Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Project: Table for One

While wiling away the hours, I have come up with a new project that combines my two loves: reading and cooking. The following is the start of a weekly project, in which I pair books with food. I am making an attempt in the direction of wine pairing, without the pretension (or perhaps with heaps more, dependent on your view).

Ocean 1212-W by Sylvia Plath, with Black and Blue Tea by Remedy Teas

Remedy Teas is a small tea shop boasting over 150 organic, fair trade teas in blends that echo magic potions (some even promising aphrodisiatic properties and hangover cures). I perused the selection for some time, and knowing that I would be reading an essay about the sea, chose a tea that reminded me of the waves, the swells, the sand, and the foam.

Black and Blue tea swirls black tea, hibiscus, elderberries, currants, and cornflowers. As I let the tea steep for three minutes, I opened Sylvia Plath's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and began the essay, "Ocean 1212-W".

I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am,like the purple "lucky stones" I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with its rainbowy angel's fingernail interior, and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath.
Plath reminds me to breath. The tea has finished steeping and I move the cup nearer to me. I inhale. The berries infuse the steam, and for a moment I think, "Where is the salt sting?" But the sweetness of the tea dissolves once it hits my tongue, and the bite of black takes over.

Like a deep woman, it hid a good deal; it had many faces, many delicate, terrible veils. It spoke of miracles and distances; if it could court, it could also kill.

Plath's sentiment about the power of the ocean may be the reason I chose the Black and Blue tea. The magnitude of the sea, the awesomeness, the crash of waves, lead to blossoming bruises. I wanted escape, calm, seaside with gulls and the pearlescence of shells. What I got was Plath's account of the beauty, the life-giving breath and the life-taking reach of the sea. She even spoke of treasure, in the form of abandoned tea sets, perfect for my choice of location.

I think the sea swallowed dozens of tea sets-tossed in abandon off liners, or consigned to the tide by jilted brides. I collected a shiver of china bits, with borders of larkspur and birds or braids of daisies. No two patterns ever matched.

I recommend Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams for the essays like "Ocean 1212-W", but also for Plath's diary entries. I find it illuminating that a writer wrote the way she did, in private and for herself, when she thought no one would read it. Its almost like peeking over Plath's shoulder for a glimpse into her world.

1 comment:

Meaghan Kelly said...

this is a really cool idea to combine the two! Sylvia Plath seems like the sort of writing I'd only pretend to understand! But that tea I could definitely get into!