Thursday, June 06, 2013

TEA AND NO SYMPATHY



I’ve never been one for morning tea gatherings of the formal variety; or of any variety, if the truth be told. One reason being, for a woman, I have rather large hands compared to others of my gender. My fingers don’t comfortably or daintily handle the handles of fine china tea cups with the requisite finesse. Another reason is my pinkies are quite stubborn. They won’t curve daintily in a refined manner on command. With my pinkies being the size they are, it’s a good thing that genteel morning teas are off my list of social gatherings. The likelihood of my poking someone’s eye out is a realistic possibility.

Enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend or two once in a while is enjoyable; and once in a while I do so...but, I'm not one for regularly standing (or sitting) on ceremony with groups!

One day when I lived in Glenden, I was caught unprepared. Before I had time to evaluate the situation in which I found myself, I was blindsided into accepting an invitation to morning tea "with the ladies". Trapped in a moment of general chit-chat with the wife of the manager of the town’s one and only bank, she cunningly tossed in an invitation for me to join her and other ladies at her home for morning tea planned for a couple of days in the future. I began to sweat and squirm upon the realisation of my entrapment. Ignoring my discomfort, she granted me no sympathy whatsoever! I believe she actually expected me to curtsy and thank her profusely for inviting me into her inner circle. I didn't!

The morning of the grand occasion dawned.

Reluctantly I donned my finest finery and slipped on my high heels shoes.

Off to join the ladies I did go, dragging one foot after the other; or, rather, one foot placed lightly on the accelerator and my hand hovering over reverse.

I must add, if only to help paint the picture for you; the bank manager’s wife had placed her own self up high at the highest altitude on a pedestal, believing that to be her rightful position in the little township of Glenden. Not only was she self-appointed, but self-opinionated, too. She was, after all, the bank manager’s wife; a big fish in a very small pond.

With dread, wishing I was anywhere but parked outside her home, I approached her hallowed domain. Setting my best high-heeled-clad foot into her pristine abode, I inhaled deeply. Distracted by my entrance, a group of strangers momentarily glanced up from their perfectly balanced floral porcelain tea cups and saucers as introductions were made.

Like a deer caught in the headlights I was frozen to the spot. An urgent need to escape overcame me. I wanted to turn and run; to strip myself of my finery and replace it with a sarong. My desire was to return to my own sun-blessed verandah where I had no need to curl my pinky or make vapid conversation.

I wanted to be at ease within my own familiar surrounds where I could sit back with my feet resting on the railings while sipping on a cold beer, a red wine, or perhaps a Scotch or rum, depending on the mood of the moment; or, perhaps, with my large hands wrapped comfortably around my rustic, unrefined, earthenware coffee-filled mug.

That was my desperate desire; but I was cornered, surrounded by Stepford Wives, none of whom I knew (or met again), dainty porcelain objets d’art, lace doilies and lounge chairs with vintage, crocheted headrest covers.

To the rear of the celestial sphere a stylish dining table formally garbed in an ecru vintage lace overlay beckoned. Fine China and silver tiered cake stands and various other decorative platters bearing miniature, crust-less sandwiches, fairy cakes, cupcakes, pikelets and scones begged to be investigated and tasted. Crystal bowls, some filled with strawberry jam and others with whipped cream stood by to accompany the pikelets and scones.

With my good manners in place; shoulders back, head high, stomach in and pinkies un-crooked, butter wouldn’t have melted in my mouth.

I received no sympathy for the stress I suffered. My pinkies have never been the same! After a couple of hours spent privately agonising about where I wished to be, finally, I arrived back home again. As soon as I walked through my front doorway, I kicked off my heels (and kicked my bare heels in the air); tossed off my glad-rags and happily draped a colourful, tropical sarong around me. I raided my fridge for a cold, cold Crown Lager; and to the delight of the birds of the feathered variety, I joined them out on my verandah.

Ahhhhh.....the serenity!

