Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Nursery Tea for Mother


By Bessie Baker Cook, The Pleasant Times Food Editor

Photo Above: A sweet plate for a Mother's Day treat. The slices strawberries and whipped cream are served in a small sugar bowl. An antique cup holds berry flavored herbal tea. The pink tea-plate holds a simple scone with cream cheese and apricot jam, and home-made almond chocolate candy (melted chocolate with chopped nuts mixed in, then chilled until hard).

One of the nicest things I had heard of was a girl of perhaps 10, who, when her mother was obliged to go out to work for someone one day, anticipated her arrival home by setting up a tea table out-of-doors. The tired mother was greeted with a tea party with home-baked goodies, and surely felt appreciated at home.

Though I anticipate there will be many fancy tea parties to celebrate Mother's day, there are many simple ways that a young person can put together a tea for their mother on this occasion. Even children who cannot cook can put together a tea party. The secret is, to make things dainty. Crust-less sandwiches, small and very flavorful bite-sized items, and attentive touches such as paying attention to the way things are sliced, or adding a garnish, are the things that make a tea party seem so refined. A variety of savory and sweet is best, though some teas are simply dessert teas.

Use pretty dishes, that you are allowed to use, and keep in mind that you can be inventive by using things differently (such as the little sugar bowl used as a small cup for berries, in the above photo). A little play tea set, though too small to drink out of, could be used attractively in a big tea party. Use the little plates for pats of butter at each place, or to hold a little chocolate truffle or dinner mint. Use little toy tea cups to hold individual servings of honey, or jam, or cream, or a wee bit of dessert such as cake and cream or berries. 

Even ordinary dishes and cups can become special by placing them on a pretty colored cloth. As long as the food is good, and the company pleasant, no one will mind the every-day dishes!

Keep in mind that even a slice of store-bought cake, or a home-baked muffin sliced in quarters, if served with care and on a pretty plate, can seem just as special as any high tea.
Won't You Have Some? Won't You Have Some? Art Print Morgan, Frederick Buy at AllPosters.com
Here are a couple of ideas for simple tea party menus, and I tried to include easy things that a little child could even do. These I call "Nursery Teas" because they are fun and easy treats for tea-time with a child's tea set (keep this in mind if you are an older sister!). A word of caution for smaller children: if anything needs slicing, Daddy or an older child should do it, or bring whole washed fruit to the tea table, and let Mother do the honors. And of course common sense tells us that little ones should not be boiling the water for the teapot!

  • Peanut butter jelly sandwiches, cut with a cookie cutter
  • Washed whole strawberries  or apple slices dusted with cinnamon
  • Cheese slices with crackers

  • A turkey or ham sandwich, with an herb added to the mayonnaise (such as basil) to make it special. Cut the crusts off and cut sandwiches into triangles.
  • Sliced pear sprinkled with nutmeg 

  • Crackers and peanut butter (or just plain butter) with honey drizzled on top
  • Baby carrots, broccoli or cauli flowerettes, celery sticks
  • Veggie dip made of mayonnaise and herbs, or sour cream and herbs, etc. or salad dressing, in a small pretty dish

  • Softened cream cheese on raisin bread toast
  • orange sections
Those with a pantry well stocked with snacks probably have enough things to make or add to a tea party, such as applesauce, fruit salads or coctails, canned fruit (have daddy weild the can opener), commercial cookies or muffins, cheese crackers, etc. 

An older child that can bake, can find any recipe for scones or even biscuits, and serve them plain with butter and jam, or whipped cream. (The cream can be whipped without dragging out appliances- simply pour the cream into a jar with a tight lid, and pass it around from brother to sister to shake wildly. After a few rounds, the cream will be whipped.) A scone or biscuit can be made "fancier" by adding nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, or a dollop of jam in the middle before baking.

Everybody has their favorite sort of sweet, but keep in mind that fruit is a colorful and tasty sweet in itself. No need to worry about a lack of cake and icing. If a sweet is desired, an older child can make cookies or brownies, and done small, they are very welcome with a cup of tea.

Mother is often left with the clean-up. If a child would keep in mind to rinse dishes as they get dirtied, and make sure to wipe up any spills while cooking, this will be an extra gift to Mother!

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