Saturday, May 2, 2015

Teatime Tale # 18 - Teatime with Aunt Eleanor

Teatime with Aunt Eleanor

            “Melissa Levinson of Chattanooga has just released her fifth book of afternoon tea recipes, ‘It’s Teatime, Y’all.’ The book of southern-themed teatime recipes will be in stores May 12, 2015, and a book signing is scheduled at Barnes and Noble for 2 p.m. that afternoon.”
            No matter how many tea books I’ve written, I always enjoy a new book launch with all its fanfare, especially the book signings and events where I get to meet so many lovely people.
            My Aunt Eleanor recently joined the Chattanooga Tea Society, and since she’s my favorite aunt, I was happy to oblige when she asked me to speak at their May meeting. Aunt Eleanor was beside herself over getting to host the meeting and show off her niece with the new tea book.
            I promised to bring copies to the meeting, which was held at my aunt’s charming Victorian home near downtown. The afternoon of the meeting, I walked up onto the porch and, as always, admired the lush Boston ferns hanging there. Aunt Eleanor had decorated her white wicker porch furniture with needlepoint pillows featuring teacups and teapots. It was going to be a fun afternoon.

            When I went inside, Aunt Eleanor proudly introduced “my niece, the author” to her friends, who seemed like sweet ladies. If they were friends of my aunt, that was all I needed to know.
            At three o’clock, my aunt signaled it was time for the meeting to begin. My talk, I had been told, was to be short and sweet—fifteen minutes, max—with plenty of time for questions afterward. I love talking about the history of tea in the United States, particularly about tea cultivation and teatime customs in the South.
            Afterward, the women asked some great questions. I knew someone would ask about my favorite tea, Darjeeling, because someone always does, and I also knew someone would ask about the difference in black tea and green tea. My aunt had told her friends about my visit to the tea plantations of India two years ago, so I showed them a few photos of the tea fields, photos I had saved on my iPad for just such show and tell.
            At four o’clock, we gathered around the dining table my aunt had elegantly arranged with family silver and floral arrangements. Three-tiered servers were spaced along the table, and tiny vases of fresh flowers were at each place setting, a chalkboard-style tag inscribed with the name of each guest.
            My aunt’s teenage neighbor, Caroline, helped serve, and she arrived with a tray of what appeared to be piping hot scones. At Aunt Eleanor’s urging, Caroline served me first before moving along to the other guests. Once everyone had scones, Aunt Eleanor offered a simple prayer for the meal—she insisted Afternoon Tea was a meal—and then everyone used my aunt’s old-fashioned pastry forks to take bites of scones, most of the ladies enjoying the lemon curd and clotted cream as well.

            The sound of a fork clanging on china was my first clue these scones weren’t quite up to par. Aunt Eleanor had ordered them from a local bakery, and they had assured her that warming them in the oven for a few minutes before teatime would work fine. I knew that was a bad idea the moment I heard it, yet I’d hoped for the best.
            I carefully sliced into the scone with my fork. A chunk flew up and hit me in the  eye, but I blinked away tears and hoped no one had noticed.
            Aiming for a smaller bite, I lightly chipped off a piece of the soft interior, only it wasn’t a soft interior. It was raw, and I could see the gummy dough oozing in spots.
            Aunt Eleanor said several of the women wanted to see more of my India photos, so while they were busy getting refills of tea, I picked up my napkin, discreetly tucked the rest of my scone into the folds, and headed for the tote bag where I’d stashed my iPad. Napkin in hand, I reached into the bag and pretended to fish around for my iPad while I deposited that dreadful scone.
            Several of the women glanced my way, as if they wondered what was taking me so long. I said, “Ah, here it is! Sometimes it gets tangled up in that charger I carry around with it.”
            When I returned to the table, I was horrified to realize Caroline had placed another scone on my plate.
            “Your aunt said you must have enjoyed that other one, so she wanted to make sure you got plenty to eat.”
            “Oh, my goodness, I’m already getting full. I think I’d better save room for the tea sandwiches and sweets.”
            “So what do you think of the scones, Melissa?” Aunt Eleanor asked. “I don’t eat them anymore since I’ve gone gluten-free, but the bakery tells me they’re some of their most popular items.”
            Remind me never to eat at that bakery, I thought. “Aren’t scones great? I love that legend of the scone from over in Scotland. Do you ladies know that story?”
            And with that, I went off on a tangent about the history of scones and the many shapes, sizes, and flavors of scones on the market today.
            The afternoon passed quickly, and since I had another speaking engagement that evening, I told my aunt I needed to sign books for the friends who wanted one and get on my way. I was pleased when they bought every copy I’d brought.
            I was almost out the door when my aunt said, “Caroline, bring that box for Melissa, would you, dear?”
            The young helper arrived bearing a plastic-lidded tray filled with scones.
            “The rest of these are going home with you, dear, because no one enjoys a good scone as much as you. Isn’t that right?” said Aunt Eleanor.
            A good scone?
            “That’s absolutely right,” I said, giving my aunt a kiss. “Absolutely right.”


  1. Heh, I totally laughed out loud when she said a piece flew up and hit her eye. Mercy laughing, however.....
    great story as I sit here with a scone in my hand enjoying a highlight of the week. I love your tea themed stories of the week, dear friend. Thanks again for such wonderful amusement. ♥

  2. I will look for the book at B&N next week ;-)
    Great story, sounds like this might have happened to you! Reminds me to only serve what you have tasted.

  3. Lovely story, Angela. Yes we must taste before we serve to guests! ♥

  4. Gotta love a good scone! Aunt Eleanor is so loving with scones to go. Very cute story - enjoying teatime tales on Saturday evening is a favorite of mine. Thanks!

  5. What a fun story! I can totally see stashing the scone in a tote bag.

  6. I'll skip the scones.... but where can I get the series of 5 afternoon tea cookbooks!?

  7. That was cute and I'm sure most of us can relate to having something at a tea that didn't meet our expectations. A scone though? They're the best part!
    Thanks for another Saturday Tea Tale Angela.

  8. HA HA. We've probably all been in a situation where we endured a food we did not care for.

  9. What a cute story Angela, very funny! That can be an awkward situation, I enjoyed reading how Melissa handled it. Thanks for another enjoyable story, Joanie

  10. I had to chuckle at this one. At first it sounded like it was you and an experience you had.
    But I knew it was a story. Hummm? Wondering!


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