It just fell on me like the last rays of sunlight licking the dusty spots on my window that in one week my little book that could will be making its way into the world. I think that’s cause for celebration. Or yoga breathing. This past weekend, I had the chance to introduce it to my peers in the food community. I didn’t know what to expect but have been so incredibly grateful for the way Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea is being embraced. My suitcase is still packed from one trip and I can tell it’s contemplating the next one, wondering if the deck of clothes will get shuffled in and out for a game of book tour solitaire. Except, it will be anything but solitary.
I am so looking forward to meeting you in person: the tea drinker who finds comfort in a cup. The poet whose lone bulb burns brightly into the quiet hours of night. The reader. The gaggle of girlfriends. The moms. The cooks. The lovers. The travelers. Those ravenous for cultural intersections. Those looking for connection. Telling people I am an author both makes me gasp a little bit inside and grin as wide as the state of Tennessee. The act of teatime and conversation about cooking with tea brings people together. I love a good party. And soon, we will celebrate, you and I.
Stay tuned for the book tour dates to go live. Until then, mark your calendar for a #SteepedBook Cooking with Tea twitter party on Monday, April 6 at 5p PST / 8p EST. If you’ve never attended a twitter party before but have a twitter account, leave me a comment, and I’ll be happy to sketch out how simple it is to participate. Are you ready to get steeped? I’ll keep the teapot warm.
In 2014, something happened in Chicago at the IACP 2014 conference that set tradition on edge: a self-published cookbook won the cookbook of the year award. The author, a lanky man with salt and pepper hair and the widest grin you can possibly imagine set his mast toward the front of the room and sailed on, surprised! So full of glee! John McReynolds, the culinary director for Stone Edge Farm accepted the award on behalf of the Sonoma winery and ever so briefly mentioned the journey that brought them to self-publish their stunning coffee table cookbook full of photos and recipes that might just make you want to head to Sonoma for a long weekend. I caught up with him between sessions, curious to hear more, especially after I found this beauty of a poem written by Phil Coturri, the viticulturist at Stone Edge Farm (and a bit of a legend in Sonoma County for his dedication to organic farming) printed in the cookbook. Seeing poetry incorporated into cookbooks is something that makes me endlessly happy and hopeful that more opportunities might arise for culinary and literary cross-pollination.
In “Terroir,” like the grapevines flanking the sides of highway 101 in Sonoma, I appreciate Coturri’s use of concrete poetry, letting the form guide the eye as it curls toward a long line or dips into an abbreviated one, all shoots and tendrils. Terroir reverberates throughout the poem almost as a mantra as if saying it often reminds the reader and writer that “we don’t control it / we guide it / to an expression of flavor.” When talking to people about tea and notably, terroir, often it is described akin to wine. The place, climate, and condition of the soil all seeps into the final cup, showing how terroir extends beyond the vine. What this bit of wine poetry does well is instruct the reader into the nuances that make up terroir as if we too might join Coturri on a hot Sonoma afternoon in October during crush, as if our eyes might alight upon the grapevines differently. With responsibility. As if they are a gift to be nurtured. As if the domain of terroir expands beyond the vineyard into our own lives, asking where does the alchemy need to begin?
What’s cooking, good looking? If you said tea, you are so right! Namely, a Cooking with Tea kit giveaway valued at $200. Read on below… or click on the orange link above to go directly to the cooking with tea giveaway page and enter for a chance to win.
Here’s the skinny: Preorder Steeped during March 16 – April 5 for a chance to win 1 of 3 Cooking with Tea giveaway kits. And let me tell you, the goods are good. I’m talking 19 items from brands you know and love, including, and in no particular order: Circulon, ForLife, OXO, Mighty Leaf Tea, Choice Organic Teas, Steven Smith Teamaker, Silk Road Teas, Numi Tea, ITO EN, Lotus Foods, Bob’s Red Mill, California Olive Ranch, and Straus Family Creamery.
I’m thrilled to have partnered with these companies to put together a cooking with tea kit full of the essential tools and ingredients to stock your pantry and make cooking with tea easy and approachable once your copy of Steeped arrives. I’m grateful for the participation of each brand listed above and during the giveaway will share ideas on Instagram.com/ anneliesz of how they make my tea-riddled kitchen cook! Share the love–Pin the picture above. Share the giveaway with your tea-drinking friends. If you’ve already ordered a copy of Steeped for yourself, preorder a copy for a friend or family member (have I mentioned it would make a superb Mother’s Day gift?).
