Making almond milk can be a meditation if you want it to be. I learned this from Almond Milk LA, a company that has since closed its doors, but was open long enough to make an impact on the local community. Every week, pounds and pounds of raw, soaked almonds were squeezed through mesh bags, and the thick milk was poured into glass jars. The work was done at dawn, sometimes before dawn, in a fluorescent-lit kitchen on Lincoln Boulevard, in Venice, California. And before the milk was chilled, it was blessed. A lone, heavy gong reverberated in the kitchen.
I know all this because a few years ago I spent an evening with the founders, watching them work, and interviewing them in the quietest corner we could find: a storage closet stacked with tubs and nowhere to sit, so we stood there for 30 minutes talking about almonds, about cooking, and what it means to truly nourish yourself.
There’s nothing complicated about almond milk. At its most basic, there are two ingredients: almonds and water. For the fall and winter months, Almond Milk LA created a turmeric blend, and although I never asked for the recipe, I started tinkering at home, learning the hard way that if you’re not careful, turmeric can stain your hands and kitchen towels. That’s the worst of it, really. So, a little caution is needed, but the benefits are worth embracing a spice long revered around the world.
Its botanical name is curcuma longa. A member of the ginger family, the turmeric plant stands barely three-feet tall, yet something so small is treated as sacred, healing, and beautiful. Like ginger, raw turmeric is encased by a thin, slightly rough skin that must be peeled away. Inside, a bright orange knob is revealed, containing almost 30 anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as stores of magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6. In Ayurvedic medicine—an ancient Indian system of natural healing meaning “science of life”—turmeric is used improve myriad ailments, from alleviating congestion to healing wounds, and reducing inflammation in the body. Browse Ayurvedic literature, and you’ll find over 100 different terms for turmeric, like jayanti (“one who is victorious over diseases”).
In Hindu wedding ceremonies, a string dyed with turmeric paste is tied around the bride’s neck by her groom. When he set sail to explore the world by sea in the 13th century, Marco Polo compared turmeric’s golden color to saffron. It’s been used to dye clothing. It was written about in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, a 1747 cookbook by Hannah Glasse.
Inside my own spice drawer, a round container holds several tablespoons of golden powder, always at the ready. I use it for many things, like curries, of course, occasionally vegan cheese sauce. I’ve even sprinkled it over my dog’s food. But I use it most often for almond milk.
When I found out Almond Milk LA would be closing its doors, it felt like a swift punch to the heart. But after a week or two, I started doing it myself. I bought a nut milk bag from Amazon, remembered to soak my almonds, and created a weekly habit. A ritual, really.
Drinking ice cold almond milk straight from the jar, or pouring it over a bowl of granola is one of life’s small pleasures. But when you need a bit more comfort, or you’re feeling particularly run down, sipping a small glass of sweet, spiced nut milk will nourish you from the inside out.
In my cookbook, Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry, this recipe is paired with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called “Burning the Old Year.” It’s a quiet but powerful poem, describing the ache we can feel at the end of every year, the slow exhale, the letting go of what no longer serves us. “So much of any year is flammable,” she writes. The gold flame flickering, that tinge of heat, can be found here, in a drink to help usher in new beginnings, no matter the season.
Makes about 2 cups
- 2 cups homemade almond milk
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- ¾ teaspoon turmeric
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- Pinch of sea salt
Add almond milk to a high speed blender, along with the honey and spices. Blend until well combined, about 30 seconds. Pour into a mason jar and chill for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend. Shake before serving, and drink within 4 days.
From Eat This Poem A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta, © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.