Two days ago, my Indian taekwondo instructor brought a thermos of tea to class for me to try. It was absolutely delicious: strong and milky and richly flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, cardamom and ginger and a tiny bit of black pepper. I don't usually keep cardamom around, but the other spices I have, so I asked for her recipe. She gave it to me and told me that she would give me some cardamom today, since she gets it in bulk. This morning, she came to class with a small glass jar of tea mix for me instead, all the spices ready to use! Just add a bit to tea with milk. And the next time she goes to the Indian grocery, she is going to find me the proper sort of tea to use to make sure that I make it correctly: she takes this very seriously.
Seeing this cultural lesson going on, and not to be outdone, a Filipina classmate then tells me about crystallized ginger and honey tea, a kind that comes in little packets that you stir into hot water. She had a spare packet with her and sent it home with me to try. That was a great find too: spicy and sweet and smooth and warming from the inside out. Apparently good for stomach-settling, also. When she goes to her husband's uncle's store at Easter, she is going to pick me up a big bag of those packets!
Now, I live in what feels like the white-bread, white-skin capital of the universe. Not many minorities here, and not a huge selection of ethnic foodstuffs either. How lucky am I to have found one of the few pockets of ethnic diversity in the area with this class (bearing in mind that the other daytime instructor of this Korean discipline is an Egyptian Muslim)??
And the cultural sharing goes both ways, too...both the Indian (vegetarian Hindu) and Egyptian instructors attended a Christmas party at one classmate's house in December and will be at my house next weekend for our annual St. Patrick's Day extravaganza. You share your traditions with me, I'll share mine with you, and we'll all be the better for it.
And in the meantime, I'll be toasting better world understanding with a cup of tea!