Spring Cleaning

Posted on March 24, 2018

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This year, I have nothing to declutter. A deep clean done. A zero waste check list half conquered. A closet that has been declared built. 3 years since I gave up fast fashion and synthetic fabrics. A plastic free home. What next ? I never addressed the way I consume content online. I am an introvert by nature and have been feeling the brunt of information overload. An extended detox might be beneficial. I could never stay away in the past. So, wrote a little snippet of python script to enforce it. Aiming for a week’s worth black out. Longer if I can keep going. (That includes this blog too.) See you in a bit.

While I am gone, check out some good podcasts :

Waking up, Sam Harris ( My fav critical thinker )

Dan Carlin, Hardcore History ( Story telling at its finest. )

Quanta Magazine podcast ( For science. )

( Notable mentions : O’Reilly Data Show, Data Sceptic, Linear digressions and Talking Machines. ) 

Bloom and Grow Radio ( For green thumbs. )

 

On Being, with Krista Tippet ( For spiritual enquiry. )

Zero Waste : 100 little steps

Posted on March 23, 2018

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Am I doing zero waste right ?

This is a question that has been on my mind a lot. More so since I started blogging about it. I don’t know enough about sustainability and the optimized solutions. These simplistic low impact solutions to complex problems that I tout on the blog makes me uneasy. I haven’t asked “What is zero waste” until recently. Fitting a solution without properly defining a problem is just bad science. So what is zero waste ? Is it about sending nothing to our landfills ? ( One can dump waste into the oceans and the atmosphere too ! ) Is it about avoiding plastic ? Is it about switching to bamboo and glass appliances ? Should I adopt the essentialist version of minimalism ? I looked up.

A little history 

“The term zero waste was first used publicly in the name of a company, Zero Waste Systems Inc. (ZWS), which was founded by PhD chemist Paul Palmer in the mid-1970s in Oakland, California. The mission of ZWS was to find new homes for most of the chemicals being excessed by the nascent electronics industry. They soon expanded their services in many other directions.”

The Circular Economy 

“The Circular Mindset is a way to rethink our daily consumer and lifestyle habits to help us reduce our trash and plastic footprint. It’s also a mindset that encourages us to add value back into the things we use, the communities we live in, the food we eat, those who create the materials we consume and the resources used to make them. A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.”

Is it a consumer movement ?

There is only so much I as a consumer can do other than becoming vigilant about what I bring home. From what I understand, it’s a symbiosis between the manufacturers and consumers. Designing good products and making them accessible is important. Us making a good choice is equally important.

Problem Solving :

I don’t know if there is the ONE miraculous solution to tackle this problem considering the complexity of our global economy. Simplistic solutions like “buy second hand and it’s all good”, “buy less and it will all get fixed” or “buy sustainably made and continue consuming” are almost simpleton solutions. We need long term solutions which try to minimize the short term losses. During the World War 2, “loose the battle but win the war” was adopted after the Allies cracked the German code. They used mathematics to come up with the stratergy. We need AI and data driven solutions now more than ever. We need responsible citizens who will do their part.

And Me : 

Do I sit out this battle and wait for a good solution to miraculously drop ? I don’t think so. Zero waste is not as intimidating as I thought it would be, once I stopped caring about my ego and flaunting my empty trash can. You make a few switches and you can bring down the volume of waste. You stay vigilant, refuse things you don’t need, buy well designed products and manage the budget … it keeps going. The rest, I don’t sweat it. It’s a game of optimization given the time, money, resources and resolve. As a consumer, I made a list of 100 little steps that I think help. I do about half of them and am proud to be a part of this movement. I don’t need everyone around me to do what I do, but it makes me very happy when you do.

Our trash tells a story. A story about what we collectively value. We need to put meaning and value back into resources, materials, people, community and planet.

– Andrea Sanders.

1.Fly less.

Trash is not only the solid waste we send to the landfill. It’s what we release into the air and water. Take some solace in the fact that average hipster who flaunts mason jars but jet sets around the world produces lot more waste than an average householder who stays put. The emissions into the atmosphere are a problem too.

Frying economy is more eco friendly than business class / first class.

