Euforkia: An Introduction
I know what this sounds like–Euforkia, euphoria-on-a-fork. It sounds like a blog about those ecstatic food moments with which we’re all familiar–moments of salty, fatty and honeyed intoxication akin to bells pealing on our tongue, moments when the pleasure center in our brain releases the proverbial doves.
It usually happens within the first three bites, before the chemical sensors on our tongue conk out.
Those moments are great, but that’s not what Euforkia is about. This blog is meant to be about all of the ways we love food.
It’s a blog about maternal love, like when we’re coaxing along a wilting tomato plant. Or reverential love, like when we roll back the lid on a tin of smoked oysters and see those tiny, salty, sea creatures all smushed together, miraculously, in our desert kitchen. Sometimes it is a quiet, patient, curious love as we stand barefoot in a cool morning garden or pare an apple with crisp, clean strokes. Sometimes it is a tumultuous love, like when our stupid flan just won’t set. (We want to love the stupid flan, but the stupid flan is pressing all our buttons. Why does the stupid flan have to do that?)
So we’ll call Euforkia an abiding spark. The subjects of this blog all share a common passion, not just tongue-based in a foodie, passing-crush sort of way, but a communion with, and deep love for, the beautiful, wild and sensual abundance of consumable life.
Euforkics long to preserve the essence of things; to steep flowers in honey; to revive beloved ingredients and methods that have fallen out of favor (buttermilk blog on deck!); to answer nature’s beauty and abundance with fantastically creative concoctions, treatments and embellishments. They all approach eating in their own unique way.
Every other week, I’ll profile a creative mind bending their energy towards food, glorious food. Sometimes in the marketplace, sometimes in their home kitchens and greater communities. Because the larger human story of food is cooperation, fellowship and sharing, each edition will feature a recipe or method you can try at home.
So without further ado, I’m delighted to open with Sophia Rose, owner of La Abeja Herbs, wildcrafter of medicinal and herbal goods, herbal wellness consultant and culinary workshop priestess.
Sophia Rose and Infused Honeys
After graduating from herbalism school in Boulder, the wily Sophia Rose opened her own product line called La Abeja Herbs (after the Spanish word for honey bee). She also did some other rad stuff like attending culinary school and tricking out a 1964 Eriba Puck camper as an apothecary shop. Originally from Austin, Texas, Sophia Rose splits her time between Albuquerque and Austin with occasional forays to, as she says, “places that are neither here nor there.” This is where Puck, “the roving apothecary,” comes in. (Puck is currently biding his time in a meadow on Sophia’s great uncle’s land.) She also has a yurt. And a derelict wasps’ nest above her sink. And a second-hand butterfly collection.
One of Sophia’s goals is to reinvigorate the poetry and magic of herbalism and wrest this ancient art away from its “hippy dippy” baggage in the modern era.
As if that weren’t enough, Sophia Rose teaches culinary classes out of her South Valley apothecary on such food-sexy topics as meat curing, fermentation and infused wines, liqueurs and cordials. A book on her thesis work with the mysterious false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is forthcoming. She is only 23.
Latest Food Obsessions:
Homemade duck prosciutto and pâte (rich, creamy, decadent, super-nourishing).
Pickled lemon and lime (a traditional Moroccan treatment that yields an addictive gelatinized salty condiment).
Rosewater and orange flower waters.
Finding exquisite fruit and spice combinations.
Saffron, nutmeg, harissa.
Sophia’s diet includes high quality animal protein, leafy greens, vegetables and mushrooms, seaweeds, fruits, dark chocolate, and “good wine.” After experiencing first hand the mental and physical agony of food intolerance and allergies, she deep-sixed dairy, soy and all grains from her cupboards. As for cooking, Sophia was encouraged to think on her feet at culinary school where she learned techniques, not recipes. She continues to cook intuitively.“Above all else,” she says, “Enjoy your food and make each meal you prepare, each bite you take, be an act of self care and a moment of pleasure. See food as what it truly is–your most essential connection to the earth and to your human-ness.”
On New Mexico Food Culture:
Sophia sees Albuquerque as Austin’s little sister: “not as precocious, but also not as pretentious.” She points to the prodigious amount of wild foods that grow in Albuquerque and environs as a huge thrill, citing neglected grapevines she’s discovered, and the abundance of fruit trees compared to the pickings in Austin.
You can find Sophia Rose’s herb line in her online store; as well as vintage boutiques in Austin. Or just walk your little feet down to Abitha’s Apothecary on Central Avenue, Nob Hill’s Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays or Robinson Park on Saturdays. Tragically, she does not currently sell her infused honeys. (But it all ends well, because she shares her methods below). Sign up for one of her culinary classes here.
On the Fork: Infused Honeys
“Honey is a beautiful way to take medicine,” and therefore, “the perfect overlap between the medicinal and culinary world,” says Sophia. She uses the term “high-compliance” which simply means: Who’s going to refuse medicinal herbs if they’re suspended in honey?
-Fresh turmeric root (Sophia recommends drizzling over mango or vanilla ice cream. Fresh turmeric is available at Ta Lin.)
-Texas juniper berry
-Rocky Mountain rose petal
-Vanilla bean (Sophia recommends as a sweetener for cold, bitter, drinking chocolate or drizzled over grapefruit with toasted pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts)
-Spiral Path Immune Honey Paste (Her Rocky Mountain version of a classic infused Chinese honey paste called yin chiao contains forsythia fruit, honeysuckle flowers, rose petals, marshmallow root, elderberry, lemon balm and boneset)
-Crystal-infused honey (pyrite, opal, moonstone, for emotional energies).
Infusing your own honeys at home is super simple. If you’re a novice, start with something unintimidating like rose petals or juniper berries. But really, it’s not rocket science. There are two methods of infusion preparation for honeys. 1) Time method. 2) Heat method. Both are as simple as, say, preparing a cup of tea.
Use for delicate plants like rose petals and mints.
Umm, essentially all you do is place your plant matter in a jar, pour honey over it and let it steep. Voila, fini. Oh, but you need to keep your mitts off for at least two weeks. Whether you remove the plant matter when you’re ready to serve is entirely an aesthetic preference. Sophia points out that, like wine (and people), the depth and character of infused honey changes with time. So it’s fun to keep tasting over the months.
OR, more likely scenario: you want your infused honey and you want it now. Use the:
Heat method for infused honeys:
Sofia recommends this method for more fibrous, hardier plant stuffs like dried berries, barks, seed pods and cloves. The heat drives out the flavor and medicine from the cell walls into the honey.
Pour honey over plant matter in canning jar. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove pot from heat and place jar in water bath. Allow water to return to room temperature. The trick to this method is to not overheat the honey.
Wait for honey to cool and dig in.
(Sophia demonstrated the heat method for me by preparing a mushroom honey with a 14-mushroom blend powder from mushroomharvest.com. She describes mushrooms as a wisdom remedy, good for the heart, immune system, trauma and bringing one into the present moment. (Sophia is covering the Mushroom Festival in Telluride, Colorado this summer for Telluride Festivarian magazine).
That in a nutshell, is the stupidly simple, yet wildly lavish, art of honey infusions grace à Sophia Rose.
I’m asking everyone that appears in this blog to contribute a sketch. Here is Sophia’s:
Next up: Peter Rice, old-school buttermilk drinker, author and advocate!