My favorite daily “indulgence” is not really very extravagant; I call it my faux chai tea, which is actually spiced-up green with skimmed milk to provide the latte. It’s pretty healthy and not much of a luxury, except in the sense that it is rich with memory and meaning.
It feels to me as though I’m starting my day with dessert.
I brew a teabag in a handmade cup, add a shake of spices I’ve mixed and stored in a small jar. Then I stir some stevia into the hot tea for sweetening. Meanwhile, a nifty little electric appliance whirs milk into a warm froth, and I fill my oversized cup to almost overflowing. My first sip is all warm milk foam–making room for the rest of the froth to go on top.
Then I sit somewhere comfortable, holding the heavy pottery with both hands.
The spice mix varies by batch, but it is always primarily cinnamon, with some combination of cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger adding to the evocative fragrance.
And I sip and wake up and enjoy the early morning quiet.
But it’s more than that.
The warm milk takes me back a half century to my grandmother’s kitchen, to the late afternoons when I accompanied my daddy as he milked our family’s jersey cow. After expertly milking into a stainless steel bucket, (once in a while offering to squirt a stream into my five-year-old mouth), he would turn the cow out to be with her awaiting calf and carry the bucket to his mother’s house fifty yards away, holding his opposite hand and arm away from his side to balance the weight as I opened and closed the gates for him.
Once in the kitchen, we strained the milk into immaculately clean Presto jars, and I was rewarded for my “help” with a bit of the still-warm milk, drinking it from a white enameled metal cup with a gray-blue rim.
a Presto jar from my childhood, in the days when we had a milk cow
a Good Housekeeping seal of approval embossed into the metal lid
Often I started those childhood days with a solo breakfast, after my three older siblings had left for school and Daddy had left the house for the unending chores associated with ranching in southwest Texas.
Mother sometimes prepared her special toast, slathering white bread with butter, topping it with cinnamon mixed with sugar, and placing it under the “In-a-Top” broiler of her 1940’s-era Chambers gas stove. The toast came out bubbly and warm and golden-brown, sweet, spiced with cinnamon and the knowledge it was made just for me.
The tastes and smells of my daily “indulgence” are reminders of both of my parents, both of whom are gone and both of whom lost much of their memory before the final leaving. My little ritual keeps alive my own memories.
My morning tea–earthy, warm, calming–tastes like love and belonging.
my mother’s teapot
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Do you have any rituals that simultaneously place you in the present and in the past?
What scents or tastes take you to moments from the past?
My dad used to make cinnamon toast too, with white bread and Parkay squeeze butter. He would squirt the butter into different shapes sometimes–hearts or smiley faces–and broil it until the cinnamon sugar was crisp. A good memory and I always think of him when I make cinnamon toast.
How kind of you to share this memory, Rachel. I’m glad we share this favorite reminder of our parents’ love. Blessings to you and to your beautiful son.
Sweet memories! My mom made cinnamon toast too, a special treat when I needed some encouragement. I still remember the way the broiled cinnamon-sugar-butter topping bubbled and then cooled to a shiny, crakly top and the sweetness of it. I can almost smell that, and smell your wonderfully spicy tea with foamed hot milk. Thanks for the memory-treat!
Sweet memories, indeed. The smell of cinnamon is so evocative to me. My mother also made the best homemade cinnamon rolls. Hugs to you, Susan, and thank you for reading.
I make a Chicken noodle soup with chicken salad sandwiches every Christmas Eve. I make all from scratch like my grandmother did, with a few twists and tweaks of my own! And sugared pecans from Mrs Umlang’s recipe. I remember caroling at their house in Utopia and she always had the sugared pecans made. So very good!
Family food traditions are so rich with sensory detail. Can’t you just taste those favorite items right now? And the smells . . Thank you so much, Suzy, for reading and sharing.
I still make cinnamon toast for myself on occasion. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Jim made it for me when I was sick after chemotherapy.
I hope you don’t feel too guilty. What a lovely pleasure, and I know Jim was glad to have something tangible to do for you. Hugs to you both!