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?