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TND – (Not The) Mad Hatter’s (Birthday) Tea Party

May 21, 2012

I have a very clear memory of walking down a street with my mother when I was quite young being given a crash course in Afternoon Tea etiquette as we made our way to the house of a British friend of hers. I don’t remember whether I successfully didn’t embarrass my mother (on that particular occasion, at any rate), but I was quite young (and American) so I probably got a pass from her friend (who, being that kind of English, would have been too polite to say anything anyway).

That being said, appropriate tea etiquette, as I recall being taught it many years ago, holds that you first take the savory items from the tea display and begin by eating the plainest first and gradually working your way up to the more complicated sandwiches. So, traditionally one would begin with brown bread and butter (to which Gwendolyn is devoted) and end with cucumber sandwiches (assuming that had ready money to obtain the cucumbers, and the market was willing). Only after one had partaken of the savory portions of the meal would one progress onwards to scones, and other sweets.

It goes without being said, except that apparently I’m saying it, that one starts with just one of any given item, and only takes a second when pressed by the hostess (unless your hostess is Dutch in which case it’s possible she’ll be horrified if you actually take her up on her offer of seconds – as my mother was informed by her mother-in-law after she had in fact partaken of seconds at her hostesses urging. Her mother-in-law (my grandmother) felt that just this once she might be excused because she was, after all, an American).

My tea was a tad more ostentatiously elaborate than I suspect Lady Bracknell (or my grandmother) would have approved. This is because it was doubling as dinner for most of us, and because when left alone with a menu plan for any length of time I tend to get overly ambitious and I’ve been dreaming up this menu since March.

My tea was served at 5:30, which when I was a child in Hong Kong and eating tea at friends houses would have almost certainly been baked beans on toast. I have deeply fond memories of beans on toast, and I’m a little loath to try it again as an adult lest my recollections be sullied by the harsh reality of what beans on toast probably actually tastes like (bearing in mind we’re talking tinned beans on white bread). This was not that tea either.

Nor, despite the name and the decorative theme, was it the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party where nobody actually eats, there’s a dormouse asleep in the teapot, and the Mad Hatter makes you verbally fence for the supper he doesn’t serve you. I can’t say we achieved quite the same level of nonsensical perspicacity as Alice and the Mad Hatter, but on the other hand we did let everyone eat, and nobody was turned away from the table, and our dormouse was actually a stuffed otter, so six of one and half dozen of another.

Cucumber Sandwiches
Roast Beef Sandwiches w/ Spicy Tomato Jam
Open-face Asparagus Sandwiches w/ Lemony White Bean Spread
Devilled Eggs
Coconut Chicken Salad in Wonton Cups
Cherry Tomatoes stuffed w/ Lemony Pea Puree
Radishes

Cream Scones w/ Strawberries, Cream, Jam & Lemon Curd
Honey Tea Cake
Rhubarb Devonshire Tartlets
Dark Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles

Tea
Strawberry-Basil Champagne Cocktails

SAVORIES

Recipes can be found here.

SWEETS

Recipes can be found here.

TEA & CELEBRATION

Recipes can be found here.

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One comment

  1. […] Banh Mi This is shaping up to be the summer of sandwiches.  So far we’ve eaten our way through a variety of tea sandwiches, meatball subs, and pulled chicken.  This week we’re revisiting banh mi at a birthday request.  […]



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