January 7, 2014

"Adam's tea party"


 My Lavender Cookies with Rosewater Icing---An old fashioned teatime sweet~(I have given this recipe in a past post on this blog).
When Adam first started at his new job, a few of the ladies in his department saw photos of us at tea in our 18thc. duds on the walls of his cubicle. This started a discussion about the British, tea, the royals, reenacting and Downton Abbey, among other 'period' shows. It turned out that a handful of these ladies were positively addicted to royal-watching, and tea parties, and all things Brit.
One mentioned that rosewater seemed to be an ingredient much used in tea treats of the past, and how no one cooked like that now.  Adam chimed in with "Oh, yes, my wife does! You should taste her Lavender Cookies with Rosewater Icing, that she makes for our 18thc. English tea picnics!" He then volunteered me to make some, which he offered to bring into work, saying they could all have some with tea one day on their breaks. One thing lead to another and soon someone else suggested a short, "Downton Abbey Tea Party" during lunch one day after the holidays.
That day was yesterday. The handful of ladies and Adam decided to wear something just a little reminiscent or worthy of an old-time Tea, and each would bring something---little sandwiches or a plate of treats. On Sunday, Adam and I had fun making a batch of the lavender cookies and frosting them with my rosewater icing. I put them on a pewter platter with a few dried flowers as decoration on the side. Yesterday morning Adam put on his older, 3 button tweed jacket and wore a tie and a pocket handkerchief.  (This jacket looked most like a tweed Scottish or English one.)
For half an hour yesterday, this small group had a ball brightening a cold winter day at their own 'Times past Tea'. A piece of fabric from the company's collection served as a tablecloth on a conference table. Someone brought a teapot, someone else fancy cups and saucers. There were several kinds of tea sandwiches. Adam said my old fashioned cookies were the hit of the party---Even the maintenance man happened by, and Adam offered him one. He loved them so much, he took a few, and asked for a few to take home to his wife. Adam said it was funny to then see this guy hinting for the recipe!
People from other departments were evidently peeking into the room, eyeing the goings on and food enviously.
Here are a few photos Adam took so I could share a bit of the party~
Adam wore his old tweed jacket for the group's impromptu "Downton Abbey" tea party at work
A lovely time was had by all---at a conference table they decorated.



Yesterday I was at home immersed in a my own project from a different century. Everyone who has been reading my blog knows all about how we love our old favorite, the Brit historical series 'Tales From The Green Valley', and how lately we have seen all 6 episodes and the Christmas Special of a new BBC series about life on a Tudor farm in 1500, and that I gave us the companion book, 'Tudor Monastery Farm' for Christmas.
Most of you also know that I am an antique dealer, and have collected antiques all my life. Adam and I love the very early English and American antiques of the 16th and 17th centuries most of all, and we like to think our little old house is time traveler's delight, most of our furnishings dating to that far-away time.
Our things were lovingly collected over years and years with patience, sacrifice, diligent searching, and a little luck---I didn't want a house full of "repros", or an almost "instant Pilgrim look" that I see so often now out there. 
As a widow for many years, I had little money, and most of my best "finds" went to the homes of my customers.
Adam and I have always had a limited and tight budget, and have relied on our knowledge of history, of the period antiques we love, and on our persistence and commitment to finding 'bargains'---wonderful things priced far, far below their actual value.  Often it meant selling 4 of my things to buy one better one.
We also pride ourselves that we had the patience to wait for pieces we wanted, sometimes for years, until we could afford them, rather than fill up our home with mediocre things or 'fakes' in an effort to have an instant home, or to create a "look". Too many people can't stand a 'hole' in their house, and must fill up every corner as quickly as possible, rather than make do and wait for a piece that is an investment, and something they will love for years.
I remember once when I owned a rare set of 18thc. country bannister back chairs, but no early table. Rather than buy some cheap copy or something else to fill up the void, I carefully placed my prized pair of pewter candlesticks on the floor with the chairs around them, as they would be if the proper size table was there. I apologized to no one. I lived with it, anticipating the table of my dreams, which I knew I would find, and for a bargain, in time.
One thing I have seen lately over and over among a few collectors who seem to relatively recently have been bitten by the seductive "Pilgrim" era bug, is that they all seem to fill their homes with an abundance of 'fake' foods, too many baskets, and just way too much 'stuff', 'artfully' displayed on seemingly every surface, (not to mention almost every available foot of floor space as well) resulting in a look that is just that'---a 'look.'  It is neither authentic or real, but tends to turn their homes into insipid showroom vignettes you'd see at a shop selling reproduction antique furniture,  or a hodgepodge mess of how they think people then lived. They also don't seem to take some of the unique physical features of their own particular home into consideration when collecting and decorating. Now, I have even heard some say "Well I saw things like that done at Plimoth Plantation, Jamestown, etc.". Those places are museums! They are stage sets to give visitors a little taste of the lives of our ancestors. Your homes are NOT museums, and that is the big difference.
We LIVE in our home. We are comfortable, and most of all we want our friends to feel comfortable coming to see us, and to actually have a place to sit, and a table surface on which to enjoy some real, homemade food! The most beautiful homes done in a 17thc. style are those that are done with taste, authenticity, and restraint, and where the owners have had the patience and creativity to furnish with the actual antiques of the period. These homes do honor to a time long past and people long gone. 
(See this FORMER POST~)

