The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some fun Bay Area autumn events.

Need ideas for things to do?  Just in case your schedule isn't full enough already ... 

1. Who Do You Think You Are? Intro to Genealogy: beginning Saturday October 2, 2010 from 11:00AM - 12:30PM.  At the California Genealogical Society and Library, 2201 Broadway LL2, Oakland, California 94612.  Phone: (510) 663-1358. “Volunteer members are available to help you use our extensive resources and online databases. Bring information about an ancestor's family and we will help you find them in the 1920 or 1930 census. Everyone is welcome the first Saturday of every month. Open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.  Join us for a FREE Introduction to Genealogy Class every FIRST SATURDAY of the MONTH from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.”

2. Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California:  October 2 - December 5, 2010, Tues. – Sun., 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053.  Phone: (408)554 – 4528.

3. Meet Author Mary Jo Ignoffo: Thursday, Nov 11 6:30pm at Barnes & Noble Stevens Creek, San Jose, CA.  “Come meet local writer Mary Jo Ignoffo as she talks about her new book, Captive of the Labyrinth, the first full-length biography of Sarah Winchester, the eccentric builder of the mystery house that bears her name.” 

4. The San Francisco Fall Antique Show: October 27-31, at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.  This year’s theme: “Chinoiserie: Rococo to Eco.” “The San Francisco Fall Antiques Show is the oldest continuously operating international antiques show on the West Coast. The Show features approximately seventy dealers from across the United States and Europe, offering for sale an extraordinary range of fine and decorative arts representing all styles and periods including American, English, Continental, and Asian furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, jewelry, rugs, textiles, paintings, prints, and photographs.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Give a Halloween tea party instead of a gore-fest!

image from Halloween Cavern of Clipart
A whimsical Halloween tea party is a great reason to enjoy some season-appropriate activities: scrap-booking, knitting and crocheting, and Victorian projects like paper decoupage and cutting silhouettes.  You can also rent classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, or even Carolyn Keene (creator of Nancy Drew) on DVD to watch while you enjoy your tea.  Along with some chai, smoky Lapsang Souchong or other black tea, you could enjoy a selection of foods, including traditional tea sandwiches and scones as well as other comforting choices.  Some tasty menu suggestions:

Squash soup, garnished with sour cream, fresh basil and cilantro
Portobello Mushroom Puffs
Carrot Ginger Tea Sandwiches
Sliced Granny Smith Apples and Cheddar

Ginger Scones
Candied Orange Scones
Savory Black Olive Scones

Chai Tea Cookies 
Midnight Monster Munchies 
Mini Apple or Pumpkin Tarts
Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Filling
Baked Pumpkin Custard
Pumpkin Cookies  

Many of these selections can be purchased ready-made, for your tea party pantry.  For example, butternut squash soup can be purchased in cans and pour-spout boxes, portobello mushroom puffs can be found in the freezer section, and there are several scone mixes, including a nice Ginger flavored one from Santa Cruz company Iveta Gourmet.  Just add a beautiful farmer's market bouquet of sunflowers or chrysanthemums to the table, and maybe some colorful dried (and cleaned) leaves, and you're ready to go! 

History Park’s Halloween event
“10 pumpkin facts: fun trivia and nutritional information”
San Jose’s Halloween articles

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin-flower sandwiches, an Italian snack ready for the tea table!

pumpkin flower. Wikimedia Commons.
My family, like other Italian families, enjoys a lot of old-world style recipes and habits when it comes to cooking.  One thing we like is to eat pumpkin and other squash flowers.  My great-grandmother came up with this recipe for a frugal sandwich filling that would make great tea sandwiches, I think! 

Pumpkin-flower sandwich filling (all ingredient amounts are to taste)
Green onion
Hot banana pepper
Pumpkin blossoms or other squash flowers

Cook, drain, and chop the bacon, reserving the bacon fat in the pan.  Wash and chop the green onion and pumpkin blossoms.  Chop the banana pepper. Saute them all together, and use to fill sandwiches. 

