“The very act of preparing and serving tea encourages conversation. The little spaces in time created by teatime rituals call out to be filled with conversation. Even the tea itself–warm and comforting-inspires a feeling of relaxation and trust that fosters shared confidences.”
—Emilie Barnes, If Teacups Could Talk
As a little girl my grandmother (whom we affectionately call “Honey Mama”) would host tea parties in her kitchen for me and my cousins. She had a small tea table and chairs that were just our size that she would set with her fine china and silver tea set. She’d bring a vase full of flowers in from her Williamsburg garden and make tea sandwiches, cheese and crackers and always had an assortment of gourmet cookies (I vividly remember Mint Milanos).
In recent years my grandparents moved to an assisted living home and several of us were handed down some of their most treasured belongings—me, her china and that silver tea set that we drank so many cups of tea out of.
Last week (with my baby sister still in town from college), I invited Honey Mama over for a surprise tea party at my house.
It was so special to see her realize that we were hosting her a tea party—something that she had done so many times for us. Also, to see the things that she had handed down to me were special to me and that I treasured them just as she had for so many years.
I gave myself $100 to host the luncheon. Luckily I had all the decorations, place settings and used linens I already had. I spent about $60 on food and roughly $40 on flowers. I made it super simple and picked up the majority of the food (only making sugar cookies and assembling the sandwiches). I picked up chicken salad, pimento cheese and cheese wafers from The Picnic and bought assorted cookies and fruit at the grocery.
I got flowers from one of my favorite Nashville secret spots, Import Flowers. Since my budget was so small and I really wanted to make a big impact, I bought carnations and baby’s breath (some of the cheapest flowers available). I love carnations when they are bunched together and I think that baby’s breath looks beautiful by itself, like a snowy cloud—soft and airy.
I filled four teacups (my grandmother informed me they were cream soup bowls because they had two handles) with oasis and bunched carnations into mounds and used them as small arrangements down the table.
We chatted for almost three hours about growing up, the importance of family and stories upon stories of my grandmother’s life. We sipped Earl Grey, Paris and cinnamon tea, munched on cucumber sandwiches and lemon squares and had plenty of leftovers for Honey Mama to take back to share with her girlfriends.
What are some family traditions that you hope to carry on?