To celebrate spring, I thought I would share a column I wrote in 2000 as a fictitious character from the late 1890s. In glancing back in time, my intent is to encourage us to pause and notice what we often miss in our hectic hurry-up world. So, without further adieu, here is "Abigail Bradshaw" writing to you through a time portal:
A Springtime Tea
flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,
teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,
how akin they are to human things." (Longfellow)
Springtime Felicitations! In gathering up a bouquet of sunny yellow forsythia this morning, I was reminded of Longfellow's poem. After the long, cold winter months, flowers are a testament to life's renewal, bringing about a bit of renewal for those humans who stop to notice them! Arranging the flowers in a cut-glass vase for the parlor, I found myself suddenly bursting with the desire to fill my house with their fragrant glory and invite some friends to afternoon tea. After all the busyness of spring-cleaning consuming our lives lately, it should provide a lovely break for one and all.
To aid in the planning, I quickly retrieved my 1889 book, Queen of the Household, and leafed through the pages to the section on tea. Therein, Mrs. M.W. Ellsworth suggests,
"The tea parties of our grandmothers' days, copied from the high teas of their English ancestors is a very old fashion, now very generally revived among some of our best people, by whom they are made very enjoyable occasions.
"The table should be spread with a white cloth, fruit and flowers in stands, berries and peaches in their season in cut glass dishes, and all these supplemented with muffins, waffles or cream toast.
"In seating guests, . . .the places may be marked by cards, bearing the names of those who are to occupy them. The dainty, hand-painted cards, with appropriate designs and mottoes, add to the beauty of the table and set the conversation ball rolling, besides furnishing pretty souvenirs. A pretty custom has recently been introduced of colored teas."
With those words, I have decided I will have a "colored" tea, choosing yellow as my overall theme. The bright sunny mood of the forsythia will set the focus. Centered on white china luncheon plates, flower-folded crisp yellow linen napkins will continue the color theme. Water-color painted daffodils on the corners of place cards backed with paper lace will add to the cheery setting. I believe I will instruct Martha, my housekeeper, to make up Egg-salad Tea Sandwiches, Sponge Cake with Lemon Filling, Maids of Honor Tarts and Pineapple Ices to serve, I may even have her try a new receipt I just discovered for rolled Nasturtium Sandwiches. Perhaps before I close this missive to begin penning my invitations, I will lay down the receipt for you for your own Springtime Tea. With the added inspiration of all these shop listings from which to choose such beautiful items for your own tea -- including special items for dressing up in honor of the event -- your Springtime Tea is sure to be a success!
"Two dozen nasturtium blossoms
Four tablespoons mayonnaise
"Trim crusts from white bread. Spread the bread with mayonnaise and layer the nasturtium blossoms over the top. Roll up. Makes 6-8 tea sandwiches." (adapted from the book, The Hostess of Today, 1899)
Most Sincerely Yours,
(Used with permission -- Copyright, 2000-2010, Judi Brandow, all rights reserved.)