Jun 27 2012

Sikh and Ye Shall Find

Published by at 6:56 am under General

One of the things about getting old is that your memory is shot. Most people don’t remember things they have done. I have my fair share of that, but the instance that is driving me crazy is that I have a distinct memory of writing this particular blog.

The thing is, I can’t find it anywhere. My desktop doesn’t have it. My Planet Kathy search engine can’t find it. Even Google, which has everything, doesn’t admit it exists.

That being the case, I’m going to write it again. If you’ve read it already, please tell me. I may be a little embarrassed to learn that I have repeated myself, but I’ll feel vindicated in knowing that I haven’t gone completely crazy.

This happened long, long ago – even before I met Fluffy. I was religion editor of the Salt Lake City Deseret News. This meant I covered all the religions on the planet except for anything Mormon-related. Oh, the experiences I had!

At one point I was assigned to interview the head of the Sikh religion in North America, who happened to be visiting in Salt Lake City. I didn’t know a whole lot about Sikhs except for two tidbits I remembered from my world religions class in college. One thing I remembered was that the men wore white turbans, and that usually they were completely dressed in white.

The other thing was what made me a little bit nervous. I remembered that a Sikh always – without exception – wears a dagger on his person. I had been told (wrongly, as it turns out) that Sikhs are obsessed with honor, and that if anyone besmirches their honor they are honor-bound to dispatch that person into the hereafter with the dagger.

A Sikh dagger, also known as a kirpan. Sikhs really do wear the daggers, but they don’t generally disembowel people with them. In fact, the daggers are worn to symbolize protecting others, rather than victimizing them.

With that memory firmly planted in my Kathy-sized brain, I drove to the site of the interview. When I parked across the street from the house where the interview was to take place, a strong aroma penetrated the closed windows of my car. I can’t describe the aroma except to say that it was the most amazing mixture of spices I had ever encountered.

As I left my car and approached the house, the aroma got progressively stronger. This was the single most wonderful thing I had ever smelled, and I wanted it. I had no idea what it was, but I craved it. I coveted it. I wanted to inhale it, to drink it, to bathe in it. It was the aroma of a lifetime.

I was so fixated on what I was smelling that I don’t remember too much about the interview. I had to climb many stairs to get to the room where the guru met me. It was a room without furniture except for large and colorful pillows. The guru, dressed in white, sat cross-legged on one of them. I sat on the floor next to him on another. I never saw the dagger, but he was right-handed and I was sitting to his left. It was enough that I knew the dagger was there, hidden somewhere in the folds of his gauzy costume.

At the end of the interview, the guru said, “Now we will drink tea.” This was not a request; it was a statement.  This was a real quandary for me because Mormons do not drink tea. I had no interest in drinking tea – or I would normally have had no interest in drinking tea. This time there were two things that gave me pause.

First there was the dagger. If I refused to drink tea with him, would I offend this revered Sikh? He wouldn’t really stab me, would he? I mulled this for just a few seconds before deciding he probably wouldn’t stab me. He didn’t seem like a stabbing kind of guy. But who knew?

The second factor, however, was huge. I suspected that the spicy aroma that was enticing every molecule of my body was the very tea I was being asked to drink. Oh, did I want to consume this smell! There was only one tiny thing standing between me and the consumption of this beverage – the Word of Wisdom. If that was real tea, I wasn’t going to be able to drink it.

I didn’t say yes. I didn’t say no. I asked the Sikh two questions. “Is it the tea that I’ve been smelling?”

“Yes,” he said.

The angels sang.

Then, heavy-hearted, I asked, “What is in the tea?”

“Lots of things. Clove, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cardamom, fresh ginger, cream and honey.”

If the angels had been singing before, they immediately broke out into “The Hallelujah Chorus.” This stuff wasn’t against the Word of Wisdom. I could drink it with impunity! A big smile spread across my face. I probably didn’t say anything, but my heart was screaming, “Bring it on!”

I must report that the Sikh tea tasted every bit as good as it smelled. It was a heavenly elixir. The spices were so strong that they seemed to permeate my skin, but they were tempered by the cream and the honey. Far and away, this was the most glorious thing I have ever drunk. I had to have the recipe.

So there I sat, balancing myself precariously on a pillow as I drank Sikh tea and tried to take notes. And with the head of the Sikhs for the entire continent of North America at my beck and call to answer anything I cared to ask him, the question I asked him was this: “Can you tell me how to make the tea?”

I would imagine that to a Sikh, asking their highest leader for a recipe would be somewhat similar to being able to have President Monson answer any one question and asking him where he bought his ties.  Nevertheless, the guru was more than happy to oblige. So he told me the ingredients:

  • One stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 3-4 allspice berries
  • 5-6 cardamom pods
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • One slice of fresh ginger

I carefully wrote this all down, careful not to leave anything out.

Just as I got to the end of the list, he added. “Oh. And a cup of Lipton.”

A cup of Lipton? A cup of LIPTON? Can anyone say, “Oops”?

People talk about God’s tender mercies. I think this might have been one of His mercies for me. I did not want to violate the Word of Wisdom. I did not want to offend the Sikh guru (even though, in my heart of hearts, I didn’t think he was going to stab me even if I did). And I really, really wanted to drink that tea. Thanks to the guru’s slight omission, I was able to drink the tea with a clear conscience, and get the recipe for a version I could legally drink again and again.

Isn’t God terrific?


If you want to make your own Sikh tea (wonderful for colds!), here’s the recipe:

For one cup of tea you’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • One-half cup milk or cream
  • 1 teabag (if you’re a Mormon, chamomile is fine, or apple cinnamon, or whatever.  I like Almond Sunset by Celestial Seasonings.)
  • One stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 3-4 allspice berries
  • 5-6 cardamom pods
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • One slice of fresh ginger
  • Honey to taste

Boil the water and spices, add milk and tea bag to the boiling water and let it get to a boil again. Once the mixture boils, let it simmer for two to three minutes (mixture boils over the pan so make sure not to leave kitchen). Add honey to taste and bring to a boil again. Now the tea is ready to drink or just to smell, or even to bathe in if you’re so inclined.


4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Sikh and Ye Shall Find”

  1. Marian Stoddardon 28 Jun 2012 at 6:16 pm

    You must be hungry this week, first lunch tales and now yummy drinks…I don’t have the whole spices on hand, but I will look for them, and when I can accumulate them, I’m going to try it!

  2. Kathyon 28 Jun 2012 at 9:39 pm

    The smell alone will reward you. Oh yes!

  3. Annaon 22 Jul 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Sounds very similar to one of my favorites ‘Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice herbal tea

  4. Kathyon 23 Jul 2012 at 8:39 am

    Now that one sounds interesting, Anna. I’ll have to try it.

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