Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chai Me

Around the holidays, someone in my family usually makes a traditional recipe we have always called "peppernuts."  They are not "pepper nuts."  There is no space.  And there are no nuts.  This is a nut-free food.  I'm told the German name for them is "pfeffernusse," so I'm guessing the recipe was passed down for a few generations before it ended up in my kitchen.  In any case, these non-nuts are very hard cookie-bites made from flour, lard, sugar, and lots and lots of spices.  I forget if there is actually any pepper in them, maybe a little, but most of the spice comes from cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and maybe some ginger.  I forget.  I do know, though, that butter and vegetable shortening are NOT acceptable substitutes for lard in this recipe.  It's just not right without the lard.  To eat them, I usually pop one or two teaspoon-sized "nuts" in my mouth and suck on them for a few seconds before trying to bite them.  They're really, really hard.  But they are so amazingly wonderful, completely unique, and traditional for me.  Worth all the work to make them!

I don't really have a good transition from peppernuts to chai, so bear with me...

My sister has been drinking this stuff she calls "chai" for a long time.  Now she's a fan of coffee, lattes, iced coffee, that whole grouping of what I consider "gross" drinks, so when she said she loves chai-whatever, I was certain to put it off my radar.  The only hot drink I tolerate is hot chocolate--and maybe two cups a year.  Water for me, thanks.

This weekend, The Man and I were grocery shopping.  He's a tea drinker, not all the time or even very often, but he does drink tea.  He seems to prefer red teas or oolong teas since they aren't very strong.  I asked him if he wanted to try something different, maybe try this "chai tea" stuff I found on the shelf near the usual oolong variety.  Sure, he said, he's liked chai tea before.

It's kind of a stop-the-presses! moment when he reveals something he likes that I didn't know about already.  It's almost easier to name the foods he likes rather than dislikes, so any agreement to try something new... well, let's just say I had a *moment* right there in the store.  I threw the box of teabags in the cart and went about my day.

Later, while my soup was doing that souping thing it does on the stove at a low simmer, I decided to try this new tea.  I filled a mug with water and nuked it for a minute.  Splash went the tea, swirl went the spoon, and taste went all over my tongue.  I made chai tea all by myself.

And I liked it.

No, no, I pretty much loved it.

Chai tea is warm and fuzzy and sweet and bitter and homey--if tea can be homey--and tasted like Christmas all in one mouthful.  It tastes like peppernuts in liquid form!  I don't even consider it tea in my head, it's just a speedier spice delivery system than crunching on peppernuts, and I'm more than okay with that.  So GOOD!


Katrina said...

Chai tea is delicious. I suspect, however, that what your sister drinks is actually a Chai latte, which is condensed tea plus steamed milk. It's also delicious, but in a very different way.

Either way, hooray for discovering new tasty things. Also, peppernuts sound amazing.

Tippy said...

Chai tea is my absolute favorite! When I go to a coffee shop, I normally get a Chai Tea Latte (Chai tea with milk), but I make sure to ask for NO WATER! The extra milk makes it sweeter and more filling!