Ten tiny food pleasures are ritualistic and delicious

Lemonade with sugared rim and mint; frozen blueberries; salted almonds.

I have been looking for small ways to treat myself this week, and it occurred to me that when it comes to food, what delights and soothes me has as much to do with ritual and association as it does flavor and sustenance. Here are some favorite tiny pleasures I think others might enjoy:

  • Frozen blueberries. I fill a little dish and eat them one by one. My fingers turn blue. When my grandmother was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, I made her homemade ginger ale and garnished her glass with blueberries I found in her freezer. According to a cookbook I bought when I learned she had cancer, the flavors are strong enough to be enjoyed by chemo patients whose taste buds have been damaged by the treatments.
  • Homemade lemonade with fresh mint. My mom makes lemonade with real lemons and mint, and she rims the glasses in sugar. It is divine, and I do it the same way, even if (especially if) it’s for my daughter’s lemonade stand. Here is what to do: Squeeze lemons until you have a substantial amount of juice. (I have a juicer, which makes this much easier.) Set aside. Boil water and sugar to make a simple syrup. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice a little at a time. Taste the mixture of water-sugar-juice periodically until you’ve achieved desired sweetness. It will be too strong. Dilute with water until it tastes right. Add lots of ice. Add crushed mint. You’re done.
  • Salted almonds. Incredibly difficult, but try to eat just five. Five is perfect, for no other reason than you know you have only five and you’ll savor each one.
  • A single square of dark chocolate and a glass of red wine. A tiny nibble of chocolate, then a tiny sip of wine. A tiny nibble, a tiny sip. Nibble, sip. It’ll last you just long enough.
  • An orange. I derive as much pleasure in peeling them as I do eating them. It takes a while, and there’s a precision involved. As you go about it, the air around you smells like the citrus you’re about to eat. I’ve had four this week, one of which I ate during an afternoon walk.
  • Iced tea, freshly brewed with cinnamon sticks. Fill a 3-quart sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Add two Lipton tea bags, two tea bags of your favorite flavored herbal tea, (I like orange Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice), and two cinnamon sticks. Let it steep for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how strong you like your tea. Pour into an ice-filled pitcher and refrigerate.
  • Candied ginger. I love sweet and spicy at the same time. I don’t think there’s any better garnish, with the possible exception of its pickled cousin. If you’re a fan, try the Presbyterian at Patterson House. It’s a whiskey drink mixed with a ginger syrup, served in a highball and topped with a little sliver of candied ginger. I linger over one of these.
  • Orange marmalade. A plain jane turkey sandwich is made special when the bread is toasted and slathered with my late grandfather’s favorite preserves. Coat a chicken breast in it before roasting. Spread it on graham crackers. Orange marmalade is like mango chutney to me. It goes with EVERYTHING.
  • Cantaloupe with salt and pepper. This may be something unique to my family; I don’t know. But, oh please try it. The salt makes the fruit even juicier, and the pepper gives it just a little spice. My father also salts and peppers his watermelon, and we all do it to our tomatoes.
  • Olives. Green and black, Kalamata. Stuffed with blue cheese. Stuffed with goat cheese. Wrapped in prosciutto. Mixed with roasted peppers. Chopped up and spread on a cracker. In a martini. Love the salt.

How about yourself? What should I add to the list?

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9 thoughts on “Ten tiny food pleasures are ritualistic and delicious

  1. I A-DORE this post! My family salts canteloupe and watermelon as well. Actually, if I were to create one of these lists for myself, I would include watermelon because my grandfather used to invite us over just to have watermelon. That’s all. Just watermelon. It was such an occasion. And then I remember the adults spending a few good minutes afterward talking about whether it was a “good” watermelon or not, which was almost always measured by the level of natural sweetness.

    I’m going to try your approach to almonds. Such a mindful way to appreciate them!

  2. I am so with you on the olives! I put olive tapenade on every deli sandwich I make too! So delicious. I have never heard of salting cantaloupe although, I’m going to have to try this. I love sliced tomatoes on ciabatta bread with a little olive oil and salt. Salt really should be a food group. haha. You’re making me hungry.

  3. I made salad last night that had mixed baby greens; red, green, and yellow baby peppers; diced carrots; diced cucumber; dried cranberries; roasted walnuts, almnods, and pistacios; and fresh blackberries. Tossed with homemade balsamic orange marmalade rosemary vinagarette – it got rave reviews from all!

    Also – it’s hard to beat fruit pizza 🙂

  4. My favorite ritualistic and delicious snack: sunflower seeds in the shell. It’s not just a snack, it’s an event. They also make people feel like kids again when eating them. Good blog again.

    • Someone told me to try this, and I think I will this summer: Coat the sunflower seeds in just a tiny bit of sunflower oil and then sprinkle them in chili powder. Toast them in the oven. That might take away the kid-like part, though, and you’re right about the joy in that.

  5. No doubt it would be even better! I have splurged a time or two with a bit of Bailey’s and that was really good too!

  6. Ummmmm….reading this made my mouth water! So yummy! I’m totally with you! One I love is a cup of homemade hot chocolate- not really for this time of year, but it beats the heck out of one of those Swiss Miss packets. I use a couple teaspoons of sugar, a heaping teaspoon of cocoa, a pinch of salt and skim milk. Pop in the microwave for a minute or so, stir to incorporate and then add a couple drops of vanilla extract. I can’t wait to try the lemonade!

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