The root cause may be stress, a.k.a. my personality, or my genetic cocktail, or a combination of the two, but the bottom line is: my constitution can be, well, sensitive. Took me a while to figure out that a change in diet can do a body good, and once I got on board with that, good things came my way. But it meant a complete eradication of soda, coffee and tea from my diet, including decaf (I was never an herbal tea drinker but went for decaf black and red teas).
Out with the bad beverages went some of the bad eating habits, which meant trying to eat, as they say, “lots of small meals.” To me that’s just another way of saying “snacks.” And I love snacks, especially the kind that meet my criteria of tasting good while being good for me. There was a time when my snacks consisted of mid-morning, Chicago office, two pieces of chocolate from the bowl on my desk. Then again mid-afternoon, after a nutrient-poor lunch if any, two to four small (that was the justification) pieces of candy from the bowls on other people’s desks. By 5 p.m. I was a shaking, jittery mess with a blood sugar dive that made me seek food like one of my brother’s black labs, sniffing madly until anything that remotely resembles something edible is found.
I started drinking skim milk steamers sweetened with honey from Starbucks. I’ll never forget the look on one of my co-workers’ faces when I said that steamed milk with honey makes a good snack (I dare say she was someone who ate a chocolate cream cheese muffin the size of my fist every morning, quite literally, for breakfast. It looked damn good but it didn’t do much for the waist-line). The steamer is great once a day but doesn’t cut it for all-day drinking, which I am supposed to do to avoid another kidney stone and which I want to do to keep all sorts of ills at bay.
Then last year when I was in San Francisco and drinking warm honey-water to keep the bay chill off, I saw in one of my Lebanese cookbooks a recipe for Lebanese white coffee, or café blanc. It’s not coffee at all, but a digestive of hot water scented with orange blossom water, or mazaher. How brilliant, I thought, especially since I adore the scent and flavor of mazaher but only used it when I made Lebanese pastry. I remember the morning I made my first cup of cafe blanc with honey in my little house on a rainy spring morning in San Francisco. Elixir of the Gods!
Here in Harbor Springs this winter, I’ve been drinking four or more mugs of hot café blanc with mazaher and a hefty spoonful of raw honey every day. It’s my treat, my warm little niceness throughout the day. I drink it with my snacks—one of the best parts of the day, isn’t it. Whenever I asked my nephew, back when he was in preschool, what he did at school that day, he always said, “we had snack.” My dad referred to his snacks as “crunchers and fizz,” which to him meant any snack anyone would be willing to fix for him.
I don’t go for the fizz, but I love a good cruncher. I’m partial to a small plate of dried apricots and a handful of pistachios to go with my café blanc. The salty-sweet is dead on and helps keep me from wandering too often to the Lay’s potato chips, which are, let’s face it, the ultimate good cruncher.
Stir up your cafe blanc and remember that not all drinks have to be colored to taste good. Yes, it looks like a mug of hot water, but the flavor and scent are…divine. Small plate of apricots and pistachios. Now get back to work, careful not to get pistachio dust on your keyboard.