My husband's parents were both born in England, and this has led our household to indulge in several British treats, among them strong tea (regardless of age), Christmas crackers (with silly crowns worn for entire holiday meal), and Marmite. Probably the most rewarding Britishism, though, has been the concept of high tea, or as it has come to be known in our household, the Tea Dinner.
My mother-in-law, particularly when my kids were very young, would invite friends around to see her grandkids when we were in town to visit, and would often serve what she termed High Tea. I know that definitions of High Tea vary widely, probably based on region, era, and class, but in this case it involves a late afternoon meal including a big pot of tea and plenty of little dishes, both sweet and savory, such as cold chicken, cheese sandwiches, cookies, and fruit. The children found it magical, and always ate well. They've also become fans of very fancy hotel teas, the kind with the cucumber sandwiches and tiered cake racks and Devon cream. To which I say: What's not to like?
One typically flustered evening, we discovered that if you put food on the table, even leftovers, along with a pot of tea and a plate of scones or cookies, and called it Tea, the children would eat with gusto. Thus began the Tea Dinner tradition. Now we have Tea Dinner about once a week, usually when (a) the refrigerator is piled high with little containers of odds and ends and (b) the parents of the household are about to pass out from exhaustion and/or frustration. We brew up a pot of tea, we put the odds and ends on little plates, and if I'm really feeling ambitious, I'll mix up a batch of scones or muffins.
This week, for example, we did it up right. I served:
- three medium-size servings of leftover Moroccan Harira soup
- a platter of sliced cold roast chicken and four slices of steak
- a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese
- baby kale-swiss chard salad (about half a prewashed bag worth) with vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan
- two and a half leftover twice-baked potatoes with bacon and cheddar
- one slice of plain pizza, cut in 8 little pieces (the kids all laid claim to the slice)
- a dish of spicy green olives
- steamed carrots with butter and salt
- half a cheddar and apple sandwich
- fresh baked blueberry muffins
- pot of Earl Grey