Cucumber-Salmon Sandwiches: Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread; place thin slices of smoked salmon on spread. Slice seedless cucumber as thin as possible; pat dry. Place on salmon; top with bread slice; trim crusts; cut into fingers or desired shapes. Rare Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream: Thinly slice rare roast beef. For the horseradish cream, combine 300g sour cream, 2tbs horseradish and ¼ chopped chives; season. Grab 12 bread slices; spread one side of each slice with the cream; divide beef and rocket over half the bread slices; top with remaining slices. Trim off crusts; cut into quarters.

Cranberry-Almond Scones: Combine 2-1/8 cups plain flour (or 1c plain flour and 1 cup + 1tbs whole wheat flour), 1/4c sugar, 1/8tsp salt and 1-1/2tsp baking powder; cut in 1/2c cold butter, sliced. Stir in 3/4c dried cranberries and 1/4c chopped almonds. In bowl, whisk together 1/2c cream, 1 egg, 1tsp vanilla and 2tsp almond extract. Add to dry mixture; stir until just moistened. Knead a few times until dough forms. Don’t over-knead. On lightly-floured surface, form dough into circle about 1-inch thick. Place on ungreased baking sheet; mark out 8 wedges without cutting right through; brush with some cream; sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 176C, 30-35mins; serve warm or cold.

Double Cranberry Crumble Cake: Heat 1-1/8c water to just below boiling; pour over 3tbs cranberry-flavoured black tea (or other fruit flavours); steep 3-4mins; strain. Cream 2c sugar, 1c butter and 1/2c oil; beat in 4 eggs; add 1/2c milk, 1c tea and 1tbs vanilla. Add 1/8tsp salt, 3-1/2c plain flour, 1tsp each baking soda and baking powder; stir after each addition; fold in 2c coarsely-chopped cranberries. Pour into greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Combine 3/4c sugar, 1/3c softened butter, 1/2c flour, 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2c oats and reserved brewed tea leaves (if desired); sprinkle over cake; bake at 176C, 55-60mins.

24 comments:

  1. Boring conversation, uncomfortable clothes, being watched, and largely tasteless food. A foretaste of hell. And I bet those few hours seemed like weeks.
    I would also have spilled tea and dropped crumbs. On the positive side - no future invitations.
    I am not a beer drinker, but your veranda would have been my preferred spot - by a looooong way. (And none of me is dainty.)

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  2. I don't drink a lot of beer, EC...but you can't beat a cold, cold beer on a hot, thirsty day. If all beer tasted as good as that first one.....then I'd be in trouble! ;)

    I do love Crownies, though...but, again, I've not had one since New Year's even...and then I only had the one. I'm slack!

    I'm not good on formality...moments like those such as the ladies' morning tea tend to trigger off the mischievous demon within me! And then the stress arrives as I try to contain my inner insanity that wants to escape!!! I fail often! ;)

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  3. Lee
    Been there done that. Loved the description but more to the point the end scene. I always kept the pony miller lite beer in my frig to have after I mowed the lawn at my old house. Can not find them any more here at least. Unless you drink real fast a regular bottle of beer loses my attention half way through because the first sip is the BEST.
    Now for Scones, I would have shown my bad manners and would have scarf down several. Can you imagine the wide eyed disapprove. LOL See ya in a week as I am again taking a break.

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  4. I must say that I find this account most shocking. For I had you pictured as a well-refined lady of the highest order! perhaps you are just being overly modest? Yes, that must be it. For that is something that well-refined ladies of the highest order do--EVEN IN AUSTRALIA!

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  5. I don't like events like that either, but my sister and two nieces did like to have afternoon tea when we were vacationing in London - we went twice. I was the only one who had hot tea though. :)

    I'm just like you - I love to be comfortable and not fancy in particular.

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  6. Hi Lee,

    My daughter wanted a tea party when she was in first grade. We handmade invitations, and she handed them out at school. The girls arrived in colorful dress and one young gentlemen arrived in a suit. They were adorable. We served them several types of tea and cookies. Afterward we played games and then allowed them to play outside.

    Do you know the English do not extend out the pinky when drinking tea? They keep it tucked in.

    By the way, I like tea but I drink it in a mug. I have short fingers and a wide palm. As I get older, my hands get wider.