2. Do not go on a cruise.

It’s one of the most polluting ways to get from point A to point B.

3. Family Planning

I apologize for this and I couldn’t find a way to skirt around this. I don’t mean to associate children with waste but family planning definitely helps in this fight. Have one less child, it has been suggested. Oregon study puts the emissions at ~9,441 tons per child. Even if I recycle properly and do a few eco friendly measures, I would reduce ~17 tons over a lifetime. Everything else we do in terms of lifestyle choices is negligible in comparison.

Women having access to birth control and family planning is cited as the 7th most effective way to combat climate change by Drawdown.

Have one less, applies to pets too. Consider adopting a rescue animal instead of shopping for a bred animal. #adoptDontShop

4. Live in a smaller home

Less wood used, less land needed == less deforestation.

Less material == less resources mined for earth.

Less sft == less in heating/cooling costs.

Less cleaning to do == less products to be used.

5. Use public transport when you can.

Own one less/no car per household. Buy a smaller car.

6. Bike to work for one day of the week.

If its not a realistic prospect, do not buy a bike and hoard it.

7. Find ways to entertain yourself that doesn’t need new stuff.

It could be listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk, playing with a dog, cleaning, reading, walking around the city taking photos, cooking, playing a board game, solving puzzles, ….

8. With books, borrow from the library instead of buying.

Buy ebooks and read on your existing devices. Keep digital records.

9. Find joy in nature.

These are the folk who are likely to support efforts to conserve it. All consumer goods comes from the nature at it’s expense. Maybe one day, we will love it for more then it’s looks and beauty. We will love it enough to downsize our lives to conserve it. Maybe it will inspire us to live in a more sacred relationship with the natural world.

10. Go meat-less for few days of the week.

( Slowly get it down to eating meat only on special ocassions and weekends. )

If meat must be had, eat chicken instead of red meats like lamb, beef and pork.

11. Eat (much) less dairy if you are a grown adult.

( Am not qualified to give dietary advice. Please use some skepticism. )

12. Learn cooking techniques instead of learning recipes.

If we know what to do with locally grown ingredients, it solves a lot of fundamental problems behind food waste. Imagine buying what ever is in season and being able to whip up good food !

13. Be vigilant about food waste in the house.

Buy less and use it up. Eat the right amount. In some cultures, they advocate eating till you are 7/8th full. If possible, do the European style grocery shopping – multiple visits to the store and getting only what’s needed for the next day or two. Have a pantry with dry foods like beans and lentils to carry you over to the next grocery visit.

14. Instead of buying paper towels in the kitchen, use cloth rags.

In America, you can find 2$ tshirts in thrift stores. They can be cut into 4 rags on an average. They last months even if they are the only rags you own ( provided you live in a small home. Mansions need more back and core strength to be mopped. )

Use recycled toilet paper or a bidet.

15. Carry a handkerchief in your bag.

16. Use a cloth tote bag instead of leather bags.

17. Use less leather.

18. Pick up one piece of litter everyday from your surroundings.

19. Use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning the home.

Use rags and bar soap to get the stains out.

( Natural products work only if you clean often. Else, it’s a long day of scrubbing that will make you wish for harsher cleaners. )

20. Find a community to share resources with.

( I borrow tools from Fernando for repairs. I have a boss who gives me lemons from his backyard. I borrow Indian clothes from my sister/mother to wear to weddings. )

21. If you go on a hike, pick up the trash you see on trail.

22. Buy the best quality you can afford.

( Not to be confused with buy the best quality ever. )

23. Use products till the end of their life cycle.

Don’t throw out stuff because some minimalist on the internet did and is flaunting the aesthetic. Use up the things you own. Do not throw out stuff that you would repurchase after 3 years.

24. Learn a few repair techniques for your most beloved products.

Or go to the local repair shop.

25. Stretch the boundaries of what is considered ‘worn out’

“30 more wears, dear”

26. Re-write the mindset that calls something old.

Treat the older goods as more valuable, like one would respect their grandparents.

27. Tell yourself that you do not have the luxury of getting bored with the things owned.

Buy and cull is terrible for the environment even if you are buying well made products.

