Monday, August 4, 2008

Ginger Syrup for the Fireball

“we do not meet in broken places, but whole in our spirits ebb and flow across our consciousness as water
mingling and leaving, flowing and leaving, giving life and leaving
coming around again
and leaving
meeting only beneath the woven branches of honest trees, grown true among themselves
we cannot meet in broken places because we are whole, and do not fit”

Excerpt from “kindred,” an unpublished poem by SM

I’ve been kind of blue lately. In late June, my best friend and partner in crime, Shawn Marie, heeded the siren’s call of family need and moved back to Michigan. I, of course, didn’t want her to go, but I knew she was doing the right thing. But I’m still blue. I miss her.

We are a most unlikely pair. Shawn Marie, or SM as I often call her, and I have an entire friendship based on agreeing to disagree. She’s a fireball: fierce, opinionated, smart as hell, fearless. Our common ground is Big Stuff: we both care deeply about the earth and environmental issues, we’re both scientists, and we both like chocolate. (Yes, chocolate counts as Big Stuff.) We tend to get along well with others—perhaps her more than me—and we like to laugh. We both like Matt, but I like him more. We love food and cooking, reading and discussing, drinking and being naughty.

Upon our common ground, however, we disagree fiercely. She loves physics; I struggled through my two-unit requirement in college. There is no such thing as too much lemon juice to her; I think a little bit goes a long way. She’s very open to meeting new people; I get shy and nervous. She likes red wine; I prefer white. I love ripe bananas; she only likes ‘em green. I like coconut; she can’t stand it (something about the texture, she says). She is reserved about love; I think love is one of life’s greatest pleasures. She likes tall, skinny men; I prefer my men shorter and more muscled. In the 8+ years that we’ve been friends, I think there has been just one boy who made us both sigh with lust, one DP who we spotted in our first physics class. DP had a pleasant face and beautiful eyes. His head was kinda large, and his body average, but oh! Those eyes! Intelligent and sultry, his eyes spoke volumes without him saying a word. I could have floated away in those eyes.

No matter the extent to which SM and I disagree, we’ll always have DP.

We’ll also have ginger. SM adores ginger—the smell of a freshly broken nub, the heat and tanginess of ginger on the tongue, the way it peps everything up with its sparkling flavor. Ginger, along with cilantro, is one of the many foods to which SM introduced me. I can’t help but think of her every time I cook with ginger. And so it seems fitting that on the morning of her big move back to Michigan, she sat in my kitchen with me, eating a breakfast that included mandarin oranges doused with a healthy pour of Homemade Ginger Syrup. Our breakfast was a “make-do-with-what’s-in-the-kitchen” meal, nothing elaborate or fancy, a quick meal together before we headed out. But the specialness of those ginger-laced oranges lingered on my tongue and on my mind. It made me happy to have something so unusual and tasty that day, a sort of gustatory memory that could be conjured up later with the right ingredients.

Now SM has settled into her new home in Michigan. We don’t go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays any more, nor do we go to Trader Joe’s or out for coffee. Instead, like so many of my relationships, ours has become a phone-and-e-mail routine, a poor substitute for the pleasure of her company. But it will have to suffice. To make myself feel better, I’ve been keeping a batch of sweet, spicy Ginger Syrup on hand…and I booked myself a weeklong stay in Michigan come December, so that we’ll have plenty of time to catch up. By that time, there should be lots of new things on which we can agree to disagree.

Homemade Ginger Syrup
Adapted slightly from Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott

This simple syrup is a lovely ingredient to have on hand. I’ve been using it in my Chai Lattes, substituting a tablespoon of syrup for the sugar I usually add. It also makes for delicious homemade ginger ale: in a tall glass, start with about a quarter cup or so of syrup, add lots of ice, and then top with sparkling water or club soda. Give it a good stir, taste, and add more ginger syrup if you’d like it to be a little sweeter. You can also turn homemade ginger ale into a ginger julep by first muddling some mint leaves into the ginger syrup, letting them steep for a few minutes, and then topping with ice and club soda. The ginger julep suggestion is an adaptation of a drink that my friend Andy made with some leftover fresh mint, and it was absolutely delicious. If you want a boozy ginger julep, feel free to add some bourbon or other hard liquor.

And of course, you can use this syrup to top fruit salads or simple cups of mandarin oranges. It’s hard to go wrong with ginger syrup—much harder to keep it on hand because it’s so tasty!

1 cup sugar (I use light brown sugar because it’s what I usually have on hand)
1 cup water
1 piece of fresh ginger, about 3 inches long, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick coins

1) In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and ginger coins. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture becomes a thin syrup, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and allow it to cool completely. Pour the syrup into a container suitable for storing in the fridge, cover, and store in the fridge. Use as needed; the syrup will remain a thin, easily measured liquid in the fridge.


JD said...

I keep trying to concentrate on the prose and the food, but for the life of me, all I can find myself doing is trying to figure out who DP was.... Hmmmmm........

Shawn said...

Rose-Anne! I think that was the best thing anyone's ever done for me! (embarrassed blushing) I'm (hopefully) having the first RO cooking party this Saturday--any chance you can fly out? And the we can visit the wine bar and terrorize all the scary RO motorcycle folk? On second thought...they're probably all at the beer bars around the corner...hmm...maybe we'll have to go bar-hopping to terrorize enough of them...

Rosiecat said...

Indeed, JD...what a distraction DP is!

Oh, Shawn Marie, if only I had wings. I'd be in Michigan with you in a heartbeat. Best of luck with the cooking party--I'm sure it will be a blast. I'll be there in spirit.

You think WE would terrorize the motorcycle folk? Ha! Somehow I think within about five minutes I'd be hiding under a table, hoping they don't notice me. Hmm. Note to self: Must work on badass side of personality.

ammie said...

What a beautiful tribute to a friend... I hope if I ever move somebody will write something like this for me!

Rosiecat said...

Ammie, we'd better get busy in the kitchen soon so I can tell some stories about what a great cook you are! You wouldn't be willing to share your vegan pumpkin pie recipe with me, would you? Mmm...I love that pie. It is among the best pumpkin pies I've ever tasted. Yum.

ammie said...

I had no idea that pie made such an impression! I'll see if I can get around to copying some of the cookbook zines I made so long ago; it's in one of them.

Rosiecat said...

Ammie, that pie wedged itself into my memory. Its flavor and texture were just perfect. I've been wondering about the recipe ever since.

For my belly's sake, I wish you luck in finding the recipe! :-)