Stuff and Nonsense: August 2010


Happy Størmer-Heegner-Mills Anniversary

 I love you
   because the earth turns round the sun
   because the North wind blows north
   because the Pope is Catholic
     and most Rabbis Jewish
   because winters flow into springs
     and the air clears after a storm
   because only my love for you
     despite the charms of gravity
     keeps me from falling off this Earth
     into another dimension
I love you
   because it is the natural order of things

            ~ excerpt from "Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni


Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson

I spent a good hour reading interesting bits from Tea with Jane Austen aloud to The Husband -- and there were many interesting bits! For example, did you know there was a tidy black market in tea in Austen's day? And that this "tea" was frequently made from used tea leaves stretched with bits of twigs and sawdust? Or it was brewed from ash tree leaves mixed with sheep's dung and green vitriol (a toxin)?

It certainly paid to be a discerning shopper!

Besides the booming trade in illegal tea, Wilson also covers such diverse topics as tea as a curative/poison (the breakfast ale drinkers were pretty opposed to tea going mainstream) and tea as social entertainment. As someone interested in historical trivia, I was fascinated by Tea with Jane Austen and wished it could have been a bigger book!

Of course, Wilson could not write a book about tea without including recipes for lovely tea time goodies. In many cases, she has provided the original recipes text with a modern translation. Some recipes, as in the case of "For Captains of Ships to Make Catchup to Keep Twenty Years," do not have a modern translation, because ... well, who would want to make Catchup of Infinite Keeping?

Recipes I would like to try:
  • Barley Water for Henry Austen & King George
  • China Orange Jelly for Mrs. Norris's Maid
  • Solid Syllabubs
  • A Syllabub (Indirectly) from the Cow
(The original recipe for "To Make a Syllabub from the Cow" sounds fascinating, but requires an actual cow!)

Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson (Jones Books, 2004)


Basil Is For Drinking: Basil In My Tea

Last week, while cooking my basilicious scrambled eggs, The Husband made what he no doubt thought was a hilarious remark about me running mad and putting basil in tea. And I thought, why not? Why not add basil to iced tea? Basil lemonade was very delicious, after all.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for "Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea" and it was so very good! Cool and refreshing, with a subtle basil taste and lovely summery aroma.  And the color! Such a lovely strawberry-red -- it reminded me of strawberry cordial.

(Because I am all about doing as little washing up as possible, I tweaked Stewart's directions somewhat to omit the use of a bowl and made everything in the pitcher).

Strawberry Basil Iced Tea
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

8 black tea bags (I used Lipton)
1 lb very ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
5 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh basil

Place strawberries in a glass pitcher. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes. Bring remaining 1 cup water water and sugar to a boil in another saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add basil, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain over strawberries, discarding basil. Let stand until cool. Add tea to pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled.

I would like to try this again -- perhaps replacing the strawberries with blackberries.