Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17: Cup of Tea

When I was 14, my grandparents took me on a trip to Scotland, home country of my grandmother's parents. We traveled around northern Scotland, spending a week on the Isle of Skye and two weeks making our way across the top of the country and down the eastern shore to Aberdeen (my great-grandparents' home city) and eventually Edinburgh. Given my age, I wasn't able to partake of Scottish ales or whiskey, so I think I missed out on the better aspects of Scottish cuisine. All I remember of the food was that the bed and breakfasts we stayed in often served tomatoes alongside the toast and eggs for breakfast, which I found kind of weird. And tea... I well remember tea.

Times change and I haven't been back since, so this may not hold true anymore, but 30 years ago tea time remained a very strong tradition. And I loved it. We quickly learned that you could judge a B and B by the quality of its tea offerings. The tea itself was always fine--even in early summer, there's nothing more bracing than a strong cup of tea after a day of driving miles of winding, sheep-cluttered country roads and tramping about ruined castles. But it was the sweets that I remember best. A good B and B would offer up several kinds of cookies, frosted petit fours, little candies from the local confectioner's, or even homemade scones with jam. A lesser place would give you Walker's shortbread--the kind offered for sale at all the tourist shops--right out of the tin. But even that was good. It seemed so civilized and comforting, to pause and take that time to all sit together for a little meal, of sorts, that would recharge you enough to make it through the rest of the day. And the days were long--higher latitudes near Summer Solstice meant that it stayed light until well past 10 p.m. So that tea helped.

Storm clouds are scudding over today, dragging a chilly breeze along with them. I'm sipping a mug of green tea with honey to warm my insides and keep me going for a few more hours at the end of a long work week, wishing I had a little treat to enjoy with my tea. I thought I had some chocolate stashed away in my desk, but no such luck--so I only have my distant memories of those long-ago Scottish tea treats to sustain me.

Warm memories, tea--
the small things that sustain us
as we live our lives.

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