Embarrassing Popcorn (and a recipe…)

Ground turmeric is a spice that blew up the “health world” a couple of years ago, and I feel like it’s going to stick around for a while. I’ve seen turmeric be added to everything, from the common curries and stews to drinks and cookies. Even ice cream! I bet a “turmeric margarita” will show up in certain restaurants soon enough (you know, the establishments that have decor like plants hanging from the rafters).

When I was in college, I made quite a lot of red lentil curry (like, 3 or 4 times a week) because it was so cheap and easy, and I could throw in whatever vegetables I had on hand. I often added some pinches of turmeric while it was simmering away, along with other spices like garam masala and paprika. I sprinkled it on popcorn as well, yet not enough for me to actually taste it because it was mostly covered with a hefty amount of garlic powder and salt. One evening, when I had a lot of work to do, I brought a whole container of this popcorn to a study space so that I had something to carry me through the late hours. While I was munching away, I waved at an acquaintance of mine who was passing through, and she waved back while giving me the strangest look. I remember thinking that was weird, and then I saw that my fingers were tinged the most unappealing yellow/light orange color from the turmeric. She must’ve thought that I was coming down with some bizarre illness.

It’s been a couple of years, and I still am seeking new ways to incorporate turmeric into my food, especially because I kept hearing about its benefits. After seeing countless recipes for turmeric milks, I gave it a try one evening. To be quite honest, it tasted absolutely disgusting. Perhaps my turmeric had gone a bit stale, or maybe I didn’t like it because I’d never really tasted the flavor of turmeric on its own. The spice also never dissolved into the warm milk, but remained kind of sandy and unappealing. I gulped it down quickly and thought, this type of ‘hygge’ is not for me. 

However, as it often happens, I found a spirit of newfound inspiration at the farmer’s market. One of the stands had a whole crate of turmeric roots, and a couple of pieces somehow ended up in my canvas bag. While I was making a stew one rainy afternoon, I was hit with the idea to grate a piece into the pot. The smell of turmeric immediately walloped my senses, but unlike its powdered companion, I found myself actually enamored by the aroma. Of course, I thought. Food is always best when it is at its most natural state. The smell was complex: earthy, sweet, bitter.

Lots of root vegetables, green beans, black rice, and grated turmeric

Motivated by the successful incorporation, I decided to try the root in a more concentrated form. I was still a little wary of turmeric milk, but I wanted a beverage of sorts, and so I whipped up a tonic one morning. I absolutely love ginger, and so a chunk of that went in there too. The result was so refreshing – more ginger-y than turmeric-y, but the flavor was still there, and the lemon and apple cider vinegar tied everything together really well. The raw honey also rounded out the bitterness and acidity nicely without making it too sweet. I didn’t have cayenne pepper on hand, but I think a pinch of that would have really elevated the flavor.

Note: this tonic is less turmeric-heavy than others, and is thus less orange than you might expect. I quite like it this way, but feel free to grate in more of the root if you’d like!


1 lemon
1 2-inch piece of turmeric
1 3-inch piece of ginger
1-2 tablespoons of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
½-1 tablespoon of raw honey
A pinch of black pepper (it increases the bioavailability of turmeric)
A pinch of cayenne pepper (*optional)
4 cups of water (I feel like this would also be delicious with coconut water!)

Boil 2 cups of water, and then mix that with 2 cups of room temperature water in a tall glass pitcher.
Grate in the piece of ginger and the turmeric. I didn’t peel them, but you can if you prefer doing so. Word of advice: turmeric stains your fingers, so wear gloves if you don’t want that!
Squeeze in the juice of half of the lemon, and then cut the rest of the lemon into slices and drop them into the pitcher.
Stir in the apple cider vinegar, and then stir in the honey until dissolved. I only boiled half of the water so that the mixed water would not be too hot and kill the benefits in ACV and raw honey.
Make sure everything is incorporated really well, and then leave the pitcher to cool down to room temperature.
Store it in the refrigerator – it will keep for about five days. I used a mini strainer whenever I poured some into a glass to catch any grated pieces.

This particular morning was what inspired me to make the tonic – quite the signal to drink some sunshine! 

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