Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cinnamon Girl

I woke up to thunder and flapping blinds, hiding a glowering sky. The expected sunlight did not filter through the window, and my body refused to stir in the darkness. I lay in bed, half-awake, while the cats scampered over me, impatient for their breakfast. One demanded, in plaintive meows, his first-of-the-day petting while the other galumphed heavily above my head with her swishing tail. She used my pillow as a launching pad. Thump, and she was on the window ledge, distracted by the action outside. My mind traveled ahead to breakfast and the day ahead. We had finished our cache of homemade granola I made last weekend, and I thought of making more for the week before the predicted warm front following the rains would come and heat up the whole house, dissuading me from turning on the oven.

I finally got up. With the rain still coming down steadily but not quite a torrent, I called to the cats and herded them downstairs. They flew down the stairs and planted themselves at their respective dining stations and dove into the small pellets plopped into their bowls. While the kettle started its slow rumble, I gathered the ingredients for the making of granola. Pantry doors opened; here were the rolled oats with the outsized face of a Quaker staring back at me, and there was the box of whole almonds in the corner. In another cabinet were the spices, and I pulled out bottles of cinnamon and cardamon pods.

The rumbling of the water finally crescendoed as I scooped out the dark coiled leaves of the Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong and placed them into the glass infuser.

I sipped the tea and worked. Into the mortar, I threw a handful of cardamon pods. Tiny black seeds emerged as I cleaved the pods with the pestle. Ah, the most aromatic of scents, that of cardamon. I find a pretext to fill the kitchen with its aroma, releasing it with a few flicks of the wrist, watching the hulls yield their hardy quarry. For a few minutes, my kitchen becomes an olfactory heaven.

The large bowl quickly filled up with the dry crumbly ingredients. I drizzled in honey and some olive oil and dug my hands into the mixture to evenly distribute the wet ingredients. I felt exhilarated, hands deep in a gooey mess, sticky with flaky oats. There was nothing like that feeling at work, where hands made hygienic with scaldingly hot water were the order of the day. De rigeur cleanliness and precision reigned in examining rooms by necessity.

I thought about that contrast between home and work and realized that I needed the disparateness, where vocation and avocation are complementary, both different in their natures. I thought of a physician-colleague who does woodworking in his spare time while another internist is an accomplished classical guitarist who has been spotted playing outside cafes in the evenings.

With the third infusion of the oolong, we tucked into bowlfuls of granola and saw the skies clearing, to reveal slivers of sunlight.

Recipe for Granola
(inspired by
Melissa Clark's recipe and Mark Bittman's recipe, both from the NYT)
5 cups rolled oats (not instant nor quick-cooking)
1 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Seeds from 10 hulled cardamon pods (use mortar and pestle)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup of dried currants
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine oats, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, cardamon seeds, salt. Add honey and olive oil, and with your hands, distribute them well into the dry mixture. Place the mixture on a sheet pan, which is lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, with every 10 minutes, stirring the mixture and rotating the pan 180 degrees. Mixture should brown evenly.
2. Remove the granola from the oven and add the currants. Cool on rack, stirring once in a while until the granola reaches room temperature. Transfer to sealed container and store in fridge. It will keep indefinitely.


tara said...

That first paragraph of yours reads like poetry. Lovely.

Cha sen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tara.