hibiscus tea + sober October
I am setting an intention to abstain from alcohol for the month of October (though I don't really drink to drunkenness, anyway, so I confess that the title was chosen for catchiness rather than precision). If you were hoping for a story about how I've been partying like a beast and am doing this to "detox," well, you're going to be a little disappointed. To explain my reasoning, I need to explain a little about this past month:
To use a cliché (with apologies), this September has been a roller coaster of joy and sadness. The wedding of one of my very best friends, the beginning of football season (War Eagle!), visits with family, and sweet time with dear friends old and new were all wellsprings of bliss; the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Maria on my home island of St. Croix mere days after Hurricane Irma pummeled our sister islands of St. Thomas and St. John has been a source of deep worry and something not quite "survivor's guilt" but in the neighborhood. So much of the Caribbean hurts so much, and my heart hurts with it. If you are able to help, I strongly, strongly encourage you to donate to (Crucian!) Tim Duncan's relief fund (he is buying supplies on the mainland United States and chartering planes to get them to the USVI) and/or the St. Croix Foundation CARE fund (which is a 501(c)(3)). Or, if you'd like a St. Croix mug like mine pictured (or another darling island gift), visit the online shop for my friend Savannah's lovely boutique, Adorn, as they are donating 10% of online sales towards rebuilding St. Croix.
With all of these emotional and social mountains and valleys came alcohol. Never too much at once, mind you -- I'm generally a one-to-two person, in my adult life -- and my coping mechanisms for sadness usually include hugging my cats or rolling around on my yoga mat rather than doing tequila shots... but I've realized I have had alcohol more days this month than not, and much of it not what I usually choose to drink. (I'm a red wine person, though with the hot weather and photographed events with friends and family, I've been drinking either white wine or vodka for refreshment and to avoid the dreaded "red wine teeth," and neither sit with me particularly well.) A margarita at happy hour here, a glass of wine at a rehearsal dinner there... it's added up, and I'm beginning to feel it in terms of sluggishness and a slightly moody tummy.
It is the internal reasons I considered for not taking a break that most demonstrate to me that I should: "there are birthdays in October," "people might think I'm boring to go/eat out with since I'm already a low-glycemic vegan," "the Epcot Food & Wine festival is happening," "I know I'm going to X place with the good wine" ... et cetera. All of these reflect the unfortunate reality in much of Western culture that alcohol is so omnipresent and deeply entwined with celebration and notions of general sociability... and so much of this is based on falseness. True friends and supportive family won't care what's in my cup, even in a celebratory context, since it has no bearing on my soul or personality. The reason we eat and drink socially is fundamentally social: to enjoy the gift that is the presence of another human being. The consumables are, literally and metaphorically, the side dishes (which I sometimes forget, as a foodie). Plus, this is only one little month out of what I hope is a very long life ahead; the wine is not going anywhere.
In short, as an exercise in mindfulness, discipline, and honoring my body, I am going to intentionally take the month of October off of drinking alcohol. My prediction is that this won't be a big deal. Should you wish to join me, let me know on social media (VLGL is present on both instagram and facebook) with the hashtag #VLGLsoberOctober.
And, if you don't choose to join me, I promise not to be judgmental nor make it weird. (Big love to my friends who choose not to drink any alcohol and are not judgmental about it.)
As I mentioned above, the one alcohol that I do like to enjoy somewhat-regularly is red wine, due to its flavorful, cozy, warming nature. This fuchsia-hued tea is rich in autumnal flavors that provide pleasures similar to those of red wine, and best of all, it makes me feel closer to St. Croix. The recipe is based on tea made from sorrel (a species of hibiscus common in the Caribbean) commonly drunk in the Virgin Islands during the holiday season. Sorrel blooms are about to become available in Florida, at least, though I use standard hibiscus in this recipe to make it more widely accessible. I support using fresh ingredients when available, of course, but the taste here is nearly identical. Served hot or iced, sweetened or not, this tea satisfies body and soul. I hope you love it as I do!
RECIPE: Spiced Tropical Hibiscus Tea 🌺
-3 tablespoons dried Hibiscus flowers
-2 2-inch pieces peeled fresh ginger
-1/2 teaspoon cloves
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 4 inch x 2 inch piece orange peel (I used the entire peel from one mandarin orange)
-6 cups water
-pure stevia or agave nectar to taste (optional)
-Place all ingredients into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over the stove, and heat on high.
-Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let brew for at least 30 minutes (though longer makes it stronger). Strain before sipping.
Serve with love.