We scheduled it for our last day giving the unusual occasion plenty of time to steep in its well deserved anticipation. As we approached the window lined dining room, I don’t think Julia’s silver shoes ever touched the fancy carpet nor did her fingers ever lose the tight grip on my hand. “Excitement” just doesn’t do her disposition justice. Extreme elation, maybe? The interesting mix to me was the energy oozing out of her and yet the ability to conduct herself as any self respecting little English lady would………..with a perpetual grin and giggle. Her grin only got bigger when I told her they would be bringing everything on the “tea menu” when she was already trying to choose between scones and assorted tea pastries.
To begin this 200 year tradition, our waiter gave us our own tea pots and box of teas from which to choose. Unfortunately, we aren’t HUGE tea lovers. To tell you the truth, I had a hard time passing up the coffee shop in the lobby as we made our way to tea. If I weren’t so “southern”, I would have shown up with a cup. I like the thought of “tea” and have earnestly tried, but growing up in South Georgia, my tea was REALLY sweet and poured over a glass overflowing with ice. But there in the richly colored dining room, I found myself thoroughly enjoying my hot tea. I don’t know if it was the fun we were having, the rainy day or the pairing of the sandwiches, but my THREE cups were delicious.
The first thing that reminded us we weren’t in Texas was when our waiter brought out the first tray of tea sandwiches. He described one of the sandwiches as “blue cheese on pumpernickel garnished with avocado slices”. These avocados looked like no guacamole ingredients Julia had ever seen and the confusion was apparent on her gleaming face. Asparagus. This guy was seriously mixing up his greens. Determined to get the full tea experience, nothing went untasted by Julia. After sampling all four types of sandwiches, she decided she really preferred the bread stripped of what transformed the normal into a dainty “tea sandwich” leaving only the butter and mayonnaise. The “cumcumber-less” ones were her favorite because the bread was snow white. Of course. For me, the edible highlight was the luscious crème anglaise. Oh my. Now that would have been tasty in my tea cup.
We did our best at lady like conversation and I was mesmerized by the glimpses of the lady that I was seeing. I began to ask her questions about herself and we landed on the idea of what she might want to be when she grew up. Ever since the presidential election, she has been enamored with the White House and the position of President. She lifted her tea cup and said, “I want to be the President of the United States.” Well, okay. “That’s wonderful, honey. You know, you could be, but you could also work in the White House in different position too.” This peeked her attention. “Like what, Momma?” Racing for a thought. “Well, you could plan parties, dinners and events for the President’s wife.” My scope of thought is so narrow. Poor girl. “Oh, Momma, I could never do that. (President, yes. Hospitality Coordinator, no) You would have to teach me everything you know.” I was quick to tell her that I would have no idea where to start with things on that level and that she would have to be trained by people who really knew what they were doing. She said, “You mean by someone like Jenna Lee?” “Yes! Someone like Jenna. She does things so beautifully.” Ending there would have been nice, but she went on, “You know, Mom, you really should have let her decorate for B’s birthday…………………….. but you did a fine job yourself.” Done with the lady-like conversation.
As our time went on, Julia’s most repeated sentence was, “I can’t taste the sugar anymore.” Not wanting to interject the negative into our fun afternoon, I would just pass the sugar dish over to her and watch her scoop away stirring in more heaping spoonfuls. After about the 5th time, I realized it wasn’t that she couldn’t TASTE it anymore. She could no longer CRUNCH it between her teeth. There had to have been at least a fourth of a cup sitting on the bottom of her dainty, but now quite heavy, tea cup.
What she had to say about the afternoon was worth sharing-right down to her lengthy discussion where she finds an excuse for her need for sugar. You can tell by the second video, she is all too comfortable.
“Beach of sugar”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So, here’s to tea with my daughter. Maybe one day we will be real “tea girls” truly enjoying the steaming brew and the entire cucumber sandwich. I loved it from the time we decided to do it until the last drop of sugar crunched. I prayerfully hope for a zillion more times like this with her and praying even more she hopes for the same thing.
If you're interested, here is a link that gives you the history of afternoon tea.