Warming Brew

Ugh, the heat's still messed up at my place and it's getting cold-- each year that goes by I think I get worse at being cold-- it seems like it soaks into my bones easier. Also I get more and more mad that yes, despite my best efforts, I'm living in yet another colder-than-I'd-like building, not in a cute little cabin with a wood stove or in a symbiotic relationship with some manner of gigantic shellfish. During last week's cold snap the heat worked for a day and I just let it wash over me. I thought, simultaneously, "this is what it must feel like to live without anxiety" and "this is what it must feel like to piss yourself in a wetsuit". Ugh, ok ok, new rule: no writing about the cold when you're cold. I'm walking away from the computer and plugging in the space heater. I'll return to this text file when the room is warmed up.

OK I'm back. I listened to a David Tudor record on YouTube and prepared a warming brew. That is the focus of this post.

A Warming Brew


I'm no expert on potions but it doesn't take an expert to figure out what ingredients warm you up and which ones cool you down, you can mostly go on intuition and pull together a warming brew of some sort. Put the kettle on and as it's getting up to a boil, go around your kitchen looking at ingredients. Some of them, when you think of them, will make you feel warm. Put those on the counter. My spice selection is pretty modest, this is what I got:

I also added the following, but I admit that I'm just grabbing shit at this point and my baseline is black tea, just a bag of black tea.

The tea goes in the cup along with everything that might need to soak, in this case I mean the things that aren't powders- the ginger, the cardmom pod, and the licorice root. When the tea is steeped I take out the bag and add everything else, mostly in dash amounts except for the cinnamon, which gets a double dash, the chocolate powder, which gets a small spoonfull, and the turmeric, which gets a big spoonful.

Then (not everyone's going to like this part) I put a big quarter inch of BUTTER in the cup. That's right, we're talking Land O Lakes, a big quarter inch right in there. Then you gotta really mix it, either by whisking the shit out of it with an industry standard whisk or (best practice) by hitting it with the immersion blender (which was a great purchase, recommended). If you don't do this part the butter is going to just float on the top and it's unsettling. You can omit the butter if you're a coward, but why be a coward? Why not be daring and free and tough and cool and loving? Vegans should experiment with some kind of fatty replacement, maybe coconut oil would work. My inclusion of controversial butter in this recipe is partly via Tibetan butter tea-- Tibetan culture surely knows a thing or two about staying warm via internal mechanism.

The butter's also present via weed analogy-- if you ever tried to make weed brownies you know that you need a fat for the compounds to adhere to, otherwise your body will just pass them through without soaking them up. The black pepper is also partly in there to increase bio-availability-- in this case it works with the turmeric. I think with the pepper it isn't as cozy a metaphor as with the butter-- I think it works like how they put fiberglass in chewing tobacco. It's a molecular knife that stabs your soft tissues a thousandfold and lets the drug goo soak into the wounds. Both the butter and the pepper also serve another purpose, which is to signify to your mind that this is a helpful potion, not merely a pleasant drink. It should seem a little wrong. It should cross a boundary.

That said, the honey is there because that's nice. I'm trying not to have too much sugar nowadays but my potion consultant (Mindy) said honey's OK. Honey has antibacterial properties, that's good. But to be honest it's in there because it's nice.

In a contrary fashion, the chocolate actually makes this worse. Not bad, but I tried it without the chocolate and I liked it better. But I still put the chocolate in there most of the time, for depth, and added warming, and to engage the chocolate receptors in my mind, cueing fond memories of every single time I ever had a piece of chocolate in my entire life. Chocolate and tea is a weird duo but it kind of reminds me of going to parties with Cool Breeze and putting Hershey's syrup in the beer (I believe we decided this was "not entirely unpleasant" and that we would call it "A Garbage Can").

The reason tea is the basis for this drink rather than coffee, is because quite frankly I already had coffee, and before drinking coffee I don't want to be messing around with ingredients, I want to be making coffee and drinking it. The main reason though is that I don't like specialty coffee, I like hot coffee with just one thing it, half and half. Maybe that's two things? Is half and half 1 thing, 2 things, or .75 things? I could make an argument either way. Anyway the point is that there's a time for coffee and a time for warming brew. Generally I like to flow right from one to the other. I read an article (citation needed) that enzymes in the tea work with enzymes in the coffee to smooth out the flow of caffeine enzymes into the brain? Probably enzyme isn't the word I want here. Anyway I find I get less tweaked out when I do coffee followed by tea, than when I do coffee just. But that's me-- your trip is your trip. I'm not your enzymes.

Mistakes in this recipe could go in any direction, from too much of this to too little of that, and sadly there's no baseline you could possibly compare it to, no reasonable way to assume "I'm doing this right". But if you feel warmer during and after, that's our goal. It's possible that some of these ingredients actually have cooling rather than warming qualities, which is partly why I like to hedge my bets and include lots of ingredients in a freestyle potion, and not a lot of any one thing unless it's known to work with satisfaction. Again, most of everything is in pinch amounts except where noted: tea 1 bag, cinnamon 2 pinches, butter a quarter inch, chocolate 1 unheaped spoon, turmeric one medium heaped.

Honestly I think I'm using too much turmeric, because it forms a thick sludge in the bottom of the cup. But I can't help myself, I decided years ago that it was healthy for me and now I can't stay my hand from using big spoon amounts of it in any recipe where it's called for. Also I like it when a sludge forms at the bottom of the cup. If you, dear reader, were here with me drinking this potent potable, and you said "do you drink the sludge or what?" I'd be like "oh yeah, gotta drink the sludge" without offering any reasoning beyond the magnetic force of my radiant personal energy. But on my own, here in my room with the space heater, I confess, I only drink some of the sludge. If you make this drink in your own home, I won't be there to pressure you to drink the sludge, but I hope that at the bottom of the cup, you look and say "there's that sludge I read about" and hopefully you say "well, here goes". Amen.

special guest

Common Motifs

by Sarah Heggan


I've been writing for a long time on and off. I don't do anything with it, I just litter my desk and art area with filled notebooks. I've also started painting- I started when my daughter was 4 and started her first "all day" school. I don't do anything with the paintings either, some I hang up and some I give away. I say all of this because I've noticed my tendency to repeat myself or themes in both. When I write, most of my stories are about some form of cannibalism, and when I paint everyone wears a mask or corpse paint. I'd love to laugh it off as a quirk or unplanned, but our brains don't really work that way. I know why I do it even if I don't "know"- you know? I spent some time being discouraged by this constant repetition, it can't be healthy and it ceratinly can't be imaginative. I'm lucky to have an amazingly weird and open minded therapist. He loves to hear about what I think are my cool eccentricities, and then he carefully pulls the real motives out like an annoying magic trick. In short, my brain is just working on childhood Sarah time and that was a particularly sad and unfortunate time. It would be cool to say that I was raised by dog masked cannibals, but I wasn't- just fucked up people unable to cope without unhealthy doses of Jesus, narcissism and government conspiracies. Cannibalism is just code for no boundaries (which were unappreciated in my house) and masks are for keeping feelings hidden. The corpse paint? Well that's just because I think it's cool. Any of us who've actively tried to die, or at least just pretend to be dead can understand the appeal of wanting to look how you truly feel. Every time I sit down to write or paint, I say this time it's going to be different- totally new. Every time, my hands do what they want. I think that's ok. We all need our lighthouses, our landmarks that make us feel less lost and less cold. My goal is to make a book of little cannibal stories, after all the human body is a feast. My goal in painting is to never have a face uncovered, until I feel ok about uncovering my own. Shit- it looks like I've just cracked that one. My therapist will be pleased.

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