The thing about afternoon tea–aside from any porcelain-collecting addictions–is that its original purpose was to provide well-to-do ladies with a little sustenance around 4:00 p.m. because they weren’t going to have supper until 8:30 or 9:00…or midnight. They had staffs to prepare the handsome three-layer cake and those dainty little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
We are our own staff. We make that cake or trifle; we make the sandwiches; and then we sit down to eat it all, and we talk for hours. We skip dinner entirely. I love inventing those sandwiches. We usually like to have five different kinds of sandwiches. Only one is essential, the traditional cucumber. After that–well, this is a good opportunity to inspect the contents of the refrigerator and determine if there are leftovers that need to be used up. Tea’s really a very thrifty sort of meal. An ounce or two of smoked salmon, a little sliced turkey, a couple of eggs…hey, you’ve got sandwiches.
But this is a tree-trimming party, so it should be especially festive. We think we’ll have eight to ten guests, and we are thinking of what we’d like to do. I am an indefatigable list-maker. I start every day with a list (see, we all have our little addictions; I figure mine’s cheaper than most).
Here’s my preliminary list of sandwich ideas:
cucumber, of course
egg salad and watercress
smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye
Manchego and green-tomato chutney
Boursin and radish
mini BLTs on brioche
What else? Scones, naturally. We’ll give you a simple but fabulous recipe. How many desserts? Hazel’s gingerbread trifle, definitely. Will we want some shortbread? Possibly; it’s so good with tea. How about something Christmas-y to get us in the mood–maybe with peppermint? Oh, yeah, I guess we will be needing tea also. Earl Grey, anyone? Lapsang souchan?
Oh, I love afternoon tea!