Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gallons of tea and piles of sweets

Those are the hallmarks of Mother's Day in our family these days. A little backstory: about four years ago, my sister and I brought my mother to the Chateau Laurier for Mother's Day tea. It was lovely and delicious... and expensive. Not that she isn't worth it (hi Mom!) but the following year I had quit my job, and was working on a limited budget, and came up with the idea of creating an afternoon tea from scratch, at home, with my sister's help. Both of us love to bake, so it seemed an ideal solution. Plus, we reasoned, what could be better than the gift of our time? Time spent preparing to food, and time spend enjoying it with Mom. We added my grandma to the guest list and it became a lovely girly foursome. A tradition was born.

We did it for two years running, then last year we went back to the Chateau Laurier, just for kicks. We had a great time, but both J and I missed the baking and preparation and the relaxed atmosphere of doing it ourselves. This year, of course, we were able to do it at the new house, with far more space to work in. It was heaven, having two of us in the kitchen and not feeling like clowns stuffed into a VW bug. Plus, we had enough counter, fridge and table space for everything, where in the apartment we used to have to stack stuff very creatively.

The menu sticks to the same basic formula every year, with some room for variation in the individual "courses". There are always, always scones with double cream and jams. It's not tea without them. We always begin with fruit, though the type changes yearly. Three kinds of finger sandwich - this year it was cucumber with dill cream cheese, faux crab salad, and smoked turkey with blackcurrant mayonnaise. Two sweet nothings complete the bill of fare - in the past we've done tarts, which are tasty and cute but one heck of a lot of fuss and bother (again, Mom, you're totally worth it!) so this year I had the brilliant idea of making chocolate macaroons, which are one of my mother's favourite things ever. It was my first time making them, and I was very impressed with the results. I'll be doing those again for sure. J made her famous lemon-buttermilk pound cake, which was impeccable as always, moist and crumbly and lemony.

And of course, we wash it all down with gallons of tea. Chris and I keep a massive selection of herbal and decaffeinated teas in the house. Here's a shot of the artfully arranged collection:

And here's the tea table before we began devouring its contents. Note the cards for Mom and Grandma.

Close-up of the tea sandwiches and scones. I bought this tiered stand for the first year's tea and I just adore it:

We sat and ate and chatted about a million things. It was too chilly to sit outside in our little yard, sadly, but the sun shone brightly in through our back window and we sat there for hours. It was utterly civilized and fun.

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