Infusion, Part 1 – Time for Tea

Since discovering that fermented food and drink causes an allergic reaction in my oesophagus, I’ve had to reconsider my drinking habits, which led me to a spirit-heavy refreshment portfolio, mostly consisting of vodka, gin and whiskey.  The latter two lend themselves mostly to serving in cocktails or simply neat, but vodka is the most libre of the three.  It’s the chicken of the drinking world – a perennial favorite that goes with everything, allows infinite mutations in preparation, and makes you feel great.

In that spirit, I’ve created my first vodka infusions with our old friend, Camellia Sinensis.

First, the foundation: vodka.  I like Tito’s and Chopin vodka – the former is a superb value for the taste and cost, comes from Texas, and is made from the crop every midwesterner knows intimately: corn.  Chopin is the fancy import, made in Poland from potatoes and finished by grim-faced Eastern Europeans (I assume).

Since this was my first attempt and all could go horribly wrong, I opted for a very inexpensive bottle of Svedka ($9.99 at County Market).  I tried to acquire said vodka at Hyvee, but since I recently turned 30 and haven’t renewed my driver’s license, the stout clerk (who obviously had renewed her license many times) refused to sell me alcohol.

Svedka in hand, I turned to the tea.  I chose two blends – Republic of Tea’s British Breakfast, a traditional black, English breakfast tea in sachets, and a loose leaf peach green tea. I started with the green tea, using a smaller 250ml bottle and about a tablespoon of loose tea.  I capped the smaller bottle, shook a few times, and turned to the remaining vodka in the Svedka bottle.  I decided to use four tea bags, which, in hindsight, was far too many.  I sealed the bottle and took both outdoors – the sun was powerful, and I thought it would improve the infusion process.

After a few hours of waiting, I had the results.  The black tea infusion was extremely dark, resembling ink in a huge capsule.  The green tea was much lighter, the color of whiskey.

I chilled them both, and tried the black tea first.  It had the taste of oversteeped tea – bitter in the extreme, with an added bite of alcohol.  The flavor was greatly improved by adding lemon and fresh mint, but it’s clear that I overdid the black tea flavor.

The green tea was next – without any doctoring, the flavor was very pleasant.  More peach would have been welcome, but might require adding actual peach fruit, since even the tea prepared with water doesn’t have a strong peach aroma like I prefer.

I want to continue experimenting with tea, and I think for the next batch, I will use better vodka and less tea.  Future blends will most likely include Rooibos, Earl Grey (PIcard would have loved a little vodka in his tea now and then), and maybe a modified black tea recipe.

Until then, it’s bitter booze for me.

Water, Water Everywhere

I’ve finally gone off the deep end.  Daft as a doorknob, loony as a duck pond.  To understand why I’m trying to comb the crushed oats and cornmeal out of my hair, let us start at the beginning.

The wellspring of my madness is Water itself – just two elements, three molecules.  If only it were so simple!  A more accurate ingredient list of water (lower case) would be lengthy and subject to change – ranging from the innocent  (trace minerals, carbon dioxide, fluoride) to the more suspect (fluoride, bacterial life, piss).  Humans have endeavored to consume sanitized water in one form or another for so long that it’s something most folks don’t even think about.

As I mentioned, it’s been driving me crazy lately.  All of the water in my body comes from one source – the CWLP water purification facility.  Drinking, bathing, cooking, flushing, washing, etc. all come from the same body of water.

And what a body it is, what a delight for the senses!  The brilliant green color, strong scent of fish and algae, the eerie warmth in the vicinity of the power plant.  A reasonable person would probably rather drink from a toilet bowl than straight out of the lake.

The steps between the repugnant stagnance of the lake and your glass of water are important, and almost totally invisible.  Foul lake water turns into crystal clear tap water, free from the life forms that formerly lent it such a distinctive color and odor.  You might think we had access to some marvelous glacier, piped straight from the Great White North, were it not for the tap’s one distinctive feature.

Enter the hero in the story of purification – Chlorine, smiter of microbial life.  The water may be clear and mostly tasteless, but  if you stick your nose into a glass of water, the smell of Cl  is overpowering.  If the chemical does a really marvelous job at sanitizing water, its only major drawback that it is also poisonous to Homo Sapiens.  I found this use of a poisonous gas in our water supply unnerving- another “lesser of two evils” scenarios, like chemotherapy or diet soda.

I did some research, and it turns out sanitation departments across the country adhere to strict guidelines on the quantity of chlorine used, so you are certain to get only a safe dosage.  Safe meaning it won’t kill you outright.

Let’s run with the assumption that it’s still better than drinking straight out of the lake.  When it comes to bathing, I’m not really satisfied with either choice.  Anyone who has swam in a pool will attest to what chlorine exposure does to the skin and hair, and the high temperatures and steam from the shower increase the amount of chlorine the skin absorbs.  Throw in some dry winter weather, and I start to look like a molting reptile, or if I rub my face or hair, rather like a small snow flurry made of desiccated skin.

So I started to look around at ways to keep my hair clean without having to wash and shampoo it every day.  I discovered an idea called dry shampoo.  The concept is easy – comb stuff through your hair that will soak up any excess oil, leaving the scalp with a nice gloss to avoid unexpected skin flurries.

A more sensible person might have gone to Walgreens or a barbershop to buy dry shampoo, but I caught sight of a few DIY recipes that were too easy to pass up.  Cornstarch, Corn meal, crushed oatmeal, and baking soda, in equal proportions.  It sounds like something you would feed livestock.

I had all these ingredients handy, and though it took me a few minutes to crush my rolled oats with a mortar and pestle, the concoction was soon ready.  I stood over the sink, and spooned a bit out onto my skull.  Rubbed it around a bit, tried to get all the odd spots, finding my skull to be lumpier than I remember.  I needed to look up to see if I’d missed anything, and immediately felt a whole lot of grain fall down the back of my shirt.  Damn.

After cleaning that up, it was time to remove the ground grains from my hair.  I don’t have a brush, but the comb managed fairly well.  The end result was surprisingly good – my hair wasn’t greasy anymore, but had a nice texture that comes from not being too dry.

I am satisfied, in spite of the nagging thought that this was probably something that pioneer women did on the Oregon Trail.  For them, it might have been necessity.  For me, it’s a mostly pointless obsession with controlling what goes into my body.  If I wanted to poison myself, I’d shop around the bottom shelf of the liquor aisle at Shop N Save.

Whatever the case, I’m certain that at some point in the future, using chlorine to sanitize drinking water will be filed under What the fuck were they thinking back then?, in the company of leeches, frontal lobotomies, and fake titties that don’t bounce.

When that day comes, I’ll be the pioneer, portrayed by a statue of combing oatmeal out of its hair.