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The 2 Ingredients That Transformed My Mornings

Food52 logo Food52 13/05/2018 Leah Bhabha

Every morning, after the daily tussle of unwinding body from sheets and the inevitable minute or two on my phone, I dazedly make the few-step journey to the kitchen. Half conscious, in the way that coffee addicts head for the machine as if magnetically propelled, I open the cabinet and then the freezer. I collect a mug, usually one of my favorite brightly-hued ones. From the chill above the fridge, I retrieve a tea bag of my own creation, filled with grated ginger and turmeric root. The iciness shocks my sluggish fingers as I drop it into the mug, start the kettle, and slice open a lemon. Using my hands or a citrus squeezer, in goes the juice of half a lemon. Once the water reaches the temperature of hot but still chuggable, I fill the mug and watch it bloom into sunshine.

Perhaps I drink it in one or two gulps, standing at the kitchen counter, or maybe I bring it into the bedroom as I pick out my clothes. On mornings when I’m writing at home, it keeps me company at the hybrid kitchen-dining-landing-work table, as I punctuate my key clacking with sips of the bracing, acidic brew. On the occasions where life has been too hectic and I haven’t had the time to pre-portion the turmeric and ginger, or get to the store to buy them, I’ll just have the lemon water by itself, feeling the zingy warmness slide down my throat, waking up my insides.

a close up of food: Left: Grated ginger & turmeric, before the deep freeze. / Right: Sachets ready for service. © Provided by Food52 Left: Grated ginger & turmeric, before the deep freeze. / Right: Sachets ready for service. The older I get, the more I crave routine. In my teens and early 20s, structure always seemed like a bad word and the idea of routine a bore. But now as I enter my 30s, I know, especially in a life as intense and frenetic as one lived in New York City, daily rituals are essential for me. Self-care has become a buzzword of late, and there are blogs and companies devoted to the concept. Although I enjoy reading about multi-step beauty practices and fitness regimes, my impatience and lack of athleticism make me a poor candidate for anything more than one to two steps. But when it comes to nourishing myself, I will go great lengths—fantasizing about recipes in advance, chopping, dicing, and braising for my own pleasure.

My ginger-turmeric “tea” with lemon is a daily ritual that benefits both my mind and body. The dreamy state of squeezing the juice into the cup, of that first brightening, awakening gulp, of the knowledge that each day will begin in the same way. The hour that I spend preparing the homemade tea bags in advance, grating the turmeric and ginger, stuffing it all into the muslin sachets. These things give me comfort.

a plate of food and a cup of coffee: Is Water with Lemon Really a Wellness Game Changer? © Provided by Food52 Is Water with Lemon Really a Wellness Game Changer? As for the impact on my body, it really has made a difference in my digestion. Without being too graphic, I increasingly found my stomach out of whack from travel, tension, and eating out. After adding the soothing properties of ginger, the anti-inflammatory ones of turmeric, and the cleansing ones of lemon, I found a huge improvement in the state of my stomach. The weeks where I am away from home, I notice a marked change in my digestion. I also find the concoction to be a relief during periods of overindulgence, especially around the holidays when I find myself eating and drinking more than usual.

I've been starting my mornings with some version of this for the last few years. This ritual started with my mother, who follows a similar routine but instead puts her turmeric and ginger through a garlic press daily. I began with just lemon juice and warm water in the mornings. It wasn't until I visited my brother in Los Angeles, and saw his enhanced preparation of the concoction—the addition of earthy turmeric and piquant ginger to the mix—that I followed suit.

How to make it yourself? It’s as easy as using the food processor to grind up the turmeric and ginger before freezing them on a tray (lightly scoring them for uniform portions, as in the photo above), and filling up little muslin sachets (here are the ones I use) with a spoonful of the frozen grated mix. I would also say the ratio doesn't matter too much—it's just how pungent you'd like it. I store them in the freezer and pull one out every morning. I don’t steep it per se; I just drink the water with the tea bag in!

And if you’re out of fresh ginger and turmeric root, I’ve also used dried powder forms of each to great success; I’d say about a 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric for a mug of warm water is a good place to start.

Video: This ginger-turmeric tea will make you feel better in a hot second (PureWow)

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