Friday, March 12, 2010


They are dun-colored, the first buds of the season. Discreet, clustered on trees, I see them on my walks, the snow now slushy and slippery on the ground with the warmer weather. This is hardly spring, I know from experience, but there is no mistaking this whisper of novelty - dormant for months - in the air. A lull in the gray monotony of winter, the birds seem to chirp a little louder, the cats indoors more restive.

There are the daily routines, renewed each morning by the variable light from the kitchen window. I sit with my cup of tea watching the steam rise. Each time, I marvel at the wispiness, impalpable and delicate.

Lately, my morning tea has been sencha. I crave its vegetal austerity which veils a complexity of taste beneath a mantle of sameness. I take the first sip gingerly, not quite knowing what this time will yield. The first infusion is assertive, barely bitter with the initial taste; then, this lilts into a mild sweetness.

I have my tea with a plate of almond cookies. They are doughy, in a pleasant sort of way, aromatic with flecks of cardamon. They subvert the notion of what a cookie should be; they have a spare sweetness and lack the heft which butter or oil usually imparts. Nevertheless, their singularity is pleasing, and I find myself eating quite a few.

We go on our walks, a little less bundled, avoiding treacherous slicks of black ice. We look up and see filigreed branches, interlaced and intimate. I feel a restiveness that yearns to move unfettered by layers of wool and clunky boots.

We take our first salsa classes, reveling in movement. A clumsy step here, an unwonted swivel there. Stockinged feet strive to beat in time to rousing Cuban rhythms. The novelty exhilarates me in the bright light of the small room, its wooden floor scrubbed shiny from use. There is the satisfaction in the mastery of a few simple steps, a pliant understanding between body and thought.

Later at home, fueled by sencha and more cookies, with the cats our audience, pairs of human feet again tap to the strains of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Baking notes: I used 1/2 the sugar called for in the recipe, substituted egg whites for whole eggs (3 egg whites for 2 whole eggs). Orange water can also be used instead of rosewater, with good results. I also halved the entire recipe. This yielded 35 cookies.


artandtea said...

You've captured the feeling of very early spring so eloquently.

The almond cookies look and sound scrumptious, a perfect harmony with the vegetal sencha. Mmmm...

Enjoy your salsa lessons! :-)

Anonymous said...

The songbirds are migrating through Pine Key. Enjoy the spring salsa.