    Janice~

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  7. Lady Di...I always have beer in my fridge, too...always lager. Actually, I think some in there is almost as old as I am! I should find an excuse to drink it and then I could replenish with new stock!!

    See you in a week...enjoy yourself and take care. :)

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  8. Hi there Jerry...don't despair! I can mix with the best of them if and when I've had to...it's just that I prefer not to!

    One can still be refined even if sitting around sipping tea daintily out of a cup doesn't stir the adrenaline! ;)

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  9. I'm with you, Janice...mugs rule!!

    I think these days the pinky thing is now just a personal preference or habit; some do; some don't.

    Below is an explanation of where the cocking of the pinky originated from:

    "Since ancient Rome, a cultured person ate with 3 fingers, a commoner with five. Thus, the birth of the raised pinkie as a sign of elitism. This 3 fingers etiquette rule is still correct when picking up food with the fingers and handling various pieces of flatware. This pinky “up” descended from a misinterpretation of the 3 fingers vs 5 fingers dining etiquette in the 11th century.

    Sometime in the 1700’s European teacups began to have handles, necessitating adaptations in the etiquette of holding the cup. Teacups tend to have very small, delicate handles that are not really meant for looping finger through. Rather the handle of the teacup should be pinched between the thumb and index finger, with the second finger below it for stability. The fourth and fifth fingers follow the curve of the cup. Do not hold the cup in the palm of your hand, or curl the hand tightly around it in the manner of a coffee mug.

    Back to the pinkie finger; there is conflicting advice on this issue. Some say the little finger should be extended slightly to add grace and balance, while others claim that is just an affectation. Most sources to agree that since the whole point of extending the pinkie finger is to add balance, it is just silly to crook it, or point the little finger straight out."

    Pinkie out or pinkie in...that is the question! I'll just stick to my mug - problem solved!! ;)

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  10. Hey there Lynn! What did the others drink? Iced tea or did they drink coffee, instead of tea?

    I drink both tea and coffee, but more of the latter than the former. I try to have a cup of green tea every other day; and I have a variety of tea flavours here for when the mood takes.

    I don't own one fine china tea cup or tea set. I never have had a set of delicate porcelain tea or coffee cups, saucers etc. I prefer a more earthy, gutsy style of pottery. Each to their own, I guess....individual, personal preferences.

    Now it's time I switched on my coffee machine.....

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  11. We don't do those here, that I know of...and I would prefer the company of wildlife, too! Good for you for venturing out, though. It's rather validating to find that one's own company is superior ;)

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  12. Hi Riot Kitty...It was back in the early Nineties that the dreaded morning tea was held...much water (and tea) under many bridges since then! ;)

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  13. The powerful wimmens group were testing you out.
    Clearly you failed to join their set, lucky you.

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  14. Scary stuff.
    A minefield of hidden rules and invisible transgressions.
    And I thought Australia was largely immune to the comedy of manners, I thought etiquette largely consisted of whether to belch before, during, or after consuming a gulp of beer.
    Maybe it's a gender thing.

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  15. No...you've got it the wrong way around, Adullamite. They failed to pass my test and set! ;)

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  16. Soub, your image of us Aussies in some way has become twisted over the years. You've been fed false information. That giant umbrella you've put over us doesn't cover us all.

    It's the Arabs who enjoy and condone the belching, I think...isn't it? They consider it to be good manners...to show that they've enjoyed their meal. I know some cultures believe it to be so...but not us.

    We only burp in tune to "Waltzing Matilda" on Australia Day after consuming a few icy-cold stubbies. ;)

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  17. There's no place like home,,,eh Lee?
    I agree.

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  18. You're right there, Cliff. I love "home"! :)

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  19. AAAh, antimacassars and gossip.
    You must catch up on who did what to whom and why, where, and when . . .

    It's a game, but we men get to do it with a few longnecks!

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  20. Hi there goatman. Yes...it is all a game, as you say, but I've never been very comfortable playing it; and I'm probably not very good at it, either! ;)

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  21. Hi Lee,

    Oh, I see. it's the Roman's fault. That explains it them.

    Janice~

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  22. Someone has to bear the blame, Janice...why not the Romans? ;)

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