Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Cup of Tea: Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

In February, someone sent me a link to an Oprah interview with Thich Nhat Hanh.  Though I'm not much of an Oprah-watcher, I knew the name from some reading I'd done last year.  One part of the interview that really resonated with me was the way he described creating brother/sisterhood by sharing a cup of tea and a simple meal.  He explained, "We have the practice of tea meditation. We sit down, enjoy a cup of tea and our brotherhood, sisterhood. It takes one hour to just enjoy a cup of tea."  Later, he commented that  peace negotiations should be conducted in the same way: "When we come to the table, we shouldn't negotiate right away. We should spend time walking together, eating together, making acquaintance, telling each other about our own suffering, without blame or condemnation. It takes maybe one, two, three weeks to do that. And if communication and understanding are possible, negotiation will be easier. So if I am to organize a peace negotiation, I will organize it in that way."  Oprah: "You'd start with tea?"  Nhat Hanh: "With tea and walking meditation."  (Greg Mortenson, incidentally, says the same in Three Cups of Tea.)

There's something about drinking tea, sipping something hot, that makes you take time to listen deeply, to notice the other person, to be fully present.  And it seems to work better with tea than, say, my morning coffee, which, though I thorougly enjoy it, I sip (usually in my car on the way to work) only because it's too hot to gulp down in a single shot.

A friend of mine who lives in Washington, DC, and whom I have gotten to know mostly via email, often writes things like "A Cup of Tea" or "Hot Cider" in her subject lines; I always imagine that email correspondence as a conversation that is leisurely, thoughtful, compassionate.  She is a wise woman.

The other day, after a difficult day at work and what seemed like the billionth pregnancy announcement this week, I was feeling particularly defeated, and wound up spilling my frustration to a mom who lives down the block.  She wrote back, telling me that I'm not alone, that she had a story of her own to share, and that I should tell her whenever I had time for a cup of tea.

Though she lives less than two minutes away by foot, and has a son Ian's age, I hardly know her; we seem to pass like ships in the night (she also has twin first graders, which makes household management and finding time for herself challenging, I suspect).  But somehow we carved out time to get together, and she's coming over tomorrow night.  I'm looking forward to it; my cabinet is full of caffeinated and decaffeinated options, and I made biscotti to go with the tea, because munching on biscotti will make our conversation go even more slowly.  We will talk about motherhood, and children, and yoga, and writing, and ourselves.  I plan to savor the talk, the tea, and the cookies.

There's something to be said for this approach to deep listening.  Perhaps if we had more tea and more biscotti in the world, there would be fewer hasty reactions, less poorly informed political decisions, more people who genuinely care about each other.

So come, let me pour you a cup, too.  Tell me, what kind do you drink?

Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

1/3 c. almond milk
2 T. ground flax seeds
2 t. orange zest
scant 3/4 c. sugar (you could probably even go with 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. canola oil (or other less processed oil)
1 t. vanilla
1 c. white whole wheat flour
2/3 c. all purpose flour
2 T. arrowroot powder
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. allspice
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. dried (naturally sweetened) cranberries
1/4 c. almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk almond milk and flax for about 30 seconds.  Mix in orange zest, sugar, oil, and vanilla.  Sift in flour, arrowroot, baking powder, allspice, and salt.  Stir to combine and just before dough comes together, knead in chips and cranberries. The dough should be stiff (add flour if you need to).

On the parchment, press the dough into a rectangle 12x4".  Bake 26-28 minutes until lightly puffed and browned.  Let cool 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325.  Slice log into 1/2 inch thick slices with a heavy sharp knife, in one motion (don't "saw" because your biscotti will crumble).  Stand slices curved side up, about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, or until dry and toasted.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
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  1. *jealous*

    Enjoy your tea and conversation. I hope it's exactly what you need.

  2. What a lovely entry. I am sorry you had a frustrating week and I can only imagine how difficult it is to hear so many announcements. I am glad that you found some one to connect with over tea just when you needed that. Isn't it funny how things work out? I hope you enjoyed your conversation, tea and biscotti. And if things progress the way they seemn, maybe one day I can join you for a cup.
    Tazo Calm.


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