28. Refuse that plastic straw.

If it does make it to the table, politely take it back to the kitchen and return it to be put back. ( They trash unused straws when they clean the table. )

29. Refuse plastic water bottles.

Carry a small reusable bottle.

30. Be ashamed of shabby ideas, not shabby things.

( These are Einstien’s words, not mine. They helped me rewire my thinking. I won’t get rid of my old car. I am not ashamed of living in a tiny home. I love sleeping on the floor. I refuse to be ashamed of the stuff I own. I can say these words for the most part, but the society makes it very hard. )

31. Tweet/share good ideas on social media.

Even if you don’t have a following or if you don’t see a difference your tweet can make, it helps. The ranking of an article goes up with every share, like and comment. It becomes more searchable and and visible.

Share, tweet, comment and like. It’s free !

32. Read and converse.

If you are not in a monetary position to make sustainable choices, educate yourself on the issues. Support the ones who are fighting for the cause. The early adopters pave the way for the rest of the society. Some of these choices trickle down once the markets catch up.

33. Surround yourself with the right influence.

Do not read the blogs that is an endless parade of stuff that gets acquired / disposed / hoarded. My life has gotten easier since I detoxed blogs and magazines.

34. Become comfortable with empty spaces.

Imagine not having the itch to fill it up with stuff ….

35. Hit the flea market for your furniture.

36. Hit the thrift stores for household items.

37. When ever possible, try to avoid plastic packaging.

38. Try growing one vegetable/herb by your window/patio/backyard.

39. Try using multipurpose products at home – like coconut oil / mild bar soap / baking soda, vinegar, ….

40. Over-dye your clothes to give them a refresh.

I buy navy blue/black clothes because they don’t show stains. When the fabric becomes patchy, I dye them again in the same color.

41. Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.

42. Recycle properly.

Batteries, medicines, electronics should not be sent to the landfill. Look up information on how your city recycles.

The thin plastic wrapping needs to go to a special facility to be recycled. Look up a place to drop them off. ( In America, grocery stores have a box for them. )

Write to your civic leaders asking them for better recycling facilities.

43. Take shorter showers.

44. Elect officials who give a shit.

45. Rethink electronic upgrades.

( if you work in the tech innovative field, consider renting instead of owning+discarding. )

46.Switch to email-notifications instead of snail mail from institutions you do business with.

47. Consider adopting a uniform. Call your self a minimalist and proudly announce it to people.

It liberates you from a race where we keep up with the Jhonses. They are less likely to judge you harshly or dump stuff on you if they know your philosophy.

“Your apartment is tiny”

I am a minimalist.

“You should buy a new outfit for the wedding”

I am a minimalist.

“You eat lentils every day?”

I am a minimalist.

“Why aren’t you shopping?”

I am a minimalist.

” You still drive that old car? ”

I am zero waste. My car works !

 

48. Consider adopting a plant-based diet made up of local ingredients.

Make week day meals as simple as possible.

49. Adopt voluntary simplicity.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle or build a more sustainable home?

One common mistake that people make is throwing money at a problem in order to be more “sustainable.”  Yes, you may be able to buy a giant photovoltaic system to meet all of your power needs without cutting back on anything.  But remember, those solar components don’t come out of thin air, and they don’t last forever.  Bigger system = bigger waste.  Scale it back first, and then look to technology for solving your remaining problems.”

– Jessie Kamm.

50. Do not declutter for an aesthetic.

Buying less is more important than decluttering. Using up what we own is more impactful than Marie-Kondo-ing. Throwing stuff away for a minimalist aesthetic is wasteful. Buying piles of ethically made/second hand stuff is hardly sustainable. It’s treating a symptom while keeping the disease alive.

51. When buying packaged goods for the pantry, save up and buy the largest bag available instead of multiple small ones.

52. Switch to a menstrual cup.

53. Switch to a reusable water bottle.

54. Carry a tote bag that can house a water bottle, some cutlery, a hanky and a small box at all times.

55. Switch from plastic disposable razor to a safety razor.

56. Carry your re-usable coffee cup.

57. Look for bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

58. When in the market for a hair brush, look for one made of bamboo.

59. Have a grocery store kit.

Have a few cloth bags in hand for loose produce. Have a bottle on hand for any bulk bin shopping you might do.

