Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Carraigín, tae, nó mise?

Leo brought home from Trader Joe's the other day a box of decaf Irish Breakfast Tea. Precisely what I was curious about, as I the day before I thought, needing a mid-day pick-me-up, that I can't always stomach some decaf green, chai spice, chocolate-flavored, or white version all of which occupy pantry space. The box, informative as TJ's products often dress themselves, assured me that it's not just for breakfast, and that the Irish drink the pungent, dark, strong brew up to six times a day. I always wondered how they get to sleep at night. But, I guess that six cups are not that many considering what's in a teapot, and that the caffeine's I suppose equivalent to 2 1/2 cups of coffee, which is de rigeur for most everyone except me these days.

I tried some now. While dunking the teabag as the box told me a few times as the tea steeped, I noticed it smelled like fish. I like fish, but this is that metallic scale-y smell. When I took out the bag, it smelled even more. Tasting it with milk and sugar after it rested awhile, I noticed the fish again. If I with my poor olfactory sense could sense it, I wondered, how strong was it? The '''finny tribe," as Pope or was it Dryden called 'em, seemed to have swam from Éire into my tea. I wanted a reminder of the oul' sod, but not that maritimically or piscatorially. The Piscatorial School, founded 1851, on the Claddagh side of the Galway harbor across from the Spanish Arch.
Perhaps my fork that I used had been in contact with fish, don't ask me how. The tea will have to await a repeat before I can tell for sure, after all the variables in the experiment account for themselves.

How sea follows tea, not only alphabetically or rhythmically: Dreyer's (not to be confused with Breyers) makes low churned and slow churned ice cream. One-half to 2/3 less fat--by law, half is the FDA minimum to call a product low-fat. Fosselman's last week: rum raisin; before that Scoops' brown bread. Two great flavors swirling in butterfat but without the factory touch. The NY Times mentions that most ice cream has fat-imitating textures, often from "carragereen" seaweed from the Irish Sea. The new versions try to mimic mouthfeel and improve on the unstable emulsions of air, water, and fat that seek separation constantly, and ruin a traditional pint exposed to the warmer climes of a kitchen counter or a loading dock. I checked the word, as "carraig" is rock, and I wondered the derivation of the seaweed strand. "Feamainn" for seaweed, as I checked, but Ó Donaill gives "carrageen moss" as "carraigín," or dimunitive rock-een. Dúlra agus Dúlchas, my bilingual school text about sea life, showed me a drawing--it's one of those tubular tree-like yellow-puke colors that I find repulsive.

Mise? Well, or bhuel, here's a wonderful site about Harrogate's family-owned (so say in English and French all the redesigned product labels for that massive conglomerate Johnson & Johnson; Niagara bottled water sold at the 99-cent stores also mentions this on their label and trucks, with a totemic happy beaming beaver) teashop Bettys (no apostrophe) and Taylors. Their Yorkshire Gold--from which I made somehow accidently last Saturday a perfect cuppa, just as the box predicted--excels over other teabags if you must use them. Their website's extremely informative, well-designed, and enjoyable to find out all about tea and more Brit bits:


So, there you have it: seaweed moss, tea, and me.

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