Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Food Is Love: Pumpkin Pie Vanilla Chai

I’m a city girl and being a city girl means this time of year I start to crave....Starbucks.  Their holiday drink line always brings me in, a few times a year, I indulge in something that makes me feel like I have done something uncharacteristic dirty, which is how I feel when I shop at Wal-Mart. I will proudly shop at thrift stores, but Wal-Mart, not so much.  Along with Wal-Mart, I lead my list of businesses I try to avoid with McDonalds and Starbucks.  There are others, sure, but those are the top three.  No matter how wonderful the pumpkin spice latte is at a locally owned coffee shop, I crave something about the the Starbucks brand.  Marketing.  Sigh.  A victim of consumerism and carefully researched marketing campaigns.  

I have marketing on the brain right now because I just wrapped up a Marketing class, one of the final degree requirements for my graduation this December.  A course I put off for so long because of my love/hate relationship with television and general mass media campaigns.  So I wrote about things that interest me, things you hear about less often or not at all.  The primary focus of my marketing papers surrounded around the topic of non-profit marketing, and then touched on my other love: running.  

I highlighted Lauren Fleshman’s contract deal with Oiselle, a running company run by women, for women, based in Seattle, WA.  Felshman, 31, became a first-time mom this June, and Oiselle signed her in January 2013, when she was just a few months pregnant.  

This is unprecedented in the sports world and personally I think it creates a whole new way of women view their relationship with companies.  People (not just women) are starting to crave more personal interactions with companies.  

Brands have become more exclusive, even to lower and middle class incomes, making niche marketing more effective than ever, because of the alternative ways to market products through social media platforms.  With technology we often think of relationships being more strained as a result, but with social media and new avenues to market products to specific consumer groups, the little guy might actually have a shot in this modern marketplace.  What sets apart the authentically successful companies is their Love for their product, their passion.  
Which brings me back to Starbucks.  Their savvy marketing campaigns, seasonal drink line, music label, and ever-changing uber-cool decor, gifts, mugs, totes and ethos water.  What’s not to love about that?  Except, it’s not real.  It is a heavily researched coffee lab, where the consumer is the rat.  Created specifically to be artificially cool, nothing authentic or real about the whole experience, except if you consider beetles and other insects in your drink mixes to be real, then perhaps Starbucks is as real as it gets.  

Well, at least until America found out about it, now sans beetles they use good old fashioned artificial ingredients to enhance the color and flavor of their beverages.  So, I do my best to avoid Starbucks, because their coffee as savvy as the marketing campaigns and limited release drinks are, lacks Love. 

Back when we lived “in town” it was harder.  I could drive by any number of locations and feel the pull of the coffee shops dragging me in to fuel my inner need for caffeination in excess quantities, with the maximum amount of calories blended into pure liquid perfection. Some coffee shops are known for more love, than others, which suits a variety of different coffee drinkers.  Some people are just in it for the sugar, the buzz, but not the Love. I’m in it for the Love. 
The closest coffee shack to The Moose Lodge is an hour away, and it is operated on a seasonal basis. Which means it is now closed for the season. Being out here means I have to make due, be creative and frugal in my effort to create coffee shop worthy beverages in my funky paneled, retro and funky, in a truly funky kind of way Moose Lodge of a house, and pretend it is the coolest place around, because for what its worth, to me it really is the coolest place around, because I have found home.  If finding home means bad coffee, then it must mean I am not really home.  So, in order to make sure we don’t feel that wanderlust feeling to move again in the next 6-9 months, I am working to craft coffee shop beverages using standard coffee makers, filters, and good old’ Costco coffee in 3# sacks.  Nothing fancy, but fancy enough to be affordable and enjoyable, because I’ve got the Love I need to see a good cup of coffee through.  

As a former barista I have some pretty particular standards about how my espresso should taste, and thus most coffee shack experiences, Starbucks, Kaladi or otherwise usually end up being disappointing on some end of the spectrum.  The trouble is espresso cannot be mass produced, if you expect it to taste good.  

Good Coffee takes Love. 

To taste as it should, coffee requires the specific knowledge of the number of seconds each layer of espresso should take to form, to know when the shot is pulled perfectly and the boldness and acidity are perfectly balanced.  It takes someone who knows and loves coffee to give that kind of experience to the coffee drinker.  

Loving food means really loving it Baristas, chefs, pastry artists, (your mother and grandmother) - these are professions of love and of art, and at the root of it all is science, math, facts and figures. In order to blend these elements together you have to put love in what you do; it takes pure passion.  

You can be a good cook if you follow the directions, but if you don’t Love the food something is lacking in the end product. 

In other professions you cannot taste the result of a passionless product.  You can observe it, factually pick it apart, or simply feel unmoved by the end result, but food and beverage preparation takes a combination of skills, knowledge, talent and Love and if any of those elements is lacking, it can be tasted, physically experienced on multiple levels.

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God 
had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." - Voltaire 

I think this is why many european cultures are known for their food, because it isn’t so much the types of food they prepare, often favored dishes or beverages originated in the peasant classes, but it is the relationship the people have with the food from field to table.  
Having an intimate relationship with the food we prepare, cook and serve changes the entire relationship.  Ordinary every day potatoes and eggs can be transformed into culinary delights, I would argue that they taste this way because of Love.  

The Love that was put into the preparation of even the most simple ingredients, can transform food.  Have you ever been to a Native grandmas house?  The food may be so simple, but you can taste the Love and Passion, the relationship to the food, and as a result a simple bowl of moose soup and piece of fry bread, becomes a true, rare culinary delicacy.  Love my friends, it takes Love.   Just ask your Grandma, your mother.  

"Show me another pleasure like 
dinner which comes every day 
and lasts an hour." - Talleyrand 

If you want a good cup of coffee or an excellent cup of tea, take time to savor the process, be in the moment as you move through the steps and put your personality, your passion into creating something beautiful and satisfying, into the product.  

 Feel the love.  
                  Food is love. 

Pumpkin Pie Vanilla Chai

1. Brew 24 oz of loose chai tea, remove tea, add desired amount of sweetener, cool in fridge, add 2 tsp vanilla, chill.

2. Make Pumpkin Pie Syrup recipe: 

1 1/2 C Water 
1 1/2 C Sugar 
1 C Pure Pumpkin Puree
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger 
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves 
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg 
         tt             Love

"I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation." - Madame Benoit 

Directions: combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat on med/hi, stirring frequently to blend the sugar and water.  Add the spices and pumpkin puree and stir frequently, cook another 5 minutes.  Turn off, let cool until warm, then strain through a sieve, and refrigerate.  Syrup can be used in coffee, teas, desserts, ice cream, etc. 

3. Fill a pint glass with ice, 2/3 of the way.  

4. Pour in 8 oz of chai tea, 2 oz of pumpkin pie syrup and 1.5 oz half and half.  Stir.

5. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, whip cream optional, but recommended.  

6. Optional: For added pizazz, sugar n’ spice the rim with a combination of organic raw sugar and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Also; I think you could easily transform this drink into a festive, boozy concoction.  

"Eating in a hurried or unconscious way, as so many of us have learned to do, is like receiving a love letter from the Earth but never taking the time to carefully read it."
 - John Robbins 

- The Conversation Piece by: Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie 

Other Quotes from The Sacred Kitchen, by: Robertson and Robertson