60. The thin plastic bags are notoriously hard to recycle. Some grocery stores take them back. Be vigilant about sorting the waste produced.

61. Buy conventionally-ugly fruit and vegetables.

62. Volunteer at a food back or soup kitchen.

63. Store the left overs properly or freeze the extras.

64. Meal prep to avoid wastage of food.

65. Use bar soap for cleaning and bathing.

66. Figure out a way to compost in your community.

If you have a backyard, you won the jackpot. If you live in an apartment, there are options.

67. Declutter responsibly.

Try selling the items instead of dumping them on a charity shop or into a landfill.

68. If you are interested in owning less, stop throwing away everything you own to reach a number.

Store it away and bring it back as replacements. Stop shopping and with time, you will own less.

69. Buy versatile easy to pair clothes.

70. Learn to dress up every day clothes for evening wear.

Buying a garment that can only be worn once a year is a waste. Underutilizing a resource is also a waste.

71. Encourage folks around you to share.

Offer your possessions to be borrowed.

72. Say no to palm oil.

Look for ingredient lists before you purchase products.

73. Do not hoard unused items. Let someone else who have a need for it have them.

74. Avoid conventional dry cleaners

75. Buy clothing in natural fabrics that are durable.

76. If you have a toddler, toilet train and ween off diapers as soon as possible.

Use cloth diapers if your lifestyle and budget allows for it.

77. Shop local.

78. Do not throw out existing durable plastic wares for glass/bamboo just for an aesthetic.

79. Avoid products with micro beads.

80. If you own pets, look for more sustainable protein / diet.

They need not eat salmon / lamb on an everyday basis.

81. Plant a tree.

82. Buy carbon offsets if you air travel.

83. When buying your clothes, consider the country in which they are made.

Does that country have strong laws preventing the dumping of toxic byproduct into the local water sources ?

84. Try out the baking soda toothpaste.

85. Use a compostable scrub at the kitchen sink.

 

86. Switch to a shampoo bar.

87. Reuse the plastic that comes into your home. Encourage up-cycling.

88. Do not smoke.

89. Weddings create a ton of waste.

Simplify the event and forego the unnecessary.

90. Stop buying blood diamonds and conflict metals.

91.Buy ethically made and fair trade. Buy from companies who use a circular economy. 

92. Consider environmental causes in your fund raisers and charitable contributions.

93. Stop supporting fast fashion companies.

94. Avoid coffee pods and tea bags.

95. Lay off the wild life.

Please don’t keep exotic pets for recreation. Please don’t buy tiger claws, ivory and exotic skins. Let the wild animals be. They keep our forests healthy.

96. Shop your groceries from the bulk bins.

97. Switch to an electric car.

98. Install solar panels on your property.

99. Buy vintage/antique wares.

100. Donate to environmental campaigns.

101. Sponsor a girl child’s education in an under-developed country.

102. Buy organic.

103. Switch to a more ethical bank.

104. Support corporate initiatives that encourage a cyclic economy.

105. Investigate supply chains of the organizations you work for, and make waste a parameter to optimize.

106. Slow Travel.

Zero Waste Vs Low Waste : Does the terminology matter ?

Zero waste is not a personal egotistical mission. It doesn’t matter if I don’t send anything to the landfill if our fundamental economy is not circular. IT IS NOT. I wont second guess if my actions make a difference because there is no other way to do it given the state of affairs. I won’t quit because I believe in community leadership having the power to make an impact. I think I/we have a long way to go. Zero waste a mind set and a collective goal, not a Pinterest board or a trash can paraded like a trophy. Instead of being intimidated by the word zero, I want us to never loose sight of the big goal.  Zero waste should be “our” goal. Once we understand the problem, we go about life with a different mindset.

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The Real Big Picture

Astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev measured the energy needs of a civilization on the Kardashev scale and extrapolated this data to categorize the progress of civilizations :

Type I designation is given to species who have been able to harness all the energy that is available from a neighboring star, gathering and storing it to meet the energy demands of a growing population. This means that we would need to boost our current energy production over 100,000 times to reach this status. However, being able to harness all Earth’s energy would also mean that we could have control over all natural forces. Human beings could control volcanoes, the weather, and even earthquakes!