In my book, everybody should win, so everyone in the U.S. who enters the giveaway during the dates above wins free tea pouch samples, courtesy of Mighty Leaf Tea. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and have packed together these Cooking with Tea Kits to make cooking with tea a cinch in your kitchen. Click the link below for rules and details. The 3 winners will be announced at the #SteepedBook Cooking with Tea twitter party on April 6 at 5p PST. Good luck!
In college, I worked as a residents’ assistant for two years. It proved to be one of the hallmarks during those four years. During the year I manned a freshmen hall, I developed a bit of a… reputation. Whenever I was on duty, my ears would perk up to the sounds of clinking bottles or my nostrils might expand at a whiff of an alien smell similar to sweet grass burning. A few raps on the door and a lot of furtive commotion and heightened whispering would lead to no admissions and skepticism on my part. Unbeknownst to me, I had developed a nickname among the community of residents’ assistants too. At one of our annual meetings, someone let it slip and it was met with knowing laughter: the bulldog…
…The rest of this story is going to be shared in my weekly newsletters. Not signed up yet? You’re missing out on a whole lot of fun. See, I manage a newsletter for one professional organization I’m a part of and managed newsletters for a company I worked with over the span of four and a half years. Newsletters, if done well, can be bright shining beacons in a crowded inbox. I see my newsletter as 52 opportunities in 2015 to inspire, help, challenge, and nudge you to join me in chasing after the creative life actively. In the newsletters, I’m sharing ideas for stoking your creative fires, food articles, food poetry, writing prompts, and Steeped book news. So far this year, we’ve covered how to pack for 2 weeks using a carry-on, the future of food is printable, as well as a lesson on creativity from the Golden Gate Bridge. I keep the newsletters pretty short and packed full of interesting tidbits. Sign up today and find out this weekend what the one trait is that all writers need to have.
How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?
— Louise Gluck
Hours before she died, my grandmother
sucked dry three segments of a navel orange
and, claiming her appetite had a short range,
hooked out the pulp with her finger,
shreds catching on her ring. With delicate theater,
she wrapped the untouched sections in a napkin
she’d halved down the center folded line
to keep them fresh for later.
I fly in to sit shiva from Orange County,
where the branched that bear citrus are bent
by a greedy public who can’t resist
loading their bushels with questionable bounty–
the hard, yellowing rinds left hanging by migrant
workers, who know best this business
of surplus, and restraint, and what to pick when.
And all at once, oranges are everywhere:
In the shampoo I use to wash my niece’s hair.
In the disinfectant wiped onto porcelain
fixtures in the home where the dead are lain.
On the plates I fix for guests too old to rise from chairs;
nestled, smugly poisoning the air
from grass-filled bamboo baskets sent by friends.
My niece balances the fruit on her baby-fat palms
before rolling them to the great-aunts, who can’t
remember the exact numbers of their ages but who speak
with accents Polish enough to date them.
“Range,” Corrie says. She’s learning to want
the meaning to match the sound, so when she plucks
it on the string of her tongue over and over
her relatives will marvel and give applause.
She bowls the fruit at every leg in the house,
each pant-suited visitor a pin to strike and quiver.
Tomorrow, one of my grandmother’s sisters
will trip on a forgotten orange and break
her hip, and the doctor will adjust his face
and pat her silk-clad shoulder, and call her, “Helen Dear.”
And in the hospital, she’ll tell the story
of my frugal grandmother’s last day
to the congregated bedside brood,
and claim she’d prefer a fruit with more glory.
“But should the season call for an orange,” she’ll say,
“at least make it blood, my darlings. Make mine blood.”
– Jen Karetnick
Jen Karetnick and I share three things in common. First of all, both of us are intensely interested in food to the point of working in the field of food writing, and specifically are entrenched in our appreciation of restaurants. She writes for a Miami magazine as the local restaurant reviewer; I credit my work in the food field with my first job at a bakery. Then there’s the fact that both of us studied for MFA’s in literature, diving into trying to better our craft through directed programs. But I’m most interested in the link we share where food poetry and recipes converge. In the same year that her first cookbook, Mango was published, her first full-length book of food poetry was bound and released in the collection, Brie Season. She sent me the latter book to read and of all the poems in the book, her poem “Segments of an Orange” is one that didn’t let me go quite so easily after the poem finished.
