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Awake at the Whisk: August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010


Sun Tea: A Timeless Summer Recipe

Sun Tea, a timeless summer recipe.

Summer drips and glistens when it’s poured into an icy glass. Enjoy the last few drops of the season with some good old fashioned sun tea! If you have no cooking skills whatsoever, you can successfully make sun tea. It’s that easy.

My dad loves iced tea. Growing up, my Illinois summers were set to a backdrop of a stout glass jar plump full of liquid soaking inauspiciously on the back porch. Dad, a jogger, would come home from his run on a muggy day, his forehead dripping like a leaky faucet in the thick, humid air, smelling slightly of musk and armpit. As he mopped his brow with a towel he then slung across his shoulder, he would grab a sturdy glass from the cupboard. That glass was the size of my head, a modern day big gulp of sorts, only made from real glass, like everything used to be.

Next, the freezer would slurp open, and I’d hear the sound of Dad inside, ice clinking against glass from the depth of the cold-blasting door. He’d scurry out back, grab the tubby jar of sun tea, now thoroughly saturated and glowing in amber waves that splashed as he lifted, and pour the precious liquid over ice. As the cubes clicked and crackled, and the glass rang from hollow to full, there was always a glimmer in Dad’s eye. This sun tea was his pure joy, his reward and refreshment after a long run.

I never drank Dad’s sun tea as a little girl. I was more interested in lemonade. But the thought of summer sun tea does bring a skip to my step now that I’m of a caffeine consuming age. There’s just something about that slow roasted brew that soothes and revives and reminds you to ease your pace. Life doesn’t get much better.

When selecting a tea flavor for sun tea, I like to play with fruity teas like cherry almond or mango, or sweet teas like chocolate or caramel. These are the exotic flavors that I would find obnoxious in a hot tea. But with sun tea, you’re aiming for summer fun, so let yourself tea self get silly!

You can find some unique and inspiring flavors online. I recommend trying the New Mexico Tea Company. I have a friend of a friend who owns this shop, and I am so thankful that I was introduced to this delicious tea.

The recipe? I don’t really use one. My friend Elise has a lovely, appropriately measured one you can follow at Simply Recipes.

You do need special equipment for this. Thankfully, it’s easy to come by. Head to your local thrift store and purchase a glass sun tea jar (don’t use plastic). Once you’ve washed it out, fill it with clean drinking water. Next, add tea bags to the water (or loose leaf tea tucked safely inside a tea ball). How much tea?—Follow the measurements for iced tea on your favorite box of tea bags. I usually just throw the entire box in—it depends on how strong you like your tea. I like mine a little burly.

Close the lid to your jar. Take your jar outside and leave it in a nice, sunny spot for about 4 hours. You’ll know it’s done when the liquid is the color of wild honey. Pour it over a glass filled with ice. Find yourself a relaxing chair, sit back, and enjoy!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010


Foraging Viewed as Rising Food Trend

I recently stood amid a crowd of 250 food bloggers. When keynote speaker Morgan Spurlock asked us what we felt were the growing trends in food writing, I boldly raised my hand and asserted, “Foraging!” I mentioned my friend Hank Shaw’s belief that we humans innately desire to hunt for more than just a bargain when we search for our food; that we want to gather it from someplace more satisfying than a supermarket. Yet, as the words tumbled from my mouth, and later, fell repeatedly from the mouths of presenters at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, I had to ask myself, “Who am I to talk about foraging?”

Have I mentioned that I’m new to foraging? Sure, I grew up hunting morels and wild blackberries. Who hasn’t? And sure, this summer I harvested pounds of wild elderberries to make juice. But I’m no Hank Shaw. I can’t find wild beach peas or thistle. My foraging palette is pretty narrow.

Further reason to doubt myself comes from a hike last weekend. Emboldened by several recent—successful—foraging trips, I grabbed some random berries I found growing on a nearby bush. I had no idea what they were, but they looked pretty! I had enough sense not to eat them. Nonetheless, I gathered and tossed the shiny black beads into a plastic baggie, hoping to positively identify them later, and possibly enjoy a new, tasty snack.

Upon returning home, I reached out immediately to Hank with my new berry photos. I was so hopeful! I had dreams of pies and scones. But Hank’s reply put a grinding halt to my scheming. “They sure look like nightshade,” he wrote.


With a heavy heart, I tossed my hard-won berries into the trash. So much for my grand foraging plans.

But I’m not giving up yet. I still believe this a food trend on the rise (made cool by guys like Hank Shaw), and one in which I plan to take part. I need to embrace what seasoned foragers like Hank know: use a guidebook! Wiser hunters have passed through those forests before me. I think I’d better let them be my guide.

P.S. If you can positively identify these berries, let me know! My other rookie mistake: I forgot to take a photo of the entire plant for help in later identifying the berries. Oops!

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