Type II civilization – can harness the power of their entire star (not merely transforming starlight into energy, but controlling the star). Several methods for this have been proposed. The most popular of which is the hypothetical ‘Dyson Sphere.’ This device, if you want to call it that, would encompass every single inch of the star, gathering most (if not all) of its energy output and transferring it to a planet for later use. Alternatively, if fusion power (the mechanism that powers stars) had been mastered by the race, a reactor on a truly immense scale could be used to satisfy their needs. Nearby gas giants can be utilized for their hydrogen, slowly drained of life by an orbiting reactor.

Type III, where a species then becomes galactic traversers with knowledge of everything having to do with energy, resulting in them becoming a master race.  In terms of humans, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution – both biological and mechanical – may result in the inhabitants of this type III civilization being incredibly different from the human race as we know it.

 Type IV civilizations would almost be able to harness the energy content of the entire universe and with that, they could traverse the accelerating expansion of space.

Type V might just be the next possible advancement to such a civilization. Here beings would be like gods, having the knowledge to manipulate the universe as they please.

And we are at ……..

Type 0. ( or 0.7 if you want a more encouraging number to use as a label. )

We still meet our energy needs from fossilized dead plants and animals while sending our trash to the landfills/the atmosphere/oceans. There may be planets out there in the universe with intelligent life that went extinct before they transitioned from type 0 to type 1. I hope we make it. ( In my personal opinion, the difference between humans perishing and thriving depends on if we can get from Stage 0 to Stage 1 in the next 50-100 years. Sustainability is important ! So are the technological advancements. )


Aren’t you inspired ? So much to invent ! So much to do !

A Good Purchase

Posted on March 17, 2018

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A good buy

  1. Words often used to make peace with an indulgent purchase when the item is new and shiny. 
  2. An item bought for a good price.
  3. Serendipitously finding an item you wanted on the second hand market and acting on it.
  4. Saving up and buying a high quality item while resisting the temptations.
  5. Not buying things you don’t need.
  6. An item that give you lot of pleasure and a good cost per wear. 

I am not immune to lust at first sight. Most of my clothes are haphazard accidents that I couldn’t pass up, on the second hand market. I bought these shoes 3 years ago & worn them 400+ times. I think I am now qualified to rave about the product. (This is not a review.) The title of a good purchase is not something I take lightly or bestow upon too many things. But the truth is revealed with time and wear.

A good buy

When a ‘worn in’ blog post is more exciting than the ‘new in’ blog post, you know that it was a good buy. When you cant shut up about all the details that make it special, 3 years after the purchase date, it’s a good buy. 

These shoes were a good purchase. This pair may be the benchmark against which I compare all other ballet flats I will wear in the future. I learnt that it can be done : you can make dainty looking shoes that are sturdy and are made to aide movement. Let me make my case ….

Zero Waste Laundry

Posted on March 16, 2018

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A drying rack :

Mine is from Ikea. ( It is made of steel with a polyethylene coating which is hard to recycle. )

Made with bamboo options : 1, 2 & 3.

This was the first switch I made way before I heard of the term ‘zero waste’. I learnt that using a conventional dryer wears out the clothes faster. If you own clothes with stretch, heat breaks down the elastane over time. I was tired of the buttons falling off, collars becoming frail and seams coming apart. Not having them tumble in a dryer helps. The garments from Zara last a while if they can be mended and taken care of.

Sustainability experts say that half of the carbon footprint of a garment is from the consumer’s side. I took a resolve to wear my clothes till I no longer fit in them or till they go thread bare. The rack helps keep them in shape.

I wash my clothes as little as possible. I wear them multiple times before wash. Having the rack to dry the clothes inside out between washes keeps them fresh. I spot wash the arm pits, hang them dry and wear them again. This rack has helped.

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Fabric freshener 

I originally bought this from Laundress to keep my sweaters fresh between washes. It currently holds a DIY version of the same.

Washing :

A front loading washing machine is supposedly more efficient than a top loading one.

