour some of the water into your teapot and swirl to warm the pot. Place one heaping teaspoon of  dried chamomile per cup into your teapot. Add boiling water.  Put the cover on the pot and allow to steep for five minutes.  I like it plain, but if you care to sweeten it with Greek Honey.  

Gluten-free Spinach Pilaf, Spanakorizo

The recipe:

Serves two as a main dish

1 pound of organic spinach*

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh, sweet butter

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup of Lundberg Short Brown Rice, uncooked

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon each dried dill and dried mint

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Put the spinach in a drainer and rinse it thoroughly several times with cold water.

Put the olive oil and butter in a pan that is large enough to hold the spinach.  Over a low heat slowly brown the onions. When the onions are ready (golden), toss in the garlic and give it a stir or too. Add the spinach to the post. Cover the pan and cook until the spinach wilts, which will take about five minutes. Add the rice, tomato paste, the seasonings, and 3/4 cup of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover the pan and lower the heat.  Simmer for about one-half hour or until the rice is tender.  Serve hot with the crumbled feta on top.

Some fresh peaches or a fresh fruit salad would make a nice light desert.

We should only buy organic spinach. They’re on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirty (from too much pesticide) dozen.  I believe that list is up to fifteen now.

Photo: cup of tea with flower courtesy of Ekaterina Sysoeva, Public Domain Pictures.net

KATHERINE MANSFIELD (1888-1923) was born in New Zealand and eventually left to live in England where she became friends with well-known writers of the day.  She lead rather a bohemian life, was influenced in her writing (short stories) by Chehov, and wrote some poetry as well.  She died young of TB and as far as I know, a good body of her work was published posthumously. Katherine has been the subject of several biographies and movies. Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories is recommended.

Hello World!

This site is under construction. Bare with me and do come again.

Warmly,

Jamie Dedes
“The Poet by Day”


1997 Massimo Romeo Estates DOC Vin Santo di Montepulciano 375 mL Wine into which you might dip a biscotto

*

81RAX2Rk3jL._SY679_The Gentleman of the Bocce Court

that other time and other place are history –
so too the gentleman of the bocce court

i am seven, this is part of my world

the men play bocce of an afternoon
while the women sip vin santo
and savor the nutty taste of a
biscotto before a nap, then time
to start dinner, set the table

my friend’s grandfather, Pop-Pop,
the yellow man, i think of him,
jaundiced skin, yellow teeth,
fingers stained with nicotine . . .
he’s the neighborhood champ

and heat rising from the ground,
the grass growing as fulvous as
Pop-Pop, he throws the pallino –
it’s like summer always is here
heat, sweat, and bocce ball …

the one they call il Signore taunts,
mean and rude, he swears at Pop-Pop –
no matter, we know who is best,
better than anyone; yet little girls
say nothing, steering clear of
il Signore, a.k.a. Frankie Fists

© 2016, poem. Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo: Biscotti and Vin Santo, public doman; Cartoon courtesy of PD Clipart

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