Thursday, 8 November 2012
And then we had tea . . .
One of the things I love most about November is the taking of afternoon tea. Now that the daylight hours are shorter . . . more often than not we have our main meal of the day much earlier than in the rest of the year. It's all got to do with natural light. Because I take a lot of food photographs . . . and the daylight fades quickly in the late of the afternoon, dinner is ready at lunch time. Todd doesn't mine and neither do I . . . and in fact we somehow seem to prefer and embrace it, and as I write this I ask myself . . . should we not do it all year round? I don't know . . .
Of course because we are Latter Day Saints, we don't drink conventional tea, or black tea as it is called, but that does not prevent us from enjoying herbal blends and all the rituals which attend brewing up a good cup of tea. A nice cup of herbal tea can be just as satisfying and as ritualistic as any other cup . . . and often is.
I have a lovely little teapot which we bought a while back. It's a For Life Stump Teapot. We had seen them in a cafe in Chester one day and I was greatly intrigued by their design. They have a special removable stainless steel infuser built inside . . . which I thought to be quite efficient and so, I hunted one out. I had typically wanted a blue one . . . but for some reason the orange one arrived. I did not quibble. Everything happens for a reason and it was obvious to me that the orange one was wanting to live in our home, and so it stayed and has become a very much appreciated and loved member of our family . . .
Late in the afternoon as the sun begins to dip down in the darkening sky, a chill begins to creep across the room and we know it is time to build up the fire and put the kettle on. Oh . . . we only have an electric fire . . . tis true, and it's not quite as atmospheric as a real fire would be, but with it's flickering flame, it does help to set the mood as I wander into the kitchen and begin to lay out the tea tray. I have splurged in recent months and bought us in a few nice lovely bags of loose herbal teas . . . what will it be today . . . the blood orange . . . or the berry blues.
The blood orange is especially nice on really cold days, with it's spicy orange fragrance, deep red colour . . . and it's spiced fruity flavour. The berry one is equally as moreish though, with it's undertones of blueberry pie, and apples . . . it's sometimes difficult to choose, but choose we must, and we are never disappointed. A good tea is like that. It never disappoints.
Some days we munch on toasted teacakes with our tea . . . the bottoms still soft, the tops toasted golden brown with little crisp burnt edges from the grill . . . butter gilding the spiced and fruited lily with it's decadent glory. One feels quite naughty when indulging in butter these days, and it matters not if it adorns a tea cake or a crumpet . . . naughty is as naughty does, and we enjoy them both, although to be sure if it is a crumpet we feast on, a pot of jam is included on the tray, with a little spoon for dipping . . .
As the kettle sputters to a boil, I dip into the sideboard to bring out the cups. Proper tea should be drunk in a proper cup, don't you think? Not a mug, or a glass . . . but a proper china cup. I have a few and have long held them in only the highest esteem. I do love china tea cups and saucers. We may forgo the nicety's of real black tea, and clove pricked lemon slices . . . and cubed sugar . . . but we shall drink it in real china cups, and in doing so prolong the ritual of afternoon tea which as old as time itself it seems, and brings back so many happy memories.
Back in the valley a knock on the door, no matter the time of day . . . meant that the kettle was put on. You could not have a visit and a natter without one, and though the visitor might protest that they hadn't meant to intrude, they are never slow in taking off their coat and settling down into a chair at the kitchen table. It is quite simply the done thing . . . and of course one must always break out the biscuit tin as well, for what is a cup of tea without a tiny treat shared with it. Dunking is permitted . . .
I remember occasions, when I was a girl . . . not so long ago and yet a lifetime ago . . . when my mother would try to read our tea leaves and regale us with stories shared and told over cups of tea thru eons of our family history. Baby's, visitors, romances and death's . . . all foretold in the pattern of the leaves upon the fragile china cups . . . a grandmother who would never let anyone leave any tea in a cup for fear of the bad luck it might bring . . . and so she must sup it all up, be it hers or another's. I love to hear these stories and I carry them, all these years later in my heart. They are a part of the fabric which makes us a family.
But I digress . . . lost in thought of yesteryear, but it is good to remember where we have been at times . . . it helps us to understand where we are don't you think?
The tea tray is carried into the lounge and set upon a table. Shall I be mother, I laugh . . . as I pour that fragrant liquid heat from our fat little tea pot into the cups. That phrase alone conjuring up happy glimpses into the past and a myriad of memory. There may have been an ocean . . . and several decades between our years . . . and still, these things are the same . . . "Shall I be mother?" It speaks to both our souls . . . this late afternoon ritual of tea. It is a shared beauty, a shared love . . .
Oh, I shall never drink tea from a bag if I can help it ever again . . . they taste of paper and string. I only want a proper cup and all that it entails and brings to the table . . . leaves and boiled water. Why is it that the simple things in life are the things which bring us the most joy? I lean back and sigh . . . I know not why, but am grateful that they do . . .
The sun is slipping down the sky
And sinking out of sight,
I watch the ever-deepening dusk
Fast fading into night.
The trees stand out in silhouette
Against the evening sky,
A lonesome bird speeds on it's way
I hear it's plaintive cry.
A quiet peace steals over all
This is the hour of rest,
Nothing seems to move or stir
In burrow, hedge or nest,
As the shades of evening fall
And shadows dance and play,
Nature gives a benediction
On the closing day.
I am talking economy over in The English Kitchen today, with a variety of simple and economical recipes and a new way to help save money on your food bill.