I have cleaning rags, exercise clothes, towels, pillow cases, handkerchiefs and every day clothes. I use grated soap for the delicates load and soap nuts for everything else. ( Using cloth rags reduced by landfill trash but added to an extra load to wash. I rinse and throw them in the washing machine till I a ready to run it. )

I get my soap nuts from my mother’s farm in India. Amazon sells them. They can be reused. I replace them with fresh ones every 2 weeks. The used ones go into the compost bin. Castile soap and olive oil soap work well too.

I do laundry as soon as I can fill up a load. ( I don’t want the fibers rotting faster with the help of sweat and body oils. ) We are lucky to live in a place which has the washer in the house.

I usually have one silk shirt / one sweater to wash per week. I wash it in the sink using olive oil soap. Fill the sink, melt some soap in, swish the garment in the soapy water, rinse, lay flat and dry. One garment to hand wash per week is manageable. I do not want to use petro-chemicals at the dry cleaners to wash my clothes. ( I had a person I know say “you guys won’t give up air travel or cars or dry cleaning but you want to take away my job in the fossil fuel industry? ” Dry Cleaning is the easiest to give up. So I took it off the table. )

I have the Laundress detergent that I reserve for my house guests. It is a wonderful product and I have loved it for years.

I had a guest “what-about” me on the plastic rim on my thrifted grater to prove that I am not zero waste. It truly deflated me. I don’t want to argue. I don’t have the energy to. I think I will keep zero waste a secret from now. Folks who cant handle criticism should not preach. One last post awaits and I will conclude it on the blog too.


Laundry is “meh” and “argh” to talk about it …. but anything that makes my clothes last longer while being greener is something I will try. My method is one of the many zero waste solutions out there.

Curious : Is there anyone out there who likes doing laundry ? 

Top Shelf

Posted on March 11, 2018

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Saw an image on tumblr and am impulse blogging. These photos look so much more effortless when French woman do it.

FIRST ROW

Earth Sciences tea tree lavender deodorant.

Dior Balm De Rose lip balm.

Menstrual cup in a cloth bag.

SECOND ROW

Tooth powder

Bamboo tooth brush

Safety Razor

THIRD ROW

Jo Malone Pom Noir Perfume. ( My signature for this decade. )

Molecule #1 ( I dislike it. It was an impulsive fashion victim moment. )

Face oil by May Lindstrom

Jose Maran Sunscreen

DIY toner

SK-II, my dearest.

BOTTOM ROW

Flour exfoliator

Almond oil for the body

Bar soap for face by Drunk Elephant.

A glass container that holds scissors, tweezers and a foundation brush.


I got it all figured out ! ( Wish I could say this about life … ) 

A Tea story

Posted on March 9, 2018

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Once upon a time, I wanted to be a tea scientist. I had two dozen teas, a thermometer, access to an electron microscope, a search engine at my finger tips and a lot of enthusiasm. I used to hang out in a tea shops in the Chinatown of San Francisco that carry tea that costs 1000$ a pound and ask them questions for research. In turn, they look at me with suspicion and follow me around in store to make sure I wasn’t trying to run away with a canister. I would pester my colleagues to get me some every time they travelled out of the country. I would ask favors from my Asian friends. “Can I come with you when you go buy your weekly groceries?”  They knew what it meant : a translation job of the labels in the tea isle. It became a mild obsessed. As with any of my hobbies, life had other plans. I could hardly keep up with one research job. I was running out of cabinet space and grocery budget. Too many things to learn, 24hrs a day. I had to declutter this obsession. Where did that leave me ? Where am I now ?

gourmand is someone who is excessively fond of eating and drinking, and has therefore allowed himself to become enslaved by pleasure.

Nope.

gourmet is someone who has developed such discriminating tastes that he can no longer tolerate anything less than “the best.”

Nope.

A connoisseur, it is simply a person who “knows.” And believes that knowing about something can dramatically increase the pleasure we derive from it.

That is me.

I now have a ” normal ” tea collection with a gourmand’s appetite for it. Adding a zero-waste constraint on top, this is what I am left with :

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Florals

Tea is my comfort food. And scent is one of my strongest sensory input. I associate lavender with long nights chained to my desk waiting for the results. This tea keeps me company. It is relaxing and de-stressing. Nights are calmer. Work gets done. Life goes on.

