Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tea Time

“How about if you take me to tea?”
It was a response to an innocent question I had asked my wife. Little did I know what it would involve. We had asked each other what kind of activities we would most like to do, regardless of whether the other liked them or not, and then we each determined what we would be willing to do from each other’s list.
I wanted to go to a restaurant that served a lot of red meat.
My general disposition is: Meat, potatoes, Soda; don’t bother me: I’m eating.
My wife has daintier tastes. I chomp, she nibbles.
So we’re talkin’ tea, huh? I can do that.
“Sure I’ll take you out to tea. I know this great little neighborhood coffee shop that serves tea too. We can go there…..”
“No, no, no. Not just going and having tea anywhere. There is a special place to go for it. This is High Tea.”
This was beginning to sound ominous. High Tea? With Capitol Letters? Are there drugs involved? Do they spike it or something? Hey, is this legal?
“High Tea is a Victorian tradition.”
“Do I have to wear a tie?” I whined. I hate ties. I don’t even know where the last tie I bought about 10 years ago is anymore. I would have to clean the closet for that. Cleaning the closet could take weeks, maybe even months. Maybe there was a way out of this after all.
“No you don’t have to wear a tie.”
Curses! Foiled again.
“You go ahead and call the place. I think you have to make reservations.”
Reservations? To drink tea?
I called the place, and sure enough you had to make reservations.
“Do you have any openings for this Sunday?” I asked.
“Oh no. Our weekends are booked up for the next 4 months.”
What is going on here? We’re talkin’ tea, for cryin out loud!
“Uh, ok. Well, do you have anything available during the week?”
“Oh yes. We should have some available then.”
“Good. How about Tuesday?”
“Yes we do. We have tables available in all of our sessions that day.”
Sessions? Does this include psychoanalysis or something?
“What are your “sessions”?”
“We have eleven to one, one to three, and three to five.”
“Uh, ok. How about the three to five on Tuesday?”
Two hours? How much tea do they expect you to drink?
“All right. We have you on our books for Tuesday from three to five.”
I thanked her and hung up. This was getting curiouser and curiouser.
I told my wife, and she was very happy to be going. She had apparently wanted to do this for a long time.
The day finally came, and we arrived at the tea place. It was a Victorian kind of gift shop as well, and in the middle of the store was a large gazebo type garden setting. There was a mural painted on the back wall that showed a peaceful garden. Several tables were set up with china tea cups and saucers.
I felt like a bull in a china shop. I was afraid if I moved too suddenly I would bump a shelf that would fall over with a domino effect and destroy the store. However, the hostess saw us and asked us if we had reservations. We were the only ones in the place at that point so I didn’t really think it made much difference anyway. We were seated at a table for two and given menus. There were a lot of teas. Usually I just opted for whatever was available as long as it wasn’t herbal. Herbal tastes like last weeks lawn clippings. This time they had some that sounded ok, and it was different from the usual teabag. I ordered my tea and a cheese and fruit plate. Sue ordered her tea with a dessert plate.
The tea came first. They gave each of us our little tea pot. I almost started singing that teapot song I learned as kid, but it doesn’t really sound good in bass.
I have always laughed when I would see someone pickup a tea cup and stick their pinky out, but here I was faced with a dilemma. The handle on the teacup was too small for me to fit any of my fingers through. I tried, but there was just no way to force my finger through that handle without breaking it, and the china looked expensive. I am used to handling a coffee mug that has room for me to get at least two of my fingers through the handle. I found that if I held the handle of the cup between my thumb and forefinger I could manage it ok, but then I didn’t have any place to put my other fingers. And guess what happened to my pinky? It stuck out! Grrr. I was trying to figure out some way to drink this tea in a masculine style. I briefly toyed with the idea of just taking the lid off the pot and drinking straight out of that, but that would have embarrassed Sue. I found a solution when I realized that the teacup was well suited to the palm of my hand, so I just held the whole cup rather than the handle. It was hot and somewhat painful, but, by golly, my pinky didn’t stick out.
Then our food plates were served.
By this time I was getting used to the concept that this was a “dainty” event.
Sue’s “dessert plate” consisted of about four cookies, a chocolate candy, and a miniature turnover. It was very tastefully arranged and looked very nice, but in terms of actual food content there was probably about 2 ounces on the plate.
My plate consisted of several varieties of cheese, fruit and crackers. At least my plate was full. It actually wasn’t bad. There was only one cheese on there I didn’t like. It was brie. It just tastes too weird for me, and when it melts it looks like something the dog coughed up.
They had listed on the menu another item called “tea sandwiches”. I had been warned ahead of time by a friend that these were in no way to be considered “sandwiches” in the sense that I thought of them. They were “dainty”, and were not to be confused in any way with the normal deli sandwich that I was picturing. I saw the truth of this when I looked to see the waitress standing behind the counter duck down and stuff a whole sandwich in her mouth.
“Wow you got a lot more than I did.” Said Sue.
“Yeah. Guess I lucked out on that one.” I replied.
After we were done eating she asked, “So are you full?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. It was only cheese and crackers after all. Not even any meat. How could that be filling? There is no such thing as a filling meal to me if it does not contain meat. I was ready for the main course, but that was all there was.
This presented a problem for which I had a quick solution.
“Let’s go to a restaurant for dinner.” It was 5:15.
“You just ate!”
“That was just an appetizer! I have to have more than that.” This is where my mom would have started telling me about all the starving kids in Africa when I was a kid. The last time she said that to me I took the rest of the sandwich that I didn’t want to eat and put it in an envelope addressed to “all the starving children in Africa”. I wasn’t joking either; I really wanted it to go to them. I doubt the mail man appreciated the sentiment when he opened the mailbox that I had dropped it in.
But before I could even think about going to a restaurant I had to figure out how to get out of the store. This was a challenge.
My wife has always loved the “Victorian” style of decoration, and since this was that kind of store there was no such thing as a straight line to the exit. They had specialty teas of course, and soaps and candles and stationary and utensils and flowers and china and clocks and baskets ….and…and… I forgot the rest. We brought some of it home (sigh). This was pretty expensive tea.
Well, we made it out of there a few minutes after they closed. They locked the door behind us.
Now it’s my turn. There’s a steakhouse in a neighboring town that I’ve been hearing about for years. All they serve is steak. Big steak. Nothing but steak. Really good steak. There’s sawdust on the floor. They don’t serve tea or anything remotely similar. They have big knives and forks. They have big mugs that I can hold with all my fingers!
Probably after that I’ll be ready to handle another High Tea.
©Dan Bode 2002