It’s a Tea Party

A local ladies club is having a Tea Party soon. No, this isn’t the new kind of tea party where politicians stand up and babble on and on. But the traditional Tea Party with real tea, and food.

We often hear the terms High and Low Tea, so let’s find out what High and Low Tea is all about. The following text comes from and gives us a short and concise version of just what “Tea Time” means to them:

History of High Tea - History English Afternoon Tea

High Tea is often a misnomer. Most people refer to afternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds regal and lofty, when in all actuality, high tea, or "meat tea" is dinner. High tea, in Britain, at any rate, tends to be on the heavier side. American hotels and tea rooms, on the other hand, continue to misunderstand and offer tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when they offer a "high tea."

Afternoon tea (because it was usually taken in the late afternoon) is also called "low tea" because it was usually taken in a sitting room or withdrawing room where low tables (like a coffee table) were placed near sofas or chairs generally in a large withdrawing room. There are three basic types of Afternoon, or Low Tea:

Cream Tea - Tea, scones, jam and cream

 Light Tea - Tea, scones and sweets

. Full Tea - Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert

In England, the traditional time for tea was four or five o'clock and no one stayed after seven o'clock. Most tea rooms today serve tea from three to five o'clock. The menu has also changed from tea, bread, butter and cakes, to include three particular courses served specifically in this order:

Savories - Tiny sandwiches or appetizers 

Scones - Served with jam and Devonshire or clotted cream

Pastries - Cakes, cookies, shortbread and sweets

Historically, High Tea was for the working man. Usually he would work straight through lunch and would be quite hungry when he got home. So immediately dinner was served in the dining room, on the high table, with tea.

I have a cookbook called Aunt Louise’s Tea-Time Treats, Old Fashioned Recipes for the Modern Woman by Virginia Lee. Interestingly, Virginia Lee is the pen name of Lois Armes and Virginia H. Oliver. They are the co-authors of the Aunt Louise Mystery Series. As a broadly talented woman Aunt Louise always has favorite foods during her adventures in solving the mysteries. Virginia Lee published this cookbook to give the readers a chance to make some of the delicacies their favorite sleuth was enjoying in print.

Aunt Louise’s Tea Time Treats is largely taken from Housekeeping in the Bluegrass-A New and Practical Cookbook first published as a fundraising effort by the Ladies of the First Presbyterian Church, Paris, KY in 1875. Whew, are you all confused yet? In the 1800’s southern ladies would often entertain each other with tea parties. The tradition is making a comeback all across America.

One of the delights in this quaint cook book is Benedictine Spread. This recipe was not in the original edition of the book. The mother of one of the contributors worked at Louisville Gas and Electric Company from 1910 to 1917 and would often take lunch at Jennie Benedict’s Tea House. She begged for this recipe and it is said that Jennie herself wrote it out on a scrap piece of paper.

And after all of that, we now have this recipe for you. I have updated this so as to be easier for you to prepare, (example: there were no food processors in 1875 or the early 1900s).

Benedictine Spread

1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature1 med cucumber1 med vidalia onion3 Tbl mayonnaise Salt (if necessary) A few drops of green food coloring One loaf Pepperidge Farm, thin sliced white bread

Peel onion and rough chop, puree in food processor then set in a sieve over a bowl to catch the juice. Peel and seed the cucumber and do the same as with the onion. You may want to force the juice out with a spoon, or you may place the pulp into some cheese cloth and squeeze it out.

Slowly add 1/2 of each juice to cream cheese, whipping thoroughly. Taste, and add more juice if necessary, but remember you do not want the mixture too soft or runny. Mix in the mayo and adjust the salt level. Mix in the green food coloring to the desired shade.

Take each slice of bread, cut off the crusts and roll flat. Using room temp, unsalted butter spread a very thin layer on one side of each piece of bread. Now spread a somewhat thicker (but still thin) layer of the Benedictine Spread on top of the butter and roll up. The butter acts as a moisture barrier to keep the bread from getting soggy. Cut in half and serve on a fancy platter. To add style you can cut each in half on the bias and then trim the ends to match.

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