Its caffeine free and pairs well with my other teas. It helps with my midnight cravings. It helps with making me feel less full after a big meal. Its nice to sip on something comforting after a dinner party that is not alcohol. I always serve it when I have people over. Its my trick to get them to stay longer and have deeper conversations …. tea can have that effect on people. Sitting outdoors, sipping on hot tea, smelling the flowers and talking into the night with my dear humans – what a joy !

 

White tea

There are things I can never buy for myself but would love to give as gifts to my loved ones : Candles. First hand clothing. And white tea. I got this to give as a present. When he realized how much I value it, a friend of mine returned his present. I accepted. This is my fav tea in the whole wide world.

 

Roasted Buckwheat tea

This is my afternoon slump help. I start to get hungry at 3-4pm and this tea prevents me from going to the nearest coffee shop to buy a sugary snack. The starch in the grain is a good filler. It has the earthiness of roasted grain and smells divine.

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Layer, Layer, Layer

Tea is meant to be enjoyed layered. You use the leaves multiple times till they fade into the background. I work with leaves, not tea bags because it gives me control of the favor. Individual one time use packaging is something I no longer welcome into my home. I fill my tea pot once an hour. It has the following advantages : 1) makes you get up and move from the desk 2) makes you drink more H2O. 3) fresh tea. 4) Used leaves –> compost once done.

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A routine 

Early morning before yoga : matcha ( another post for another day. )

Morning : Start with white tea leaves.

Mid morning : Add some florals to the existing leaves.

Late afternoon: Add barley to the existing leaves.

Evening – night : Start fresh with lavender. Lay off the caffeine.

Add ginger, lemon and grated turmeric as needed.

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DIY Toner

At the end of the day, pour some water into the teapot with all the leftover leaves. Stick it in the fridge. Next morning, pour the concoction into a spray bottle and use it as a face refresher at your desk. (Discard leftovers every day.) I don’t know if I can officially call it a toner but it is quite refreshing.

My friend Peng.

Peng is a brilliant mathematician. He is a devout Buddhist who takes a month off every summer to go live in a monastery. The way he lived his life was very mindful. At work, he used to set an alarm that would go off every 50 minutes. The next 10 minutes of the hour would be spent walking around, stretching, greeting people, filling up his tea pot, replying to emails, texting back, …. Once the next 50 minute duration would begin, he cut out every distraction and would slip into his intense concentration mind frame. He won’t answer if you knock on his door. He was very productive and managed stress well. Perhaps this is one way to find that work life balance ? Perhaps this is how he prevented burn out after the long hours he worked ? He owned this very beautiful red tea pot that would sit on his desk. It once belonged to his great-grand-father and was well over a 100 years old. His ancestors were rich aristocrats who was driven out of their land during a feudal war. When they had to flee in the middle of the night during an attack, this was one of the possessions his great-grand-mother choose to take along.  Talking about an heirloom pieces, this is the jewel he inherited. He uses it every single day, once ever 50 minutes.

( I purchased mine as soon as I heard this story. Some of my favorites if you are in the market : 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. I would love to be that old lady with a tea pot collection. But I believe in the one tea pot per lifetime philosophy. I wish I bought the one I liked instead of the cheapest one I could find. )

A Case for a traditional tea pot

It is really well designed. It will last you a century if you take care of it. It’s made of cast iron and not breakable like the ceramic/clay/plastic/glass pots. It keeps its warmth till I finish my pot of tea. Its designed to add leaves in layers. Its gorgeous to look at. When its cold, you can warm your hands by holding your pot. At the end of its life, I can bury it in my backyard without it poisoning the soil. It’s heirloom material. One tea pot per person for a lifetime – the way things should be designed and loved. I have mine.

Wish List

This Parisian brand : Mariage Freres makes a very popular blend called Marco Polo. I need to get my hands on some to taste. My friend got back this Earl Grey lavender blend from London which blew my tea snobbish head off my body. I think blends are in general over priced. I look up the base notes and attempt to make my own. Lastly, I always want this white tea from China. Its the best I have ever tasted. Since going zero-waste, I found a few local loose tea shops that have great imports. San Francisco’s China Town is the place to go to get lost in exploration. Red Blossom Tea Company and Vital Tea Leaf deserve honorary mentions. My local Sprouts and Whole Foods always have a few varieties in bulk. My 3 teas were “super-curated” from the local bulk bins I have access to. It has been an straight forward and simple love story when it comes to tea.

copper kettle

 

A CUP OF TEA

And then I know

what the time for a cup of tea means.

