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Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's January, It's Cold, Let's Visit a Tearoom

Quick, what's the first thing that came to mind when you saw the word Tearoom in today's post title? Was it images of grandeur, lovely ladies in chic attire prancing down the avenue in search of refreshments? Or, was it, tea room, there's a place to stash tea that I've never heard of? OR, perhaps, it was, uh oh what's she talking about now:)

Many women of a generation or two back—and well informed ones at that—have lived and died without ever seeing the inside of a restaurant. Such a thing, in deed, as a modest wife and mother dining unattended in a public restaurant would have been considered highly improper, and would have been heralded in "The School for Scandal" as an ominous sign. But times change, and the sins of yesterday become the virtues of today. No one would think for a moment of quarrelling with the woman who skips away from household cares and punctuates her shopping tours with a friendly chat over a cup of tea. (Chicago Daily News circa 1896)

I've read that tearooms were quite the fashionable place for women to meet in days of yore. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find out much about the present day Rose Tea House pictured above. However, the 1915 issue of American Cookery Magazine does give us a glimpse into "The Coming of the Tea-House" in an article by Mary Harrod Northend.

The tea-house originated in Japan the land of cherry blossoms. They are found there at every turn, small artistic little affairs, presided over by the pretty geisha girls. In our own country the tea-houses are generally remodeled shops, barns, or farmhouses that were fast passing into decay before they took on a new lease on life. There is about them a picturesqueness which may lie with the overhanging branches of the elms that have stood guard for centuries, or it may be the weather beaten exterior that appeals.

By the 1920s, tea rooms dotted America's landscape from shore to shore. You could find them in small houses, large department stores and anywhere in between. I discovered this wonderful collage of vintage postcards of American tea rooms at a blog called Recollections of a Vagabonde in a post titled An Old-Fashioned Tea Room in Atlanta.

Most tearooms were owned and visited by women. In a time when it was widely believed "a woman's place was in the home," many women chartered the waters under the more than competent hands of Alice Bradley. In her book Cooking For Profit, first published in 1922, Ms. Bradley, former principle of Miss {Fannie} Farmer's School of Cookery, was touted as "one of the best known food experts in the country." Her detailed advice on Tea Room Management in Chapter XI of Cooking For Profit is still presently referred to.

As a matter of fact, anyone who is contemplating the world of food as a business, should consider taking a look at Ms. Bradley's book. It's available online, for free and as one commenter put it, "the advice is timeless." And, one more thing, it's filled with recipes for quantity cooking, another handy reference for entertaining, catering or starting your own pastry business! If you're so inclined, I happened upon a blog called Rosemary's Sampler where Susanna shares her enthusiasm on finding the book. From what I gather, Susanna is also the hostess of a tea room in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. There are also inviting tea room recipes.

Here are a few more pages from Cooking for Profit and Tea Room Management.

When we shared a "Dish of Tea" back in 2009, we learned of Anna Maria Stanhope, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, and her infamous contribution to the innovation of afternoon tea. I have a feeling she would be delighted to see just how far her concept has travelled.

The introduction of the tea-house has solved many perplexing household difficulties and the coming of the unexpected guest is no longer an embarrassment. One turns to the little tea-house for help, where dainty sandwiches and fancy cakes are always at hand. The popularity of the afternoon tea is responsible in a great measure for the growth of the tea-house forming a common meeting place for social life. Here congregate groups of merry girls, laughing and chatting over the tea cups while staid matrons look on approvingly. This pictures to us the importance of this institution in community life. (American Cookery Magazine, 1915)

Once again from American Cookery we have a "taste" of New England's Inns and Tea Rooms. From the Old Burnham House in Ipswich Massachusetts we have Burnham House Chocolate Cake with Soft Chocolate Frosting. And, from the Sea Gull in Marblehead Massachusetts we have Sea Gull Halibut Hash. Don't they sound delightful:)

It just wouldn't be "proper" for me to have you visit a tea room without leaving you something mysterious, pretty, and dainty to enjoy.

Have you ever heard this enchanting story about Lady Baltimore Cake?

According to legend, Owen Wister, a popular novelist best known for The Virginian, published in 1902, had been given a cake by a southern lady, a Miss Alicia Rhett Mayberry from Charleston, and he enjoyed the cake so much that he decided to write about it in a novel. Consequently, in Lady Baltimore, published in 1906, Wister wrote of a young man who enters a tea room in a southern city (modeled after Charleston), and orders his own wedding cake. The cake he chooses is called a Lady Baltimore cake, which at that time was not considered a proper wedding cake.

Aren't recipes "Magical?"

Here's the recipe for the Lady Baltimore Cake pictured above. Since I found it in the Duncan Hines Bake Shop in a Book, published in 1979, it is conveniently made with a cake mix:)

Happy National Tea Month! Louise:)

"If You Are Cold, Tea Will Warm You
If You Are Heated, It Will Cool You
If You Are Depressed, It Will Cheer You
If You Are Excited, It Will Calm You."

~William Ewart Gladstone~
British Prime Minister

Resources
1. Early African-American Tea Rooms
2. A Dish of Tea (previous post)
Duncan Hines, America’s first modern food critic and grits at the Old Southern Tea Room in Vicksburg, MS at My Carolina Kitchen.