Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The single spray of violet blossoms was wilting hours after I placed them in the vase. I noticed the now crinkly petals tiredly drooping against the still ramrod stem from which they grew. It was just this morning that I cut the sprig from our garden when I was out weeding the small patch of herbs -a thriving sweet basil plant along with a profusion of tarragon and parsley, each vying with each other for space in the whiskey barrel.

I took the vase from the top of the fridge -the usual place for most floral arrangements in our home due to the cats' omnivorous tendencies- and saw that the vase was only partially filled with water. The bottom of the flowered-stem did not even skim the water's surface so it was not surprising that the water-deprived flowers were languishing, plucked from their outside habitat. I promptly filled the vase with water and set it on the kitchen table where I could keep a supervisory eye on it, enjoying the sight, while our two cats were afoot. After their usual morning fare of the briny and fishy nuggets, they would only be too happy to finish things off with an herbaceous dessert.

For me, tea time at last -and sorely needed. I was still groggy with sleep, probably too much of it; in this case, an attempt to make up for lack of hours slept during the work-week. My attempt backfired and I ended up with a mental fog upon awakening.

I set the kettle to boil and settled on an oolong. One fairly new to me, Rishi's Bao Zhong, a lightly oxidized oolong. I took out the wild berry buttermilk cake I had made yesterday after work. The berries were a gift from a patient who dropped off the bundle at my office. They drew attention, aromatic with a ribbon of Thai basil adorning the basket. A note attached enjoined me to enjoy them with my tea. I felt they were too pretty to eat. But after one whole day of gazing on them as they sat on the kitchen counter, my sweet tooth prevailed and I found a pretext to indulge in more baking.

I pulled out the recipe for this berry buttermilk cake, stashed in the growing pile of recipe clippings culled from food magazines and newspapers, all stuffed into a drawer of the kitchen table. Baking with buttermilk would be a first for me, and after reading encomiums on the richness of this cake in other food blogs, I was anxious to make it myself.

So here it was, already a slice poorer from last night's late noshing. The tea finished brewing and I poured the golden liquor into my cup. The taste was light and fruity as I had expected from a lightly oxidized oolong. I sipped the tea and ate the cake, the latter still toothsomely tender the next day, unwarmed. I thought of a patient who had been in the throes of clinical depression, despairing of ever feeling well again. He saw his life in a monotone of gray. I saw him again a month later after he started treatment. He walked into my office, his face a relaxed mien, hopeful. He now finds enjoyment again in playing with his kids.

I finished my cup of tea and looked up to see the petals revived.

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