I waited in the crowded and noisy station building

for the one who was late for the appointment

to appea on the bitterly cold winter day.

I carefully heled a full cup of hot tea,

carefully added to it sugar and milk,

stirring gently,

sipping gently.

You carefully opened the slim collection

of Issa’s haiku that you had in your luggage :

‘A world of dew; yet

within the dewdrops — quarrels …’

This crowded station was a dewdrop within

a dewdrop, dropped

in the tea deeper with every sip.

A cup of tea,

at first hot, turned warm, and then cold.

Things on my mind

ranged from poetry to dreams to reality.

In ancient times —

in the world of Chinese serial novels or

tales of chivalry —

it would be the time for a cup of tea,

in which a swordsman drew his sword wiping out the besieging rascals,

and a hero was enraptured and enchanted before the bed of a fair lady.

But modern time has changed its speed.

Within about the time for half a cup of tea,

you drank up a cup of golden fragrant tea.

A cup of tea

going from far to near and then into nothingness.

The one for whom you had waited long finally appeared

and asked if you would like one more cup of tea.

Chen Li.

( Tea brings out the romantic in me. I always have a kettle boiling water on the stove when I am home. I have ideas on how it should be paired, a sincere admiration for the leaves, find immense comfort in the subtle fragrance of the tea, …. My work starts with me getting to my desk with a pot of tea in the morning. It’s a ritual and a way of life. There is a philosophical side to it too that I don’t think I have the depth to go into, at this point in time. A few good books that have re-read : The Book of TeaThe One Taste of Truth: Zen and the Art of Drinking TeaWabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

)


Question:

Do you speak tea ?

#artOfMaking : Ghee

Posted on March 3, 2018

A few of my culinary night mares :

 

  1. The biryani recipe vanishes from the world. All we are left with is a memory of it with no way to recreate it ever again.
  2. Spices disappear and we are left with bland food that taste like starch.
  3. Me not being able to afford white tea. Not having access to lemons.
  4. Not having my mother on the end of the telephone to catch me when I fall. She is my Dr.Kitchen. She knows why recipes fail and when I get the techniques wrong.
  5. Not having Harsha around to cook with. No more being a team. No more eating suppers together.
  6. Me becoming allergic to rice. Everyone around me chowing down on it while I watch but can’t eat.
  7. No more home made ghee. My family has been making it at home for centuries.

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Can memory be an ingredient ?

Ghee is often seen as an ingredient that serves its purpose by making everything else it touches delicious. Like wine, the ones who have been making it over a lifetime know the secrets. It has a flavor profile based on the bovine breed and its lifestyle.  I come from a lineage of farmers who toil the soil and own cattle. We make our own. The legend has it that my great-grand-father, an Ayurvedic practitioner, would pour half a tea cup of it, into each of his meals. My great-grand-ma would frown upon the grandkids who would treat the tea spoon of ghee per meal as a guilty pleasure. Then came us, the great-grand-kid generation, who were practically fat phobic. The eldest of us lot, is on a perennial diet and likely to punch you in the face if you don’t served her fat-free sugar-free gluten-free dairy-free food. The youngest spews out “you old people know nothing of science” before she explains her latest internet search. My great-grand-ma would counter argue :  “One has to eat belly full and do a good day’s work, everyday. That is good life”. She employed guerrilla techniques and intimidation to pour ghee on to our plates. She is a fighter, that woman ! She lived till 101 and was fiercely loved. While I live in a different time and lead a very different lifestyle, ghee will continue to be at the heart of my plate. It symbolizes pleasure and an innocent happiness. I shall have that tea spoon full and enjoy it without any strings attached. Great-grand-ma not only taught us how to cook … she had to teach us the art of savoring the meal.

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( Some photos from my mother’s upcoming cookbook. )