Friday, February 27, 2015

Tea with Strangers, and Gluten Free Morning Glory Muffins

I may have been socialized to tea by the center cabinet in my mother's kitchen, right next to the window, which always always smelled of dry goods, and contained peanut butter, measuring cups, a bag of rice, and a wide selection of Lipton and Celestial Seasonings teas.

I don't know why my mother drank tea--I suspect it was a combination of attempts at dieting, and wanting hot liquid that wasn't coffee (she was sensitive to caffeine)--but I always felt a little sophisticated when she'd make a cup for me, or better yet, when I'd make a cup for myself.  Maybe it was good marketing in those Good Housekeeping magazines that I'd flip through when my mother wasn't looking, trying to understand her.

Tea, however, didn't strike me as a particularly social occasion until I started reading British literature, anyway, and learned that it came with cakes, and crumpets, and conversation, and convention.  I was sold.  I began to swill Earl Grey, which my English teachers brewed in a great pot in the morning if we slept over, and sweetened liberally, or doused with milk.  I loved the heady floral scent.  One year, I took my mother to high tea at the Plaza in New York as a Christmas gift.  I must have been a freshman in high school.  The gift was at least partially selfish, I'm sure.

Somewhere in graduate school, I stopped drinking tea, and started drinking coffee.  Which--let's be honest--has different connotation, doesn't it?  We drink on our own, dashing out the door, and I'll wager that when you invite someone for coffee, you meet with an agenda.  You have things to accomplish, whether you admit it or not; you simply suggest that the business you conduct will take slightly longer than usual, may be a bit more collaborative, and may be handled a bit more delicately than you might in a conference room.  Case in point: my current job is the result of a series of highly caffeinated conversations.  (For the record: tea ordered in a coffee shop as part of an invitation to "coffee" counts as coffee, not tea.)

Tea, on the other hand, involves commiseration, empathy, intimacy, and trust.  An invitation to tea sends a different message, suggests that you might linger.  You may accomplish things over tea, but only in a rather desultory, meandering way.  It may take several cups to arrive at your destination, if indeed you arrive at all.  (I remember reading Three Cups of Tea, thinking that it was a poorly titled book.)

So I was pleased to learn that some of our students have decided to host a site for Tea with Strangers.  The premise is simple: you sign up, you show up, you have a two hour conversation over tea, you meet someone (or a few people) you likely may never have met.  You probably end up talking about more than the weather.  For a generation who lives on their devices at arms length from each other, it's a huge risk.  Sort of like a blind date, but without the safety of a movie or your plate to retreat.

I made these muffins a while ago for some people I don't know all that well.  (And photographed them in the basket my colleagues gave me for my birthday.)  They're delicately-flavored enough that coffee would overpower them completely.  But they would go very well with tea.

Who will you invite to join you?

Gluten Free Morning Glory Muffins

1/2 c. raisins
1 c. King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1/4 t. salt
1 c. peeled, grated carrots
1/2 c. grated apple (about 1/2 of a large apple) or1/2 c. drained crushed pineapple
1/2 c. grated coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
2 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 t.  vanilla extract
2 T. water

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with 10 muffin papers.

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water and set aside to plump.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.  Stir in the carrots, apple or pineapple, coconut and nuts.  

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla and water. Add to the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Drain the raisins and stir them in.

Scoop the batter into the prepared wells. Don't worry if they're nearly full. 
Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and, after 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack to cool.
Wrap any leftovers airtight and store at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.
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  1. Well I for one would love to have tea with you. Or coffee.

    I was sitting in a 6 hr symposium (I left after about 3.5) during which a prospective grad student sitting next to me was bemoaning our lack of coffee. I agreed.

  2. I've recently began exploring high tea and all that comes with it. The whole idea is so enchanting to me: siting and chatting with friends solely for conversation. So much more ideal than the meetings one holds over coffee (I agree with you on that point).

    I love good coffee. Seeing the oil from the beans on the surface of a cup is a very good sign and I love the rush that comes with it. But, I've begun to see the beauty with tea and hence drink it in the afternoons after lectures as a way to unwind.

  3. I have a beverage routine that I stick to every day, so much so that I TRAVEL with these things. Yes, like a complete weirdo.

    In the morning, I have one and a half cups of iced coffee. Every day. Regardless of weather.

    Around 10 am or so, I have a cup of cinnamon tea. It's only sold for a few weeks each fall, so I buy up about 20 boxes of it. Sometimes, if I need it, I have a cup of tea in the afternoon, but that's hit or miss. Then, at night, before bed, I have a cup of peppermint tea. It's the last thing I do before I go to sleep.

    That's a lot of liquid.

    You saw this?

  4. Although she grew up in a small Minnesota town with coffee-swilling Scandinavians, my mother lost her taste for it when she was pregnant with me ;) and has mostly drunk tea since then. So I grew up drinking tea... and my first-year university roommate was a "tea granny." She would brew us loose-leaf tea in a teapot covered by a cozy, and we always used to give each other tea-related stuff for Christmas & birthday presents. I'm still not much of a coffee drinker and I adore Starbucks tea lattes (English Breakfast is my favourite). I've had afternoon tea at the Chateau Lake Louise on my honeymoon, the Empress in Victoria, B.C., and the King Edward & Royal York hotels in Toronto, as well as at other smaller cafes. I highly recommend the experience. :)

  5. I would maybe invite some of the yoginis that I've practiced with for ages but don't know anything about other than first names.

    I had never thought about the connotative difference between coffee and tea, but I do think you're spot on.

    Jolly good, then.

  6. This looks yummy. I've learned that Gluten Free does not have to mean flavorless. My sister has Siliac and she will love this recipe. Thanks for sharing your ingredients Justine.


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