I Dream Of Ginger
It was in a small, liberal arts undergrad institution that I figured out that flavors were pretty cool sensations. I don’t know, maybe this was what helped kick off and perpetuate my newfound love of leaves brewed in hot water drinks. Whatever the psychology behind it, I still found myself head-over-heels in love with ginger tea.
Oh man, was it sublime.
And “sublime” was the kind of word that I could have gotten in trouble for, four years later in graduate school, where Creative Nonfiction is something that warrants an MFA.
Because in undergrad, “sublime” was an adjective that I could only vaguely comprehend. From seeing it around the comment threads of the Interwebs, it sounded like a state of ecstasy, used in the context of a feeling generated by something or someone with an otherworldly specialness. (And it was a band, right?)
At the time, that was definitely my relationship with ginger.
Whether I was steeping it in tea, blending it into flax muffins, or spooning it on top of Greek yogurt and soy milk. We just rocked out.
But fast-forward those four years to grad school, and a fiction professor — who came from a rock band himself, but you didn’t hear that from me — gave a lesson on the true meaning of “sublime.”
We spent the better part of an hour articulating how the real sublime was something far more vast than I had been exposed to. The real sublime was terrifying, wonderful, and inarticulable all at once — far beyond the “Yay, feelings!” of undergrad.
But maybe my story with ginger is a little like that: something that began as a heady, underdeveloped infatuation, and evolved into the real sense of a grander force behind us all.
Freshman year, ginger and I were besties. I stocked up on Green Pekoe) — my first loose green, one of the few types back then that was carried by Adagio, and the most college-budget-friendly — and went to town on it with some rough-chopped ginger from the local crunchy-college-kid store.
This love kept me company two years later on study abroad in France, when I made sure to have it on hand for adding to stir-fries and unsuspecting turkey legs. There, a francophone friend caught onto my gotta-catch-’em-all enthusiasm for tea, and gave me her own tip for the herby goodthing: “Boil it with the skin on, whenever you have a migraine or upset stomach.” Note taken! From then on, I used the technique for any instance my belly was feeling not-so-great. (It doesn’t work every time, mind you. Sometimes the belly needs even a rest from ginger. Hence, other forms of chai.)
Senior year, I ran into the research why ginger was so effective at relieving discomfort. Gingerols, tiny hyperpowered compounds, have the same anti-inflammatory effect as ibuprofen.
Oh rly? Ya rly. No wai. (It was 2013. Owl gifs and memes were still original back then.)
This came in handy when I ran into recurring illiotibial band pain, something that everyone suffers from who moves their legs, only this kind ended up kicking my fitness habit into serious corrective training. Well-brewed ginger tea made it possible to move through the pain and explore options that focused on building the dense muscle where it was lacking, and stability in areas that needed it more than simply stretching it out, which I had been doing plenty of with yoga.
Then, I confess, me and ginger fell out of enchantment. I started seeing other herbs. Me and turmeric got pretty cozy. Committed, even. Started talking about a ranch and kids and a tea farm—
Then, in 2018, I got a stress fracture. Third metatarsal. Not happy.
The pain from the tight bandage, intermittent but infuriating, kept me up from midnight until dawn.
Except, I noticed, if I had a thick cup of ginger before bed.
Not only did it keep the pain away, but it helped me sleep soundly. A real sleep, deep and nourishing the way my bones were hoping for this whole time. It forced me into the rest and respite that perhaps I had been ignoring in the months leading up to the stress fracture, and into the place that I needed to heal.
So yes, it’s terrifying, wonderful, and inarticulable how a simple thing from the Earth can make such a difference. The power of Big Mama Nature is sublime indeed.
Now on the road to recovery, I’m excited about re-indulging my ginger habit with new blends and experiments. It’s inspiring to look at goodies like Gaucho Mate Chai, Green Chai, and Samurai Mate, imagining all the possibilities with this one little spice.