Sip Tea While I Tell You A Story July 28 2015
One of the reasons that I am such a great believer in organic food and drink, and good health in general is that I wasn't always like this. Here in Mendocino in the seventies, I ran a nightclub, of sorts, called Toad Hall.
We had a wonderful time, with great music, hard drinking and too many drugs (let's be honest here), and some of us survived to tell about it to this day.
Mostly, no one cared, and it was a part of Mendocino that was not talked about with anything but disparaging tones. If you live long enough, though, people become curious and want to know what happened, so here we are.
I spoke about Mendocino in the seventies and Toad Hall last Sunday at the Kelley House Museum here in town, and I remember lots of great stories, many more than I could tell in an hour or two. I have decided that they should be shared. Here's one of my favorites:
I used to arrive at The Toad (nickname) late, and pull in directly in front of the front door, always in a hurry. In those days I drove an old pink Volvo sedan. My friend Michael's dog was in the back seat, I left my purse in the front seat, as usual, and the keys in the ignition.
It was a regular night: loud,raucous, smoky and dusty; with lots of folks drinking a bit too much for their own good. I did notice one couple having quite an argument in the middle of the evening and the wife storming out, but din't think much about it.
At about 2:30 am, after we had cleaned up a bit and shut things down, Michael went to let his dog out of the car. He came back and said, "Where did you park the car?" It was gone, aparently with the dog and my purse still in it.
I called the Fort Bragg police to report the missing car (and dog) and was told there was probably not a chance in Hell that I would see it again. I said, "Are you kidding? It's a pink Volvo...how hard could it be?"
I went to bed, and got a call about 8:00 the following morning from the police department. They said, "We've found your car in an empty lot in town. We put the keys under the mat, your purse is still on the front seat, and we gave your dog some water."
Homemade Winter Herbal Infusions January 03 2015
We live in the Pacific Northwest, so these ideas for homegrown infusions will mostly work for our area, but they can give you ideas about what you can grow, or gather, wherever you are for the future. The best way to have delicious infusion materials available is to gather herbs and flowers that appeal to you all year long and dehydrate them, pack them in jars and store them in a dark, cool, dry place or you can reuse the black bags that our tea comes in, and just store them in a cool place.
Since it is winter now, I will concentrate on things that can be gathered and used today. Try:
Candy Cap Mushrooms
Mint or Sage
I even found some Roses, but I know it's something special and unusual this time of year. Rose Petals are always wonderful in herbal infusions, they add color and flavor.
Once you gather these things, you can make your infusions with the fresh herbs, or dehydrate them and keep them for later. If you can, I recommend that you use a dehydrator, but if not, you can try putting in the oven at the lowest setting for a short period of time spread out on a cookie sheet.
Mendocino Winters January 02 2015
The Holiday Season is over and it's really winter now. Sometimes it's dark outside all day long and our wood heat barely gets the house warm; then we have to back it up with an electric heater. We have cold winters here on the Mendocino Coast. It isn't cold in the classic way, with ice, snow and deep frosts, but it often rains and cold winds blow. Storms wipe our electricity out, and it's a good time to stay inside. I have grown fond of our winters.
When I moved here from Southern California, I had the wrong clothes and footwear for our weather, and I hated it. I never felt warm and dry unless I was in bed under lots of covers or I had just come out of the sauna.
My husband was fond of taking long mushroom walks in the woods, and while I thought they were beautiful and other worldly, I always came home soaked to the skin and cold. It wasn't until years later when I discovered how delicious they were and how to identify them that I was able to appreciate mushroom walks. By that time I had the right clothing and warm waterproof boots.
During that time, nearly fifty years ago, I discovered the true value of herbal tea. While I had always loved hot cider, I hadn't had much in the way of herbal tea. I started learning about the warming teas, especially those made with ginger, and began experimenting with them. In those days, I often added alcohol to the tea drinks. Now I find the tea to be enough.
I still take mushroom walks. Mushrooms are a staple for us in the fall and into the winter during wet years. I love finding them, it feels like an Easter Egg Hunt to me. Then I get to come home with my bounty to cook up something delectable. My friend Alison Gardner has just released a wonderful cookbook called The Wild Mushroom Cookbook, and I recommend it. She has thought of lots of things to do with mushrooms that never occurred to me. She has even invented a Candy Cap Chai that we will be adding to our tea on our website www.mendocinotea.com soon.
I encourage you to find ways to love your winters. I know it's cold and miserable outside, but it's marvelous to have time to discover the goodness inside. Winter is the time of year when we can enjoy the smallest things, like a good cup of tea, hot soup, jigsaw puzzles and board games. I hope you find your small joys now too.