I used to think that summers were the best time for hospitality, since everything is so well lit and beautiful, but I have come to see that winter is the season for hospitality. People need this diversion during cold winter months. It is a perfect time for a Winter Tea. You don’t have to actually drink tea in order to host an Afternoon Tea, and you can even serve the hot punch I share in my homemaking article in tea cups or in the glass snack tray sets that you see here:
These were once popular and now can be purchased at antique and second-hand shops for very reasonable prices.
If you find yourself feeling lonely and sad and lacking in motivation on a dark day, think of others who may be feeling the same, and plan an event in your home for them. Serve small, crustless sandwiches (salmon, cucumber, carrot, and other things), some raw vegetables with a dip, and some sliced pears. A Tea is the least stressful way I know of showing hospitality. You can prepare food quickly, and there aren’t a lot of pots and pans to clean up afterwards. Light up your home, put on some music, and encourage the guests to all talk at once. Listening to the buzz of conversations is a wonderful balm on a cold, dark day. Here’s one of my favorite simple recipes to try at your next Tea:
- 1 loaf of dark, sweet whole grain bread (I like Columbia River or San Juan — Refrigerate the bread, if fresh, for a day, at least)
- 1 package of regular cream cheese or Laughing Cow Swiss cheese wedges
- 2 extra-large carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon (more or less) or fresh, chopped chives
- Mayonnaise if you prefer. (Mayonnaise is the glue that holds fillings together!)
Spread the cream cheese on both sides of the bread slices. This provides a waxy surface for the filling, so it will not leak through the sandwich. Mix the grated carrot with about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, or to your taste, or none at all if you prefer. It works well both ways. Mix in the chives. Now spread the filling to the edges one slice of the prepared bread. Cover with the matching slice, then wrap each sandwich in waxed paper and then again in a dish towel. One towel should be able to wrap about four sandwiches. Refrigerate until just before company arrives. Just before serving, take out the sandwiches and cut them into four slices or squares and serve on a tiered serving dish. (The reason for refrigerating the sandwiches before cutting them is that they slice much more easily and neatly.)
When your “tea ladies” arrive, encourage them to be happy and have a good time. Spills and broken china are not as important as the comfort of your guests. I remember once a lady had stepped in some red paint, unbeknownst to her, before she was invited to a fine house for dinner. She walked all over their white carpet with that stain on the sole of her shoe, and when she discovered it she was most horrified and apologetic. She offerred to pay for the damage, but the hostess was so gracious that she just told her it didn’t matter and encouraged her to have a good time. She didn’t want the woman to feel bad about the stained carpet. Any time a guest has broken something, I’ve thought about how gracious that woman was. People are more important than things.
If you are a hostess, you might be interested in this true story. Some elderly friends and I went to a Tea Room we had heard about it. Unknown to the proprietress, one of my guests was testing out the place to see if she should bring a group of 60 friends she entertains each year. Each order cost $12.00, and had she brought her guests there, the two women who owned the place would have made over $700.00 in one seating. However, during the course of our meal, one of the hostesses behaved in an incredibly rude manner to one of the elderly women who came. The prospective customer took note of this woman’s rude reprimands and sharp replies and decided not to return. You never know who you are entertaining! Your home may not be a professional tea establishment, but it doesn’t make your guests less special or the times you share together less important. Make every moment beautiful, and even the simplest times of companionship become extra special.
(19th Century) by Alexander Rossi