That having been said, I am not averse to having one or 2 'faux' items of period-looking foods for display in an appropriate place where it would be IF you have a spot for them, because obviously the 'real things' tend to spoil, mold, or rot.
I will NEVER however, set up phony vignettes that makes my home look 'artificial', nor will I copy the "Pilgrim" formula-decor I am now seeing in several people's homes---all of whom, by the way seem to be clones of each other, instead of showing off a bit of the individual owner's personality.
  I loved the Tudor bread---the "Monk's bread" that I saw in the 'Tudor Monastery Farm' series and the book, as well in a show on English food, past and present.  I did decide to make ONE ARTIFICIAL LOAF of Tudor bread for display on a plate on our latest terrific 'bargain find'---an actual Tudor-period refectory table in our living room.  The loaf won't remain there all the time, but it's a nice touch for the holidays or some other occasion, and it won't spoil or develop mold.
The loaf turned out magnificently, if I do say so. I made a basic 'salt dough'---4 c. flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour), 1 c. salt, and 2 c. water--THAT'S ALL. (***I recommend you DO NOT use a 'regular' bread dough recipe, as it will spoil eventually.)
I kneaded my salt-dough and formed it into a round loaf. I pinched it all around the bottom of the circle, as was done in Tudor times. I used a large sharp knife to cut a cross shape into the top of the bread. I then took ground nutmeg, which has the nice dark brown color, and dusted it into the + cut on top, and patted it into the finger-mark pinching all around the bottom.  I sprinkled just a dusting of flour on the top.
I baked it at a low temp for a long time---You just have to look and feel it and keep baking until you determine it is done. Bake at least an hour. I baked mine for several, at a low temp.
By the way, I had every single thing I needed to make this already in my pantry and attic.
After it cooled, I sprayed the top with a type of 'Sprayment'---that aerosol glue, and pressed a bit of raw, steel- cut oatmeal onto the top.  I then spray coated the entire loaf top and bottom with FLAT FINISH clear sealer. (***Don't use anything with a 'shine' or gloss finish---It would look 'fake').
My indestructible loaf looks delicious, and exactly like those shown in the series and pictured in the book.
  I reserved my book back in early summer last year, and gave it to us for Christmas. We loved the series too~

Steel-cut oats, not modern processed

Here my faux Tudor loaf is just ready to go into the oven~ One of the signature features of authentic Tudor bread is the hand-pinched border around the bottom. Don't forget to do that~

A sneak peek...
...at the part of the incredible original top of our 400 year old table. The aprons are simply carved, and it has a box stretcher base.
Take a TOUR of our period home~

Just out of the oven...
...And all finished. I've photographed it on one of our reproduction hand made Tudor plates that are exact copies of those found on the wreck of the 'Mary Rose'.  
We watched this fantastic series years ago as well, and I thought you might enjoy this episode of the hilarious 'Supersizers Go..."



Visit our period home and take a tour or our house and gardens HERE~

7 comments:

  1. Perhaps you have found your niche Mary, creating pastries for tea parties that delight the senses! You should make and sell them. I would buy some. Seriously, those cookies look delicious and gorgeous and I love the bread you made as well. It is nice to be able to "do" authentic in a time when everything is so technical and throw away.

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  2. I really love the pic of the platter, especially the sun/shadow contrast. Beautiful! (plus, it makes you drool...)

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  3. I've made lavender scones for my tea parties but your cookies w/ the rosewater icing look delicious. And I too have rosewater in my spice cabinet.
    Some of those Brit series look so wonderful. I wish more of them were available here in the US other than the few that make it to PBS. Even our BBCAmerica channel doesn't show much anymore.
    Looking foward to seeing your lovely outfit on 12th Night.
    Val

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  4. It is always a breath of fresh air to visit your site! Lovely!

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  5. I've been reading your blog for quite some time, and may I just say that your perseverance and constant positive attitude have made me look for happy things in my life, and just to enjoy every single day that passes. Thank you so much for the lovely content you always create for this blog, and I sincerely hope that you never get a single hateful comment again. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life with your loving readers.

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  6. Ladies, thank you each and every one! YOU are the ones I write this blog for and it's your kindness and support that keeps me going sometimes! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and all of your kind words and encouragement.
    Hugs to all,
    Mary

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  7. It seems to make it not too difficult, let me try at home after work.Thanks a lot for the recipe

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