It’s another Afternoon Tea

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For thousands of years people have been drinking tea and enjoying the tea ceremony, but I think there’s something about afternoon tea that makes it just right for us today as well.  The health conscious should approve of tea’s natural goodness and those of us who are busy, busy, busy should enjoy the restful interlude it offers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  A tea ceremony has the ability to enrich everyday life and create  gilded moments.  Creating a tea ritual for ourselves is a very lovely civilized affair. but it’s also very nice to share the experience with others and though we can meet those others at elegant hotels or charming tea shops there is something very special about inviting people into our own homes.  It’s The Art of Hospitality,  an art (like the Art of Letter Writing) that is beautiful and should never die.

But who to invite?  We can invite anyone and everyone, old friends, new would-be friends, the young, the old and the in- between.

It’s easy.  Afternoon tea can be as simple or elaborate as you choose – a pretty china tea cup with a few slices of cinnamon toast would work just fine, but today I feel like fussing a bit.

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I recently bought a neat pan from William Sonoma that makes brownies or other simple cakes into interesting elongated shapes.  Today seemed like the perfect day to try out this pan.

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And I’m happy to say the pan worked very well. Aren’t these brownies cute?

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A little powder sugar to dress them up and a very simple recipe can look quite snazzy on the tea table.

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I always like to experiment with at least one new recipe for my tea parties so today that recipe is for a carrot cake and the recipe is a keeper.  Let me share the recipe with you.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:  2 eggs, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 5 tbsp. vegetable oil, generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour, 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrot, 1 tsp. cinnamon and scant 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the topping:  1/2 cup cream cheese, 3/4 stick butter,1/2 cup confectioners sugar, grated rind of 1 lime,toasted coconut and grated lime

Process:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line a 2 lb. loaf pan or a 7 in round cake pan.

2.Beat together the eggs and sugar until very creamy.  Add the oil and beat hard.  Fold  in the remaining ingredients and turn into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top,  then slightly hollow out the middle to avoid a very domed top on the finished cake.  Bake for 35-40 minutes   until golden and well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

3.  Remove the cake from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  To make the  topping beat the ingredients together until light and creamy and spread over the top of the cake.  Make a pattern with the prongs of a fork.

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In addition to the brownies and carrot cake I also whipped up two other goodies to serve to my guests.  These chicken salad sandwiches served on wheat bread provided a little sustenance to the menu…

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as did little phyllo cups of egg salad.

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I also served my stand by recipe for scones.  I like to serve the scones with Devon clotted cream but today I decided to whip up ordinary heavy cream instead …and I always serve the scones with Bonne Maman’s Raspberry preserves.  Yum!

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Now it’s time for a little art play.  I dig out my watercolor pencils and create place cards for myself and my guests.  I’m matching the flowers on the name tags to the flowers on the table.

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These little touches make an afternoon tea special.

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So the food is prepared and the table is set and now all that’s needed are my guests. Today those guests are of the younger generation for as I said before afternoon tea is for everyone and if we adults don’t expose children to the finer things in life (like afternoon tea) who will?  Besides, I believe it’s important to have friends of all ages.  My older friends teach and inspire me and they make me feel young and my younger friends help me lighten up and remember what it was like to be young. Diversity is important, all kinds of diversity.

Well here they are now.

All these young ladies are angels and singing angels at that for they all sing in the Church choir I conduct.  How lucky I am to meet so many sweet young people (and they’re not all girls either). My next children’s tea will hopefully have a few boys attending for as I said before, afternoon tea is for everyone!

I can remember being eight or ten or 13 years old, can’t you?  I appreciated adults taking me seriously, talking to me and listening with interest to what I had to say. Afternoon tea is a great time for friends to share and get to know each other better.  Taking time, in person, with people we care about becomes its own reward.

I find creating the afternoon tea ceremony for guests lets me offer my friends and acquaintances what often seems in short supply these days – attention and the wish to please. Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but tea can be infinitely variable in style and complexity.  The food served can be simply made or for that matter even purchased.  As in so many things it’s really the thought that counts most.

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The time flies at my tea party and before I know it the party is over.  There’s a little washing up to do, but not much.

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And as the last tea pot is set on a towel to dry I’m left with a warm, satisfied feeling.  This feeling comes over me whenever I dabble in The Art of Hospitality. I’ve had such fun today.  I can’t help but start wondering about my next tea.  Who shall I invite? What shall I serve and where shall I serve it?  There’s much fun to anticipate.

So enjoy your daily afternoon teas but  I hope you invite others, young and old, to share the experience now and then.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles he joy.

It really does!

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