Recently (i.e. months ago) various blogs have been posting about the The Omnivore's Hundred, a list of foods you ought to try before they start measuring you for the last suit you'll ever wear. You can go to the link to see all of them, and at the bottom of this post you can see the ones I haven't tried yet. Between my first draft and this entry, I knocked two easy ones off the list:
2. Nettle tea
Nettle tea smells exactly like cleaning off the blade on your lawnmower. It's that fermented Bermuda grass smell that lasts on your hands for days afterward. As a Southerner who first mowed the yard at the age of six (approximately two hours after growing tall enough to grasp the handle bar of Dad's beloved Snapper), this scent evokes pleasant memories. Others may not have the same reaction. I like the flavor as well, which is pretty mild considering there's no caffeine or tannins.
It is also supposed to help with gout and menstrual cramps, but never having suffered from either I can't make any claims regarding its efficacy as a natural medicine.
You can find this nettle tea at my Amazon Store or in the Memphis area at Whole Foods.
79. Lapsang souchong
This is a smoked tea from southeast China. The tea leaves are placed on mats or mesh and smoked over pine logs. Supposedly this is one of those binary foods: you either hate it or you love it. I picked up a tin of loose leaves (hence the need for a metal tea ball) and went two weeks before trying a cup. When you peel back the foil seal, you are hit with a powerful smoke aroma. Leave a pile of this in someone's house and they'll swear that something is on fire.
When I mustered up the courage to brew a pot, I followed the instructions and steeped the leaves in my little tea ball and poured myself a cup--straight, no sugar or lemon. The aroma was still powerful and smoky, but this time I got to appreciate it better. And as we all know, scent is the most powerful connection to old memories.
When I was in Scouts, we packed our gear and clothes into Army surplus duffel bags. Clean clothes would be carefully packed in plastic bags and layered, and later dirty clothes would be crammed in however possible. Upon returning home, I'd normally grab a shower and get something to eat before tackling the laundry, and after getting clean and breathing fresh air, I would be overwhelmed by the strong aromas of wood smoke, earth, and various other scents. A cup of lapsang souchong smells exactly like that.
Here's a word of thanks to my dear mother who frequently had to handle laundry after such camping trips, and out of respect for those horrors I will keep this tea far away from her. And while she would only have negative associations from this aroma, it dredges up a hundred wonderful memories for me, and I found myself able to remember the crisp smells of winter in Missouri and the steamy humidity of an Arkansas summer and dozens of other campsites around the country.
Despite the strong smell, this tea doesn't taste smoky. It's not any more bitter than standard black tea, and is actually quite mild. I can't imagine drinking it iced, and I never tried it sweetened, but I've really enjoyed a cup late in the afternoon or evening where I can sit and be whisked back to my youth.
Twinings is the most commonly available version in the states. I got it at Kroger, and you can also purchase lapsang souchong from my Amazon Store. Teabag styles are available as well.
And now, the 21 things I haven't tried... Though rest assured, I'll find a way to grind through most of this list in an effort to broaden the palate. Local readers: recommend some places to find some of these!
6. Black pudding
25. Brawn, or head cheese
30. Bagna cauda
37. Clotted cream tea
50. Sea urchin
74. Gjetost, or brunost
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
93. Rose harissa