Wednesday, 09 March 2016 16:19

Nothing like a Chai tea to beckon people indoors

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I’m hanging up my ice skates.


Bought new for $25 in 1990, for the occasion of a tenth grade skating party at Calgary’s Bowness Lagoon, the skates don’t so much fall into the category of footwear as foothold traps.
Simply put, the boots were not made with the shape of human feet in mind. Ice skating, however, especially outdoor skating, is something that a prairie girl never quite gets out of her system.
While growing up, during winters so cold that ice sometimes couldn’t melt under my blades, my friends and I would nevertheless bundle in snowsuits and extra socks, lace up, and skate-walk from frozen benches onto the sheet. We were never the only ones.
There, we’d shuffle back and forth, toes turning to frozen potatoes inside our single ply leather until we’d finally give up on achieving anything close to a glide, and head home to count our extremities.
When visiting my Aunt Mary’s farm, even if I forgot my own skates, there were always enough  pairs, in every size, to equip the feet of every cousin. From there, we’d tromp across the yard and trip-glide over the uneven ice in the nearest country road-side ditch.
If we weren’t too frostbitten, and it seemed to our mothers that there wasn’t enough whitened flesh to worry over, there’d always be something with which to warm up. Even if it was cookies — to replace any insulating fat we’d just worked off.
With the exception of the time my cousin Wynona fell and punctured her thigh with the tail of her blade, requiring a trip to the city for stitches, we all looked forward to going inside, almost as much as we’d been excited to hit the ditch.
At Grandma’s house, we might be treated to Portzelky, or glazed doughnuts, fresh from the fryer. Or chicken noodle soup, with homemade noodles and a hen that looked awfully familiar.
From frozen sloughs, to outdoor rinks in Swift Current, I skated on over to the Bowness Lagoon in Calgary.
Then, a few years later, to the forest-bordered skating loop at Apex Mountain near Penticton.
And now, for townies and tourists alike, there’s the lakeside sheet in Kelowna’s Stuart Park.
It’s been awhile, though. Long enough that my tenth-grade skates almost look good enough to wear.
After all, upon a time, there was never any weather so miserable, nor skates so pinchy, that they would keep me off the ice.
Both a couple extra decades of age, though, and the softening effect of living in a milder climate, have conspired to make comfort a relevant part of the whether-to-go-out equation.
So, new skates, or at least new-to-me, are in order.
And later, there will be a pot of home-steeped chai.
Not the thin and gaggingly sweet latte-type sold in coffee shops, but a milky infusion, made with whole spices and loose tea.
Of course, the rewarming plan in younger years might have involved a batch of apple fritters. A nice layer of fritter fat would have been just the thing, according to my grandpa, to get us through a hard winter.
But since winters, these days, are neither so very bitter, nor spent being terribly outdoorsy, a cup of chai is just what this prairie girl will to need to bring her in from the cold.
 
Chai
3 cups water
2 cups whole milk
4 cardamon pods
1-inch piece fresh ginger
1/2 vanilla bean (not classic, so optional)
6 whole black peppercorns
2 3-inch pieces cinnamon
2 tbs black tea leaves
sugar or honey
Peel and, on a cutting board, smash ginger with back of a pan. Split and scrape vanilla bean. Using the same pan, coarsely crush whole spices. Add to pot with water and milk. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce heat, continue stirring, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add tea leaves. Simmer and stir a further 5 minutes, sweetening to taste with sugar or honey. Pour infusion through a tea strainer, or use a French Press.
Serves 4 if by teacup.

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