Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
Many people look at the New Year as a time for reflection; I choose to do this in celebration of Kwanzaa. Time for me to take a look at Spiritual Principles and examine my achievements and that, which requires improvement. Taking some quiet time with a pot of tea and some inspirational reading this, most importantly, sets the stage for reflection. I sit quietly pondering the words between sips of tea contemplating the principles:
Umoja (Unity): What have I done to create unity in my family, community, nation, and race?
I strive to create peace, harmony and unity by presenting and serving tea. This may not seem much to some, it is my contribution. My mom and sister visit daily, I brew the leaves and we sit and talk about all the wonderful blessings we have in our lives, we celebrate each other. We talk about those who have past, those who are embracing the future; and how and what we can contribute. Sometimes it may be doing something as simple as sharing a smile with a young child. I remember how important this was to me growing up in an uncertain time. A simple acknowledgment of my being.
Hosting tea events and tea tasting to bring people together is another one of my passions. Giving the guests an excuse to take the break they need, communicating with others face to face, meeting new people, and exchanging ideas. By doing so they give themselves a gift, the feeling of being special. Dressing up for an event, being waited on, taking time to interact with others, which is so important in our fast paced world of technology and the Internet. This forum also incorporates the works of independent women entrepreneurs providing them with a venue to present their creations to a captive audience. We have had authors, designers, artisans, photographers, cosmetologists, tea sellers and bloggers display their wares. It also gives me the opportunity to educate my guests providing information about nuances of the wide variety of tea the health benefits the preparation.
The appreciation of the leaf.
The beauty of the unfolding.
The serenity of drinking the brew.
There is an old Balti proverb which states “the first cup you are a stranger, the second you are a honored guest, the third you are family.”*
I was invited to host a tea party for the girl scouts at a school located in the South Bronx. I pondered, what did I want to leave these young girls with?
How to be a faux Princess?
No, my goal was to show how a little leaf connected so many cultures, fueled an economy, and improved the health of so many. The relatedness and interdependence of peoples of the world, sharing a cup of tea and celebrating the simple wholesome essence of the leaf. This inspired, my daughter and I to write a book, The World’s Special Tea: A History of Tea for Children. I have found, children enjoy stimulated learning, storytelling, and interactive experiences. We came up with prose that could relate the story of tea incorporating the mystical folklore of the humble beginnings of tea drinking and carrying it through to the tea parties that so many children enjoy today.
As we were presenting to a school, I considered putting in historical references to tea events that may enhance their knowledge in the future. We wanted them to know that tea is consumed all over the world and could be that offering of hospitality that could influence cultural barriers. My goal was confirmed when I went back to the school a month later, and a young participant recounted some her remembrance back to me, what joy. Sharing the book with a child (storytelling) prior to their own tea experience gives them memories that they will carry with them into adulthood.
Do you remember your first tea party?
In my own little way, with tea, I strive to bring unity and harmony—Umoja–by sharing the simple little leaf. As I reflect, I am aware this journey is far from over. My thoughts reach out to the horizons of the future.
What more can I do?
I break it down to, two leaves and a bud. The simple steps in my path to oneness with the world.
If you haven’t done so today, STOP! Take time give yourself “a gift of tea”, relax, refresh, and enjoy.
I have also observed, “When the water rests and the leaves of the Gawain (cup for brewing tea) begin to dry, the message… time to go”
The World’s Special Tea A History of Tea for Children ©2011 J. Johnson and Joya Powell Illustrations J. Johnson
* Three Cups of Tea, Wikipedia
Smokey Minestrone Soup
From Conversations With Tea/Cooking With Tea, Under: Cooking With Tea
On a rainy, “stay at home”, Sunday I came across an article in, The New York Times Magazine, March 6, 2011, about soups which contained several recipes on soup basics. Inspired, I created this adaptation to the traditional minestrone recipe that appeared. I thought about what I had in my fridge and decided to take the risk, as soup is more forgiving than an expensive cut of meat. Well, my most vocal critic (my mom) was quite pleased and asked for the recipe while scraping the bottom of the bowl.
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes (depending on veggies)
Cook Time: 45 minutes (depending on veggies)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
A pinch of lapsang souchong tea; ground fine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion medium (I used vidalia)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped parsnip
1 chopped celery rib (or 1/4 teaspoon celery seed)
1/2-cup fresh broccoli chopped
2-cups cubed potatoes
1/2 small zucchini sliced
1/2 small yellow squash sliced
1-cup chopped tomatoes (canned is fine)
2-cups lapsang souchong (one tea bag steeped 4 minutes at 212°F)
A sprig of parsley and fresh Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat olive oil sauté onion, garlic, carrot, parsnip, celery rib, and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, broccoli salt, pepper and a pinch of ground lapsang souchong, cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup chopped tomatoes. Pour liquid into mixture 2 cups of lapsang souchong and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash. Continue to simmer until vegetables are done about 20 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and a sprig of parsley. Note: Add or remove any of the vegetables listed, just consider cooking time for each.
Contest: Kwanzaa Kids
Share your tips and advice for engaging children in learning Kwanzaa’s principles. One random winner selected by Jo Johnson from AGiftofTea.com wins a children’s tea and book package. Contest starts Thurs., Dec. 8, 2011 and ends Thurs., Dec. 22 at 10 p.m./PST. Winner announced on Thurs., Dec. 29th. Contest open to residents of the continental United States, excluding Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. foreign territories. No additional purchase or shipping expenses are necessary. Prize cannot be exchanged. Must provide an email used only to notify the winner and for shipping information.
Jo Johnson is a former corporate executive and currently passionate about creating with tea. She is a Specialty Tea Institute certified, Co-Author/Illustrator of The World’s Special Tea: A History Of Tea For Children,” Creator of “TEAed’s” (a tea and education series), a Tea Blogger at Conversations With Tea/Cooking With Tea and Scandalous Tea, and a creates hand sculpted “tea inspired” jewelry and digital art renditions. Find her at AGiftofTea.com. Email her at AGiftofTea at gmail [dot] com. Follow her on Twitter @AGiftofTea and Facebook.