Friday, June 10, 2011

Some Like It Hot

This week I'm trying to focus on sharing those secret weapons that help us to manage our Eating Clean plans with beautiful food and delicious tastes and aroma. Today's secret weapon:


My love affair with tea goes back, if family legend is to be believed, to the evening my mother went into labor with me in a Chinese restaurant. She and my father were out to dinner with my grandparents, and the story goes that her belly was pressed right up next to the table, and suddenly all the dishes and silverware began rattling. I was born the next day.

Since my first taste of china tea, again in a restaurant with my grandparents, I've been a fan. My family has used tea as a "panacea for all ills", as Louisa May Alcott once wrote of it. If stomach flu strikes, we make tea. If a child comes home with a bad report card, we make tea. If earthquakes, floods, or fires threaten, well, you get the picture.

In between meals, one of the toughest things for dieters or fans of Eating Clean to determine is the difference between hunger cravings and the cravings of thirst. The two feel similar and we are olften fooled into thinking we are hungry and need a snack or meal when what our body truly longs for is rehydration. Simple water, in that case, fulfills the need and is indeed the answer to most all of our bodily demands. Remember all those films in health class in which we had to learn what percentage of our bodies were composed of sea water? Yeah, me neither. Percentages have been debated since I was in 7th grade.

The thing that is true, and professed by increasing numbers of dieticians, weight loss doctors, and clinics, is that we need rehydration in quantities not thought of in past decades. The minimum we are told to consume, it appears, is 8 x 8 (ounces, that is-64) or 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day. The standard bottle of water is a tad over 16 ounces-so we ought to drink 4 or more of those babies each day.

A thing many of us have found hard to swallow is that we simply don't like drinking that much water. It's good to know that lemonade and other non-carbonated drinks will suffice. Another way to do it is through the venerable tradition of tea. OK, on our first day here in Davis on which the temperature exceeded 95, who wants tea?

The answer is, surprisingly, a lot of us. Brewed from natural leaves and teabags, many of the iced tea pitchers at better restaurants and friends' kitchens are filled with teas brewed fresh starting with pure water (I don't know if you can include Davis tap water. It's kind of chewy)poured over and steeped with all kinds of varieties of flavorful and healthful leaves from all over the world. Oddlyenough, there are many of us who even crave tea hot at odd times over the summer. Tea at elevenses on a weekday morning seems gentler and more civilized, somehow, than yet another Starbucks. Tea at 4:30 in the afternoon seems positively British.

All things considered, given the practicalities of our mobile family lifestyle and long commutes, we end up our days with growling stomachs in the afternoon while we attempt to stave off the snack attacks that strike while we await our late dinner hours. Tea as a coping mechanism is the single best thing, in my opinion, that the British contributed to modern clean eating.

Of course I'm not talking about tea with cookies, scones, buttered sandwiches, and so on. The lifestyle in the British Isles that birthed this eating style also included a whole different take on daily living than we experience now. I am talking about the acknowledgement that we need several small meals throughout the day, not three big meals with no in-between meal noshings.

Today, when the weather reached 95, I was happy to pour and enjoy a couple of tall glasses of cold green tea over ice. The prize in the Cracker jack box is that, in addition to perking us up on either a cold and dreary or a hot and energy-wrenching day is that green tea may actually assist weight loss. At least that is what I'm reading.

It's nice to know you can pick up a gallon bottle of tea at the supermarket, but a less pricey way is ever so easy. Here are the two favorite ways we do it at our house:

Old Hippie Sun Tea

6 regular size tea bags, any flavor*

Pure water

A 2-quart jar (such as a large pickle jar or sun-tea jar with valve) EXTREMELY clean

Plenty of time

A back patio or porch

Fill the jar with water, add the tea bags, affix the lid securely, and set out on the patio in the morning, the earlier the better. Does not require direct sun; ready in about 4 hours. NOTE: If the teabags are left in too long, the tea will be bitter. *My favorite is Good Earth Original, followed by Stash Chai Spice. Another good combo is regular black tea with 3 or 4 whole cinnamon sticks added at the beginning of the brew time.

Short - Cut Ice Tea

4 tea bags or 2 heaping Tbls. loose tea in tea ball

Kettle full of pure water

Heat-resistant pitcher

Boil the kettle on high heat until it whistles or, if using a pan, until it reaches a full, roiling boil. (The British swear that the tea's best flavor can only develop at full heat.) Pour the hot water over the tea bags in the heatproof pitcher, and let steep for about half an hour. Add ice to fill pitcher. Chill. Note: Spice combinations can be added before the water is poured in. Combine spices in a tea ball or cheesecloth bundle, or tea sacks available through such retail outlets as Peet's Coffee and Tea. Another flavoring possibility is herb or floral bundles steeped in with the tea. Mint or lavender are good.

Hot or cold, steaming or shivering, tea is beautiful and adds so much grace to a daily clean eating plan that it can never be called a diet beverage.

No comments: