A Soothing Cinnamon Latte for Hard Times (with No Espresso)
Last week my partner disinfected a bag of Cheetos and the bottle of bubbly that he squirreled away to celebrate the publication of my book, Plant Magic: Herbalism in Real Life. We scooted our chairs to our storm door and looked out on the purple ground ivy flowers and bursts of yellow dandelions as a cool spring rain quenched our yard. We have been in our one-room house, together, for I don’t know how many days — I refuse to count. Counting the days would lead to counting how many times I wash my hands in a week, and I actually don’t have much brain power available for that kind of tracking.
I am fortunate to be in my home with someone (especially someone who bought me a bag of Cheetos as a special surprise), but as I peer into the outdoors I have a hard time turning my thoughts away from people who aren’t in their homes: physicians who are away from their children so they can care for their patients, grocery store workers who are away from family members so they can pay the bills, people in hospitals quarantined while sick with COVID-19. I have a hard time not thinking about all of us.
When I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the danger or stress or sadness that people are consumed with right now, I pick a plant. As an herbalist, I believe that plants are at the root of our shared experience as humans; they are the beginning of every food chain and they are at the start of peoples’ days in every cup of tea or coffee. They make the bouquets at weddings, their fibers form the fabric for the blanket that welcomes the new baby, and their soothing scents fill the rooms that host funerals. They also heal broken hearts, help build bones, and ease digestive complaints. Being a human is often hard, as it turns out, but plants have always been there to nourish and nurture us through times of scarcity and hopelessness. They are there, too, to greet us on the other side when we are ready to celebrate our triumph.
My Plant for Right Now: Cinnamon
I know that there are plants for every person and every situation in which we find ourselves. In order to find some personal relief from our present circumstances, I pick a plant that I think a lot of people have in their kitchens and imagine what they’re doing with it. Right now I pick cinnamon: I think of the charoset at seders that will happen all over the world this month. I think of baharat, garam masala, and five-spice powder. I think of snickerdoodles, churros, and chai.
Below is a recipe for a cinnamon latte from my book Plant Magic: Herbalism in Real Life. You likely have everything you need to make it in your kitchen — if all you have is the cinnamon and the milk and some honey or sugar, still go for it. Take a moment to make one for yourself, or many for your household. It is an excellent balm to some of the symptoms of anxiety that many of us are feeling right now: stagnant digestion, upset stomach, feelings of being stuck.
Sit down and think of people, all over the world, who amidst all this confusion pull cinnamon from their kitchen cabinets to bake or stew something that will afford them a moment of connection and peace.
Buy: Plant Magic: Herbalism in Real Life, $24
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 8 minutes
(3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 2 cups
milk of your choice
- 2 teaspoons
Ground cinnamon and whole nutmeg (optional)
Wrap the cinnamon stick, cardamom, ginger, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it off with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the herb bundle and milk to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Stir often, keeping the milk warm and under a simmer, for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the bundle out of the milk and into your compost. Add the honey if desired and whisk vigorously to foam the herbal milk. Or if you’re lazy like me, put the honey in a blender, pour the milk over it and buzz on low to foam the milk. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg if you like.
From Plant Magic by Christine Buckley © 2020 Christine Buckley. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.