Don't Panic Tea Party

This time of year, probably more than any other, is the season of visitors. Relatives are in town to attend a wedding or graduation, school friends come home to visit parents for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, vacationers pass through on their way to their destinations. How nice it would be to be able to invite these visitors to a lovely afternoon tea party.

Perhaps your first thought is that you couldn’t possibly get ready for a tea without at least a week’s notice and preparation. Cleaning, baking, shopping, all too much to do on the spur of the moment. Oh, the stress; oh, the panic! Besides those folks will probably be back in town in another…ten years or so.

It’s time for the Don’t Panic Tea Party. This tea can be ready in only one day. It is low stress because lots of already-prepared foods are used. However, the hostess for this tea adds extra touches to make each dish her own.

No time for written invitations for this tea; invite your visiting friends in person or on the phone. Try to set the hour of the tea to meet your friends’ schedules. They probably have several obligations of their own.

This isn’t a formal china kind of tea. Use your every-day dishes if those are the only ones you have that are handy. Do use a tablecloth though, in any color you like. You don’t even have to iron it. Just throw it in the dryer with a couple wet towels and it should come out wrinkle free.

Even for this hurry-up tea, flowers are necessary. But don’t take time ordering them from your usual florist. Look in your own backyard or in your neighbors’ (ask first). If you have no luck there, pick up a bouquet at the grocery store when you’re shopping for tea ingredients. No need for a fussy arrangement for the center of the table. Individual flowers in small vases or even plain water glasses look pretty running the length of the table.

No need to clean the entire house for this tea. Your guests don’t need to see into the bedrooms—close the doors. Concentrate on the guest bathroom and the room in which you’ll be serving the tea. A quick dust and vacuum through the rest of the house will no doubt be sufficient. Remember the people you’ve invited to tea aren’t coming to judge your housekeeping skills and they’ll understand that this tea party was prepared on the fly.

The menu for this Don’t Panic Tea has all the usual courses but you don’t need to serve each one. Or you might serve each course but with fewer dishes for the sweets and savories courses.

This tea starts with a Kicked-Up Tomato Soup along side a Salad of Baby Greens. This is a very colorful and fresh combination. Next, instead of baking scones, serve a Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf with lemon butter. For the savory course, a Dill Butter and Cucumber Sandwich, Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread and Cheesy Crackers make nice, traditional selections. They only require some assembly, no cooking. The sweets course does have one item that requires oven time, Party Brownies but they take only a couple minutes to mix. Along with those, Strawberry Cheesecake Cups offer a nice contrast. Fill out this course with a Pound Cake with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream.

Coming up tomorrow is a shopping list and timetable and the recipes follow.