1999 served me well. It was the year I left Cal State Long Beach where I was attending college to major in Audiology/Speech Pathology. Sign language and interpreting were part of my minor that really interested me. But, I left all that behind to pursue a passion instead; culinary school. It was also the year I gained a best friend, the one I feel is the sister I never had; Dawn Sandoval. She and I roomed together across from Gramercy Park in Manhattan in an extremely quaint women’s dorm. So strict were they with the male race that it was like the soup nazi from Seinfeld. NO MEN! So, it was something hysterical when my friend Myra snuck her boyfriend up 9 floors. I have such amazingly fond memories of Natural Gourmet Cookery School run by Anne Marie Colban, the friends I met, and the experience/culture I was able to embrace. This was truly a highlight in my life.
Dawn and I had a close-knit group of friends that we acquired there along with our cooking skills. Together Mafalda Pinto Leite, Tracy Horwitz-Milenkovik, Myra Jane Church, Dawn, and I would spend days at school developing recipes to our hearts content, and race home to weave our way through the city partaking of fine food and spending afternoons in the warm glow of a community garden filled with stuffed animals as decor, roller skating in Central Park, or catching the underground to go see shows. It was incredible. So much to see. So much to do. I am still friends with these wonderful gals to this day. We all still enjoy cooking whether professionally of personally. I also still have a permanent burn from breaking the dorm rules and extending my alotted 30 minutes in the gated park adjacent to the front lounge. It was sunny, and I was missing green grass and Dawn and I finagled the keys for a whole hour, piggy backing our time there.
It was at culinary school where I first tasted Apple-Kuzu Drink; a beverage containing the root starch. It was something I stumbled upon. It was a normal morning, rushing about the kitchens locating ingredients to create splendid meals for our instructors to grade. I recall the school was fixing a broken refrigerator and it was mentioned to stay aware of the wires. I happened to glance back as I was reaching in, and changed my glance to face the fridge while extending my reach, only to have a wire go straight into my eye. It was so sudden, and so painful, that I stumbled backwards dropping the food from my grasp and crying aloud. I was instantly anxious because I had lasik surgery the year before and was in a panic that I had ruined it.
My instructor came to my aid, and instructed her assistant to prepare some apple-kuzu; for a relaxant. Truly, this combination worked on my nerves within 10 minutes. It is something I use for my children when they have tummy aches, on myself when I feel stressed, or for treating colds. It’s remedies include treatment of minor indigestion, treating colds, and minor aches and pains. It’s also said to aid in treating headaches, colitis, sinus issues, tonsillitis, etc. Paired with ginger and umeboshi paste, it’s especially potent. The ginger aids in digestion while the umeboshi neutralizes lactic acid and eliminates it.
I have enjoyed mine several ways, but really love the following recipe:
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup filtered water
1 rounded tsp. kuzu (crush with back of spoon before measuring)
1-2 Tbsp. water for dissolving kuzu
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Heat the apple juice, ginger, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat. Thoroughly dissolve the kudzu in water in water, add it to the juice while stirring, then return the pot to the burner. Stir constantly until the kudzu thickens and becomes translucent. Simmer a bit longer, then remove from heat and pour 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice into mixture. Allow to cool for a minute before serving.