Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tea with Nana

I believe my introduction to tea was the typical one for most Americans.

I can't remember the exact day I had my first cup of hot tea, but one experience sticks out in my mind. I was over at Nana's (my maternal grandmother) watching some television show. I remember sitting on a kitchen chair way too close to the television sipping Lipton tea out of my grandmother's Liberty Blue china teacup.

(Nana had originally acquired the Liberty Blue place settings through her bank, adding pieces until she had enough for several guests; she uses it everyday, three times a day. I never thought of her stuff as antiques, but now I see Liberty Blue ware in antique stores selling for at least $15 a dinner plate.)

From that point on, hot tea was always brewed from a teabag and drunk out of a teacup. Iced tea came one of two ways: brewed from Lipton decaf teabags with plenty of sugar and lemon (Nana's preference) or brewed from Celestial Seasoning's Red Zinger teabags with honey added for sweetness (my Auntie Joyce's favorite). Tea may have come from mass-produced teabags, but it was an integral part of our lives.

However, my introduction to home cooking was not so typical, I guess. I say that because a good number of women in my generation (I guess it's Generation X) don't make food like I do--from scratch. For example, their recipe for potato salad dressing comes from a product called "potato salad dressing" in the grocery condiment aisle. Mine is a variation of my Nana's mayonnaise dressing that I watched her make several times for all sorts of things--egg salad, chicken salad, potato salad, and cole slaw. It's a basic mixture of mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika that's finger-lickin good (I happen to really like mayonnaise). I tweak the seasonings a bit depending on the salad's composition--for coleslaw I add cider vinegar and some sugar; for chicken salad I add some lemon zest and fresh herbs; for egg salad it's mustard and dill weed.

And pies were ALWAYS homemade from crust to filling--NEVER store-bought. Now, I know some people struggle with pastry crusts, but in my family it's genetic--all the women in the family from my mom's side make REALLY GOOD pie crust. (In fact, Nana, my aunt, and my mom still follow the basic recipe of Nana Edwards--my great-grandmother: shortening, flour, salt, and water ; it's the one that's in the old Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. I make that one sometimes; I usually make one that has some sugar, an egg, and butter--I try to avoid hydrogenated stuff like shortening and margarine--and eat the real thing.)

Anyway, back to why I'm rambling on about my Nana's cooking: she taught me a lot about cooking by just watching her. How important it was to learn how to cook; how good made-from-scratch food tasted; how cooking could show people the depth of your love for them.

So, I'm making a date with Nana for tea. She's eaten my cooking many times over the last few years at family gatherings and such. But I'm going to have a tea party with my Nana--tea for two. I don't think she's ever experienced a tea party before. Maybe she's had looseleaf tea...but that would have been decades ago.

I'm bringing my Victorian teapot given to me by my Great-Aunt Dot (my dad's aunt) and my new teakettle to brew the tea. And we'll use Nana's Liberty Blue plates and teacups for the meal--just like we do every time I stop over for "just a snack."

What will we have? Well, some looseleaf tea, definitely made-from-scratch chicken salad, maybe some homemade tomato soup (or Campbell's--I'll see what Nana prefers), and absolutely some dessert because Nana has a sweet tooth.

Don't worry if you can't make it. I'll post the recipes and if you want, you can still have lunch with us around 1:00 on Monday. bjh


Yellow Rose Arbor said...

How sweet of you to treat your Nana to Tea for Two! I'm sure she will thoroughly enjoy it!

I'm happy to hear you cook from scratch! We've got to keep cooking from scratch from becoming a lost art!!


La Tea Dah said...

Your Nana is going to love your tea party! She sounds like a wonderful person and you are so fortunate to have her in your life. I enjoyed hearing about your Liberty Blue china. My mother, sis, and I collected odds and ends pieces of it back in the 70's when it came from the grocery store (costing some low price after buying so many dollars worth of groceries). I now have all mom's set and mine --- and last year added the missing pieces (thanks to eBay) and have the complete set. There's something so special about "blue and white" when it comes to china! Anyway. . .have a great tea party! And I LOVE your teapot, btw.


Grace Yaskovic said...

wonderful post!!!

Yellow Rose Arbor said...

I'm back! Glad I came back by, that tea pot is absolutely gorgeous!! You're not going to believe this but I have a vase that was my Nana's that is identical to the tea pot!! I'll have to post it soon.


Gae Ellen Marley said...

I am looking for tea cups and tea pots with Sweet Pea flowers. Have you seen any.....