When my grandma was in her 90’s, she moved from her home into Cowichan Lodge. She adjusted to the move very well and spent many happy years there. Her only complaint about living at the lodge was that she couldn’t get a decent cup of tea. Tea at the lodge was made in the kitchen and then delivered to the residents by trolley, in metal pots. My grandma deplored the use of metal pots for making tea and disliked the lukewarm temperature the tea attained in the course of its journey to her room.
It was my habit, if possible, to visit Grandma once each week. When I went to see her, I took with me all the accoutrements of a proper tea: tablecloth and napkins, china tea cups, a tea pot and tea cozy, good tea, cream and sugar, silver teaspoons, small sandwiches and some baked goods. I would set up our tea in the sun room at the end of her wing.
Grandma and I both came to look forward to our weekly tea ritual. It gave us a pleasant setting for our visit and an opportunity to enjoy each others’ company. Grandma’s been gone for some years now, but I still have fond memories of those afternoon teas.
This week, I’m catering a funeral tea. Once again, I’m making small, crustless sandwiches and dainty baked goods; gathering together all the materials that make a good tea special. As I work, I find myself remembering those visits to the lodge and thinking happy thoughts about my grandma. It makes for pleasant work.
Since it has been some time since I last made tea sandwiches, I spent this afternoon revisiting a favourite cookbook of mine: “The Afternoon Tea Book” by Michael Smith. This is not the Michael Smith we Canadians know from Food Network but is, rather, an English food historian. He wrote for the New York Times, and for Homes and Gardens. He also worked as a presenter on the BBC and served as a consultant on several well known TV series. In “The Afternoon Tea Book” he provides not only recipes but also an illuminating look at both the history of tea and of the afternoon tea ritual as it came to be established in England.
I had a lovely afternoon. I enjoyed re-reading all those interesting historical notes and revisiting recipes as familiar to me as old friends. More importantly though, I enjoyed some happy memories of time spent with a very special woman. I’m blessed to have had her in my life.