A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to spend time in the kitchen of Ananda in the Himalayas, a breathtaking destination spa in Northern India. The spa specializes in Ayurvedic treatments, Ayurveda being the traditional healing practice in India. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of diet when it comes to health, so while Ananda provides luxurious spa treatments, massage, detoxes, yoga, meditation and Vedanta study, to me, the true heart of activity was in the kitchen.
I arrived at the spa nestled in the Himalaya mountains via a stop in India’s capital city. Speeding up the winding mountain road, I began to regret downing that espresso at the Delhi airport. Although I’d given up coffee a year before, all the rich mithai and chaat (that’s “sweets” and “snacks” to all you gringos) in Delhi had turned me into a tired little slug. The espresso did give me the kick in the pants that I so desperately needed, but it also gave me a good deal of nausea and dizziness, which is what happens when you flood a tiny body with an elephantine dose of caffeine. And then drive that body up a winding mountain road for 2 hours.
Upon arriving at the doorstep of Ananda, I was greeted with showstopping Indian hospitality and the house signature drink: a chilled concoction of lemon, ginger and sugar, which did its best to comfort my overstimulated stomach. After a cup of this drink and a well-deserved nap, I was ready for weeks of learning and relaxing in what has to be one of the most beautiful, peaceful places in world. Well, relaxing except for the wild monkeys waiting for you when you finished your shift and smelled like delicious naan and curry. Pro defense tactic: pretend to throw a rock and you have 3 seconds outrun that clever almost-human.
Fast forward a few years, and freshly simmered ginger tea has become one of my go-to beverages. I prefer it hot and unsweetened and with a couple additions. Lemon is a known detoxifier: it supports liver function and helps the digestive and circulatory systems eliminate waste. Fresh ginger is a classic folk-remedy for nausea, and it also boosts circulation, which promotes the elimination of toxins through the skin, digestive tract and kidneys. To this combo I've added fresh turmeric, a rhizome similar to ginger, but known for it's powerful anti-inflammatory properties and bright yellow color.
This trio of ingredients creates what I think of as an Immunity Tonic for winter. Sipping on this infusion makes me feel grounded and nourished and at least makes me *feel* like I'm warding off colds (and monkeys). At the very least, I'm sipping on something warm and zippy and incorporating those healing ingredients that don't always make it onto my dinner plate. And through the power of sensory memory, I'm mentally transported back to Ananda where I was surrounded by natural beauty, an emphasis on holistic wellbeing ,and a pretty hilarious group of cooks in the kitchen.