Part of what gripped me in this poem is its certainty of place and the ways the narrative keeps the symbol of the orange before us. The details make this poem come alive like the moment when her grandmother folds the napkin to save the rest of the orange for later, as if she would have more time or as if she is saving it for someone else to finish. We then begin to see and smell oranges in places outside of that hospital room. Fake oranges in shampoo or disinfectant. The narrator even travels to Orange County as if she cannot get away from the tidal wave of grief that can assail those who lose someone they love. From the very old who pass away to the very young who are still learning to form their mouth around the word, settling on “Range,” the poem takes a turn to somewhere in between in the end. This time the orange has afflicted a mishap on a character in the poem that takes us back into the hospital but doesn’t take a tragic turn. Instead the grandmother’s sister exerts her power over the obstacle calling for something “with more glory.” That she requests a blood orange bewitches the poem with the duality of the symbol. She contrasts her living with her sister’s dying: “Make mine blood.” Wow. What a brutal and breathless way to end the poem! I was struck with how powerful this poem is. Being haunted by symbols of the person who has passed away and then being able to keep the trope going to an unforeseeable end is exhilarating.
About Jen Karetnick Miami-based poet, writer and educator Jen Karetnick is the author/co-author/editor of 12 books, including three published in 2014: Mango, a cookbook (October);Brie Season, a full-length book of poems (White Violet Press, September); and Prayer of Confession, a chapbook of poetry (Finishing Line Press, June). Her poems and essays have been widely published in Cimarron Review, December, North American Review, Poet’s Market 2013, Poets & Writers, River Styx, Seneca Review, Spillway and the Submittable blog. She works as the Creative Writing Director of Miami Arts Charter School; as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine from Modern Luxury; and as a freelance writer for outlets including The Atlantic.com, Destinations MO, Food Arts, TheLatinKitchen.com, The Local Palate, Morning Calm/Korean Air, Southern Living and USA Today.
Early Friday morning is an exquisite pocket of time. Perhaps it’s knowing that the sprint is almost over and only five hours stand in the way of what shapes weekend hours from the weekday ones. The kitchen comes slowly to life on Friday mornings, rising with the sun. Usually I am already bedecked in bits of flying flour that cling to my sleeve or adorn my slipper before breakfast.
I once tried baking bread on a Monday and ended up tossing the entire batch of dough after the rising period had exceeded its time by a full day. Tuesdays are a bit of a continuation of whatever check boxes from Monday’s list fell off and landed in the batch of next day appointments. Hump-day, better known as Wednesday might as well be Monday part two, making Thursday, Tuesday part two.
Then comes Friday: its crystalline possibility snaps out like a tablecloth floating down to cover kitchen projects that need more time, knowing that your mind can expand after a week of busyness and invite whatever cooking idea has been knocking, in. For me, Friday is set aside for bread.
Before 2013, I had never considered myself a bread baker and didn’t fancy myself much of a bread eater. Before 2013, we were bumping right along at a speed of life I could recognize, along a route that was familiar. But then, the pace became frenetic, the route detoured in a direction with little control of where we were headed. Baking quietly provided an evening answer. It became my teacher in patience measuring blessings by weight and not volume.
It’s too easy for one week to bleed into the next and to begin playing a game of hopscotch from one month into another with little to show for the time spent. I think of this and want to blink back the blur of aging without being fully present. And as sometimes happens, a contradiction crept in.
On a Tuesday morning I eyed the full jar of Salvatore sourdough starter that would soon migrate into the refrigerator for a chilly slumber. That morning’s decision was based out of a desire to use as much of the starter as I could in between switching vessels. I mixed together my ingredients casually, measuring out flour, plunging the thermometer into the warm water and played with pushing the hydration in the dough. Since we’ve moved to Oakland, I’ve baked a few tasty loaves that don’t look as lovely as I’ve aspired for them. If baking bread has taught me anything it’s to take a calculated risk, try to answer “what if?…” through jotting down notes of changes made and then wait it out to see the final offering. When we moved to Oakland I worried how my starter might react. We were leaving the 94118- would the bacteria be so very different or the air so dry that my starter might change dramatically? None of my recent loaves have set my heart into a steady state of glee until Wednesday morning, the day after I audaciously started prepping bread dough on a Tuesday. What came out of the oven was big, bouncy, practically puffy in its enthusiasm and somehow I had achieved a whole new type of loaf. On my counter, the crust crackling, sat the fine art of not giving up.
So on Friday mornings, with the light creeping in the kitchen window through the slit below the curtain, I can start crafting a small universe in the metal bowl that is big as a sled. It all starts by scooping flour into a cup. The beginnings of bread baking remind me of a great truth of living: from small starts can arise big possibilities. So, as I wait during the second rise and see my dough doubled in size, I have the heft of the thing in my hands to show for my patience, the loaf that will feed us for a week to give promise to what the future might hold.