Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not-So-Manic Tuesday

My mandarin Tuesday. How I love this particular day of the week: shorn of office duties, it is both languid and orderly. Kitchen table cleared of breakfast, I sit down with the well-worn spiral notebook, favorite ink-filled pen at its side. Nearby on a coffee-table magazines, journals, and a half-read volume of short stories by Raymond Carver clamor for my attention but will stay idle until evening.

In the morning, I write, calling on a creativity rarely needed during my workdays- too much creativity exerted in the practice of medicine would, in fact, be rather scary. I array the teapot and cups on the table while the kettle's familiar roil breaks the day's silence. I break out the new tea -a Chinese green called Hongking Special from this spring harvest. The first infusion is truly floral, headily so. For a green tea, this is a muscular one -a tea that asserts its fragrance. The second steeping -more attenuated- is like a gardenia past its over-ripe stage.

Suffused by the tea's warmth, I write. I luxuriate in words: mellifluous, honey-flowing or staccato-crisp; they all teem with life on the page before me. A veracity to life -my life- in spirit, is the hoped-for result.

Pauses in writing by household activities provide me with time to linger over certain images, ideas, phrases, and yes, that le mot juste. A prosaic routine involving folding freshly-laundered sheets or a playful break of scampering with the cats -as they rediscover an old clinking toy- infuses the act of writing with the palpability of life.

Sensory experiences seem to sharpen. A tea pairing of a ginger custard is creamily suggestive of coconut while the ginger flavor sings out robustly. Earlier, little bits of ginger -their essence in liquid form- had streamed into a receiving glass bowl creating rivulets in a sea of smooth milkiness. I had tinkered with the recipe but am pleased with the result: the ginger stays true to its nature ( and is not overpowering) complementing the tea's brashly authentic one of florality.

Ginger Custard
(adapted from Gourmet, March 2007)
Serves 4-6
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
3/4 cup skim milk
1 cup light coconut milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt
1) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325 F.
2) Bring sugar, ginger, and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add milk, then return just to a boil and remove from heat. Let stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
3) Whisk together eggs and pinch of salt. Whisk in hot milk mixture. Pour through sieve into another bowl, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids. Divide the custard among the ramekins and cover with foil.
4) Bake in a water bath for about 35-40 minutes, until the edges have set and centers still wobbly. Transfer ramekins to rack and cool, uncovered for 45 minutes. Chill for 2 hours.

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