My oh my, tea parties have a whole new meaning these days, don’t they? Today my friend, Ruth, and I were discussing the Tea Party movement that seems to be gaining ground with the “mad as Hell, and not going to take it any more” crowd. (She told me she’s thinking of becoming a member, although she might not appreciate my publicizing her neo-political point of view).
Hmm. As for me, I prefer the old-fashioned traditional tea parties that “civilization” has enjoyed for centuries. Nice finger sandwiches, brewed tea in a pot, small milk pitchers and sugar bowls, delicate China cups and saucers, doilies, and good manners.
When I think of traditional tea parties, I think of a somewhat formal, yet comfortingly familiar routine that brings sanity to the crazy world. Traditional tea parties give a moment’s pause to breathe deep and re-energize.
Yet, for all the “formality,” traditional tea parties are surprisingly simple to throw together. Typically, a traditional tea party would be in the afternoon, and feature some light fare of sweets tidbits, a savory sandwich or two (crusts removed and cut into bite size pieces), and hot tea. (Recipes for a traditional tea party surely deserve a special section in everyone’s family cookbook.)
Some of the more time-honored fare at traditional tea parties include:
- Scones with Devonshire cream & strawberry jam – Many stores now carry all of these ingredients, but if you can’t find them, bake Pillsbury crescent rolls with a dollop of jam inside and eat with whipped cream.
- Cucumber sandwiches – Cream cheese & butter spread on bread and topped with thinly sliced cucumbers seasoned with salt. Top with second piece of bread, also smeared with cream cheese and butter. Slice into four dainty sandwiches. (Can be open face, if desired.) Another nice finger sandwich can be made with chicken salad and almonds.
- Other sweets – Small muffins or cakes, chocolate candies, and Jordan almonds.
Tea tables for traditional tea parties should always be dressed in the finest linens, silver and china (if you have it, why not use it). Food service can either be buffet style, or help-yourself at the table from lovely 3-tiered cake stands piled generously with goodies, or platters may be passed around the table from a sideboard decorated with fresh flowers (always fresh).
A traditional tea party can be a wonderful way to entertain friends or business clients, celebrate a birthday, graduation, or retirement, or organize a bridal or baby shower. (A child’s traditional tea party can also be make-believe.)
Speaking of make-believe, traditional tea parties have always been a mainstay of polite society. Whatever political group Ruth may join, I’m sure she’ll bring the traditional tea party to the fray. While I can’t speak for those Washington, D.C.-inspired tea parties, just give me a good cuppa any day.