While pumpkins are in the stores now, it may be hard to find pumpkin flowers.  I may have to wait until the spring comes around again to make these sandwiches! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Italian Picnic in San Jose!

While Italy is better known for its love of coffee, the country has a long history with tea, too.  Many Italian foods, especially pastries and sweets, go really well with tea.  Since October has been declared National Italian American Heritage Month, the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild will be celebrating Italian contributions to the culture and life of the Santa Clara Valley with a picnic and a game or two of bocce.  

Vin santo with biscotti in Milan.  Wikimedia Commons
Italian Bocce Picnic: let’s celebrate Italian ingenuity and culture with an Italian picnic and game or two of bocce.  Italian picnic food and iced tea will be provided, as will a set of bocce balls for all of us to share. Gentlemen and children welcome!
    Date: Saturday, October 16, 2010, 1 p.m.
    Location: Backesto Park, N. 13th St., San Jose.
    Food Fee: $20 (Ladies' Tea Guild members)/ $25 (non-members)
    Suggested costume: summer/autumn day dress from 1870 to 1950, or modern dress.

R.S.V.P.s and food fees are required at least 48 hours in advance of the event, with the deadline being Thursday, October 14, 2010.  Reservations and cancellations cannot be accepted after that date.  Payments by PayPal and personal check can be accepted.  For more information or to reserve a spot, e-mail the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild

National Italian American Heritage Month
An Italian American Dinner Party
Slitti Italian Chocolate with Earl Grey Tea
"Tea's popularity grows in Italy" by Jane Pettigrew
"Tramezzini: Italian tea sandwiches"
The Foods and Wines of Italy

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's time for some chai!

Masala chai in India.  Wikimedia Commons.
Chai has become a very popular beverage in the San Jose area.  Local Indian restaurants serve it, as do Starbuck's and Peet's Coffee & Tea and most other local coffee shops.  You can also buy an "instant" powdered chai, and liquid chai concentrate at some local grocery stores!  But, some may ask, what is chai?  Americans know it as a sweet, spicy, creamy hot drink, but in India, its place of origin, chai means something else.

While China is known as the “birthplace of tea,” today other nations are major producers and consumers of the beverage. India has been a major tea growing region since the mid-19th century when, as part of the British Empire, India's indigenous tea plants were cultivated to provide tea for English consumption. Tea drinking within India became widespread during the early 20th century, and the tea itself -- without spices or milk -- is still known as chai there.

Other Asian tea customs combined to influence the creation of what we know as chai. Tea was spread throughout Asia by the Mongols, unified under Genghis Khan in the 13th century. The Tibetans, unlike most other Asian people groups, preferred black tea  to green tea, and they also drank it with milk or yak butter. This almost certainly influenced the British and Indian preference for milk in their tea, and caused Indian tea to be processed and blended specifically to taste best with milk. The habit of drinking tea with sugar came from the customs of Russia and the Middle East, brought to India through trade.

In India, the British method of preparing tea was altered to suit local tastes. Instead of infusing tea in an earthenware teapot, the tea leaves were added to a metal pot or kettle containing boiling milk and water. The tea was boiled with the milk and water, and sweetened to taste. When all these ideas were combined with the traditional Indian custom of using spices for medicinal drinks, the 21st century chai -- or, more accurately, masala chai -- came into existence.

Masala chai is prepared when spices such as cardamom, ginger, and cloves are added to the mixture of tea, milk, and sweetener. The combination and amount of spices, and the kind of sweetener (honey or sugar) is up to the taste of the person preparing the chai; it is sometimes said that “there are as many recipes for chai as there are households in India.” It is an everyday drink in many local Indian homes, and is commonly served at Indian restaurants.  It is delicious, and warming on a cool day!

Tea: East and West
"The History of Chai"
"Masala Chai"
"Chai" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary online
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)