Kage Baker loved tea. Not the drink, so much – she tended to have Coke in her teacup, possibly with a nice jot of rum – what she liked was the practice of tea.
The afternoon rituals attendant upon the genial beverage delighted her. Especially sweet teas, with a variety of interesting biscuits and sweeties. Long ago, in our very early adulthood, we found a kind of English cookie that now seem to be extinct: Toybox Biscuits. They were a moderately good sugar cookie, square, carefully frosted in tidy pink, blue and white. On each gleaming tile-like biscuit were stenciled classic Victorian toys and alphabet letters. It was like the best set of blocks ever, but you could eat them. Many weekend afternoons were enriched by a pot of Earl Grey tea and a tin of those biscuits.
What Kage loved about afternoon tea was the little details – special creamers, tiny little dishes for sugar (always in cubes) and condiments, wee faerie tongs. Using dessert forks and demi-tasse spoons. Slicing the lemon thin enough to see through, and removing the seeds before it went to table stacked like glass wagonwheels on its own special plate.
My dear bar staff keeps a teapot full of Earl Grey available at all time; I run on tea during Dickens. I have a sacrosanct pot and a special tea cup; so do the Queen and Mr. Charles Dickens, whenever they visit. I’m not sure how the staff differentiates which is which, but I do know my goddess parlour maid Rose will glare at anyone who grabs the wrong one.
Today I went shopping for goodies for tea. Also our daily lunch – the gentlemen do love their mustard, and we usually serve out 4 or 5 kinds every day. There’s an amazing number of speciality mustards out there – it’s entertaining trying them out. Though the grocery clerks do sometimes look at your order a little oddly when you’re buying 6 kinds of mustard, along with spearmint, orange spice and Earl Grey teas. And your sister is asking thoughtfully, “Did we get the shortbread petticoats?”
Very few American know what a shortbread petticoat is.
We do a version of a tea in the Green Man Parlour every afternoon – it concentrates on sweets, so I suspect what it really is a sort of over-grown nursery tea. It’s for my staff and cast, and anyone they invite – we make most of the goodies from amazing secret recipes, and then fill in the corners with the most interesting chocolates and cookies we can find. It’s loud and rowdy and tastes like heaven – the purpose is to fuel everybody up for the last couple of hours of the performance day. We choose to do this by seriously overdosing on sugar.
Social strictures go by the board; Kage, as my housekeeper, often presided and was not above slapping my hand for sneaking gingerbread cake out of turn. Mr. Dickens tends to eat with his hands as he is running out the door. A certain amount of fencing goes on with pirouette cookies and cake knives, and I have seen people drinking the rum sauce. Which, I must say, is worth the excoriation such a blatant social solipsism occasions …
Kage loved it. I love it. I am looking forward to it enormously. And I will raise a glass of rum sauce to Kage.
Tomorrow: Eating Thanksgiving dinner, packing for Dickens Fair