While it’s no secret that I am a tea fanatic (especially as the nights grow colder), I’m drinking a fair amount of mulled apple cider these days. The orchard where we go to pick apples sells it by the gallon, and it’s also in stock at my grocery store.
This isn’t the saccharine, powdered cider mix of my childhood, stirred into mugs of hot water: it is pure, distilled apples, fresh and tart and bold. A cold glass of it tastes like apple juice, only stronger and less sweet. But I like it best after it’s simmered on the stove for a while, with a few cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice berries and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
My friend Abigail often brings cider to church potlucks or friends’ houses in the fall and winter. She likes it best when it’s “really mulled” – the longer the better. It amazes me that while the cider is delicious in its fresh form, the application of heat, spices and time transforms it into something richer, layered and ultimately different.
This time of year, I start to miss Oxford pubs, most of which keep a fat-bellied pot of mulled wine simmering on the front counter through November and December, spiced and steaming, with thin orange slices floating in it. I’m not much of a drinker, but I have fond memories of sipping that wine in a few cozy pubs on wet, dark English winter nights. (The photo above is from Paris, where the mulled wine is equally lovely.) I have nothing against red wine by itself, but I like it best with the added notes of cinnamon, cloves and citrus.
So it is with mulling over thoughts. Most of my (good) ideas don’t arrive fully formed: they require some simmering before they reach their final state. Sometimes I have to throw some “spices” into the mix: different angles, fresh questions, a conversation with a friend. Sometimes, as with the cider, I add the extra ingredients and walk away, letting time and my subconscious do their work. Although the ideas often have value in their raw state, they are improved by a little mulling.
As far as I know (and I even consulted the OED), the mulling of cider or wine and the mulling over of thoughts aren’t etymologically related. But the processes, it turns out, are quite similar. And they both produce something sweet at the end.
What are you mulling – cider, wine, ideas – lately?
PS: We did see high winds and rain as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but we never lost power and are safe and dry. I hope all of you who were in the storm’s path are safe, too. And Happy Halloween!