A proper tea party

April 26, 2010

Tea parties have been in the news a lot lately. But not the kind where people are, you know, enjoying a nice cuppa. I wrote a story a while back about how specialty tea merchants are a bit put out to see their teapots in a tempest of political upheaval. Meanwhile, those of us with pure hearts learned from those of us without that the rallying cry of “Let’s tea bag the White House,” was an infelicitous phrase, to say the least.As an ex-Brit I’ve been to my share of tea parties. Some were very proper _ finger sandwiches and even wee little glasses of sherry at the ready.

And then there was the party my parents gave, a legendary affair, and not intentionally so. I was about four at the time, but I remember quite a bustle of preparation. We weren’t terribly well equipped for entertaining; the extra chairs were either busted or decidedly weak at the knees, and the china tea pot had suffered an unfortunate accident to its spout.

But the spirit of do-it-yourself burned strongly in my parents and I remember my father coming home with a big tube of glue and getting to work. Seats were stuck to legs which were stuck to backs and the pot got a bit of reconstructive surgery.

The guests arrived and all went well.

At first.

And then, just as mother was pouring out tea for the guest of honor _ disaster. Apparently the glue wasn’t up to the challenge or hadn’t set long enough because the spout flew off, dousing the unfortunate fellow with a shower of very hot tea. He jerked back in his seat with a muffled exclamation followed by an unmuffled one as the chair gave up the ghost and flung him to the floor.

A tense moment ensued.

Luckily, a quick-thinking friend of my father’s leaped into the breach, giving his own chair a furious wiggle that resulted in a satisfying crash, and for the next few minutes it was chair cacophony as like-minded fellows had a go at busting up the furniture. Not exactly as done at Buckingham Palace, but a good time had by all.

When I throw a tea party these days it’s not quite that exciting. I have a pretty tea set I’ve collected piece by piece, a china teapot that is not broken, and some go-to recipes for relatively easy tea treats. A few sandwiches are nice; you can go full-on Brit and make them with cream cheese and cucumber or tomatoes (remember to call them to-mah-toes) or you can just use Nutella. The important thing is the sandwiches have to be crustless and sliced into geometric little shapes. For something sweet, Nigella Lawson’s Victoria Sponge from “How to Eat” is easy, good and reliable.  Note: When she says have the eggs at room temperature and the butter really soft she is not joking.  Once your layers are done you can stick them together with whatever takes your fancy. We like buttercream frosting with apricot jam and some confectioner’s sugar sprinkled on top.

Et voila, one tea party duly served.Eds. note:

No rhetoric was spouted nor chairs harmed in the making of this meal.


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3 Responses to A proper tea party

  1. Coco Chanel on April 28, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Dear Vineq:You would have to mention Nutella, of course. But as you know I can never get enough of the British (Welsh?) childhood tales. I am astonished, again, at how your choice of phrases is so reminiscent of… my mother. Because of course she was born in… 1923. But who’s counting?Growing up she was the only person who talked with such… phrases. She would even say things like “put on your garments” when she meant put on your clothes. Or if she was dressing up, or I was, she’d call such finery “your silks and satins.”Anyway when I was packing up her house last year, I skimmed through a lot of her 19th century English novels. Et voila — there were all those phrases that I thought only my mother used!They were all from books! You must get some of your writing style from them too!Respectfully,Coco

  2. Michelle on April 29, 2010 at 9:22 am

    The more I hear about your mom, the more I like her. Yes, it’s rare for me to read a book written during my lifetime. My secret vice is books about upper class families between the wars. Can there be a sweeter phrase than, “Tea is served on the lawn now, madam.” Except maybe, “Nurse is ready to take the children.”

  3. Kendal on May 6, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Let’s do this again this Sunday?

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