Darlene and I were at a cooking class taught by Warren Kramer in Brighton, Mass. As an aside, Warren made a statement that nudged me to action. All it took were four simple words. Here they are, perhaps arriving on a day that will nudge you, too:
Coffee is a drug.
Warren is a renowned macrobiotic chef who rules his kitchen with the confidence of a Navy SEAL. Darlene has adopted macrobiotic cooking with her usual focus and intensity, which means our eating life has been transformed in the last six months. I am supportive but not rigorous in my following of the plan. My lapses included sips of Hood Golden Egg Nog during the holidays and occasional preparation of my favorite supper since childhood, Kraft macaroni & cheese doctored with chopped ham and frozen peas. But like my father, I eat with relish anything put on a plate in front of me, so I have not had much difficulty adapting to a diet of beans, rice, vegetables, and tasty sauces.
I used to think I couldn’t write or read carefully without a cup of coffee at hand. My daily habit comprised three or four cups of home-brewed Starbucks coffee. I never became a connoisseur. I drank coffee for the effect. If the only thing handy was Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, or the Flying J truck stop blend in Cheyenne, Wyoming, that was okay by me.
Leading up to December 5th, I had noticed how jumpy I was and how often I felt anxious, especially in the middle of the night. A few pages of War and Peace on my Kindle Paperwhite 3G would usually do the trick, and I would fall back to sleep. But still. I wondered if I might be ready for another period of caffeine abstinence. Warren Kramer’s four words tapped my readiness in exactly the right spot. The next morning I packed my big coffee maker and bean grinder away, next to a far wall of the kitchen closet.
In Cambridge, my tools for making tea consisted of old boxes of Twinings tea bags and a stand-alone hot water heater. I’m not sure of the brand we have there, but here in Denver it’s a DeLonghi Kmix 54-Ounce Kettle. It heats up several cups worth of hot water in three minutes flat. I have several bags of loose tea a friend sent us from Virginia. I scoop dry tea leaves into the ball, then place it in a cup and fill with boiling water.
In replacing one habit with another, I find it helps to have details to attend to. That’s why I like the tea ball better than tea bags. The tea ball takes more attention and fussy work, which develop into a calming routine. For a similar reason, I used to love grinding the Starbucks beans rather than buying them already ground. Our Yorkie Claire for some reason would come running into the kitchen barking whenever she heard the coffee grinder go, and that added to the ritual. “Go get it, Claire!” I’d tell her.
There are no annoying sounds that provoke Claire in my tea ritual. So her life is a little calmer, and so is mine. I’m not sure how long this tea phase will last, but it’s well-established after the first month. My work on the Kindle Chronicles podcast seems to be less frantic, less jammed up against the Friday midnight deadline, and less interrupted by Twitter/News/email distractions. I can still be a jerk to my wife, but maybe less often and in milder doses.
Small changes make a big difference in life, right? As the new year picks up momentum, do you have any you are ready to make? If so, I hope you will leave a comment and let us know how it’s going.