Tag Archives: picnic

Downton-inspired tea for “Downton Day”.

1920s silver teapot and cup and saucer on display at the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA.

1920s silver teapot and cup and saucer on display at the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Today is the last “Downton Day” of the year  – the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 5 airs tonight on KQED/PBS at 9 p.m. Pacific time. This season’s plot has brought the Crawleys and their servants into the mid-1920s, and nobody’s lives are settled and secure, as usual.  What better way to catch up on the doings and happenings in this fictional world than with a cup of tea and some treats at the ready?  Look in the tea party pantry for some English tea-time favorites, like scones (you can use a mix or buy them ready-made), cream, jam, and cakes.  You can make an elaborate spread suitable for the Dowager Countess, or a simple tea table that would make Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes, or Lady Rose’s Russian refugees comfortable.

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Enjoy some tea and treats with the Eta Aquarid meteor shower

The constellation Aquarius.  Photo: Till Credner, Creative Commons 3.0

The constellation Aquarius. Photo: Till Credner, Creative Commons 3.0

San Jose has seemingly skipped from spring to summer lately! One way to stay cool through the evening is to open up the windows of your home, and spend time outdoors as the sun goes down and the air cools off. What better way to enjoy the cool of the evening than with some tea, treats, and a meteor shower overhead? The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower is supposed to be at its most intense beginning around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, continuing until dawn, but shooting stars could be visible to the east/southeast on the horizon as early as 9 p.m. Pacific time. A spot on the eastern side of the foothills near Berryessa or Evergreen would be an ideal place for meteor-watching, early Sunday and Monday morning.

Halley’s Comet leaves a trail of dust in its wake, littering its orbit with debris. This debris falls to Earth twice a year, when our orbit gets near enough to the comet’s orbit and some of the dust gets pulled in by Earth’s gravity. The other meteor shower caused by this debris is the Orionid meteor shower in October. Ideal conditions for viewing meteor showers include dark, moonless skies, and clear weather. Look for the meteors to originate from the constellation Aquarius, which should be visible above the horizon between midnight and 3 a.m. You can also wait until 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday for NASA’s live webcast.

As for tea and treats, it’s warm enough to enjoy either iced tea, or hot tea, as you choose. A hearty black tea will help you stay awake and focused in order to see those meteors. Keep up your energy with a buffet of treats from the tea party pantry that will pair well with your choice of tea. You can even add some tea ice cream from the grocery store.  If you have a good view of the eastern and southern sky from your yard or windows, you may not even have to leave the comfort of your own home! Pull up some lawn chairs to support your back, or spread out some beach towels, and enjoy your midnight tea picnic while gazing up at the stars this weekend!

Copyright 2013, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read? Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:
“Meteor Shower Created by Halley’s Comet Peaks This Weekend” from Space.com
“LIVE WEBCAST Sunday 9 p.m. ET: See Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower”
“Look Up! Stargazing events for May 2013”
“Eta Aquarid meteor shower to peak this weekend with 20 to 40 meteors per hour”
“Be inspired by Halley’s Comet with a viewing of the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower”
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“Bring along a tea party as you watch the Orionid meteor shower in October”
“Greet the summer in San Jose with iced tea during Iced Tea Month”
“Now is the time for garden parties and picnics in San Jose”
“Give an open house with a tea buffet for your favorite graduate”
“Fill the time waiting for your Twilight Saga: Eclipse tickets with a midnight tea picnic”
“Iced tea and how to make it”
“Cool off with tea ice cream”
“Meteor-watching in San Jose? Keep warm with tea and snacks”
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“Here’s how to put on a Twilight themed midnight tea picnic”
“Stay up late with tea on New Year’s Eve”
“Review of Haagen-Dazs Green Tea ice cream”

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Memorial Day in San Jose is better with tea.

view of Golden Gate National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 2011. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

San Jose-area residents are largely unaware of California’s individual contribution to the Civil War, World War 2, and think of Memorial Day as simply the kick-off to summer funMemorial Day was introduced in the 1870s to honor all those who were lost in the Civil War, and to help re-unite the nation by honoring both Union and Confederate soldiers.  It has since been expanded into a holiday for honoring all U.S. soldiers, dead or alive.  While the main conflicts of the Civil War occurred far away from San Jose, California did see local skirmishes between Union and Confederate sympathizers.  The Union received large donations of California gold, which greatly supported the war effort.  California’s brand-new state legislature also sent multiple companies of men to serve in the Union army; most ended up replacing more experienced soldiers stationed at army forts in the Northwest and Southwest, but a few companies saw action on the front lines by joining up with the Pennsylvania and other Northern states’ militias.  San Jose’s Oak Hill cemetery has its own collection of local Civil War heroes, but since all veterans are honored on Memorial Day, all local cemeteries will be decorated with American flags for the holiday.

Since tea parties are perfect settings for conversation, reminiscing, and honoring tradition, why not get together with family and friends on Sunday or Monday to remember and honor any veterans you know?  Add tea to your barbecue at home or at a local park or public garden.  Iced tea is a great addition to the traditional Memorial Day – the beginning of a long season of outdoor cooking and entertaining in the Santa Clara Valley – but hot tea might be just as welcome during this windy and cool holiday! Black tea pairs well with many traditional summer foods, like barbecued meat and grilled vegetables.  Don’t forget the green tea ice cream and the iced chai!  American beer fans can enjoy tea, as they do in the U.K.

There are lots of other things to celebrate and enjoy on Memorial Day weekend in San Jose, as well.  Bring a Steampunk tea picnic to San Jose’s Doubletree Hotel for the Clockwork Academy conference that runs through Monday.  Visit Roaring Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains for their annual Civil War reenactment.  When we celebrate Memorial Day, we tell our brave veterans that their sacrifice is valuable and appreciated.  Pull out some things from your tea party pantry and put together a picnic or barbecue to thank them all for our freedom!

Copyright 2012, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my blog The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea

For more information:
“Have a 1940s style tea party”
“Tea tasting 101: characteristics of a good-quality black tea”
“Celebrate the Fourth of July with a tea party picnic!”
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“Barbecue with tea for Labor Day”
“Greet the summer in San Jose with iced tea during Iced Tea Month”
“Now is the time for garden parties and picnics in San Jose”
“Take your tea into one of San Jose’s gardens”
“Iced tea and how to make it”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“How to incorporate tea into your Super Bowl party”
“Bring a ‘steampunk’ tea to Santa Clara’s Steampunk Exhibition”
“Memorial Day in San Jose calls for iced tea”
“Review of Haagen-Dazs Green Tea ice cream”
“Going back to school in San Jose? Ease into it with a tea picnic on the beach”
“5 teas for San Jose’s beer fans”

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How to give a Budget Economy Tea.

Photo: Graeme Weatherston, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

In the 1930s and 1940s, most Americans were living on a very tight budget, due to unemployment in the 1930s, and rationing in the 1940s. Although the current economic situation is not nearly so desperate for most of us as it was during the Great Depression, people are starting to say, “everything old is new again,” and more people’s attention is returning towards reducing waste and being very frugal. Buying fewer things, using them until they wear out, and recycling things we already have, are methods that used to be common knowledge, but are worth learning again. And by “recycling”, our grandparents didn’t mean gathering up the cans and bottles and taking them to the recycling center; they meant taking an old or partially worn-out item, and using its parts to assemble something new and useful.

Kitchen and table leftovers were a large part of this effort. Leftover meat was used as an ingredient in another dish, like a stew or hash; leftover bread could be made into French toast for the next day’s breakfast, and leftover tea was used for many things, both for meals and other household needs.

Tearooms in England and the United States became popular places for lunch, especially for women newly entering the work force. Rationing and practicality ruled much of the foods offered alongside the pots and cups of tea. Bread Hot Cakes – or French Toast – and summer puddings, were not only tasty tea-table dishes, but were economical because they used up stale bread. Peanut butter was invented in the late 19th century, and was combined with jelly in sandwiches by the turn of the 20th century. It became widely popular and was served in both sweet – like peanut butter and orange — and savory – like peanut butter and pickle – sandwiches, in upscale New York tearooms! As it became a commercialized product, the price lowered until peanut butter became a staple of most households in America, and was a standard lunch item, especially for children, during the Great Depression. For the kitchen or tea room table, vegetables could come from private gardens, and berries could be picked wild in most places.  With the downturn in the economy these days, using up leftovers in new ways, and even growing your own fruit and vegetables, combining them with inexpensive pantry staples to make new dishes, can be a way back to a simpler time, as well as a way to make our dollars go further. In the spirit of 1930s and 1940s practicality, here is a menu for a recession-appropriate penny-pincher’s tea party or picnic!

Hot Tea

Buttered Toast or Bread Hot Cakes and Jam

Peanut Butter and Apricot Sandwiches

Cucumber and Watercress Sandwiches

Malvern (or Summer) Pudding

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

Sources and Further Information: “Food Lessons from the Great Depression” article  
Department store tea rooms in the 1930s
1940s menus re-created in 2004 for Kensington Palace restaurant, London
“Tea Making Tips” from 1941 England
1940s recipe for Bread Hot Cakes (or French toast)
Food Timeline: peanut butter
1940s recipe for Aristocrat Sparkling Punch, published in Gourmet magazine
Egg Salad with Lemon and Fennel, a way to use leftover or wild fennel
Syrup Loaf, a 1940s recipe without granulated sugar
Ritz Cracker “Apple” Pie, another vintage ’30s-’40s recipe
Recipe for Victory (WW1 recipe collection)

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