It’s been a while since we had any tea-related postings although tea has been on my mind of late. My good friend, Onigiri, has taken to calling me a tea snob, which I readily admit to, but how did I get that way?
My step-mother-in-law got me into tea big time, while at the same time getting me deeper into pens than I already was. Perhaps she simply validated my pen thing. I started realizing that there was life beyond (and I shudder to think this, now) Constant Comment and Lipton. But I was still very much a bagged tea kind of person. The fact that I am no longer can be illustrated by the following two stories, that Onigiri can testify to:
The moment that I became the tea snob that I am was a moment a few years ago, when my step-mother-in-law was visiting. She woke early and, finding no loose tea in the house, proceeded to rip open some tea bags to make a pot of tea. In the process, she left me with a counter covered in unbagged tea, ripped bags, and a pile of shredded tea at the bottom of my pot. (When tea is bagged, it is shredded, so that it steeps even though it’s confined in a bag.) I immediately went out and bought her favorite tea loose, that I might have it on hand for her next visit.
But then I drank it all. And while I hope never to get to the ripping-bags-open level of tea snobbery, I definitely appreciate the fact that there is a difference between bagged and loose. So now I have mostly loose tea in my home. I have a few exceptions, mostly for teas I really like and simply can’t find loose, but for the most part, I prefer loose tea.
Yes, I’m wearing a skirt right now, let that not color the following.
On Being Ladylike
I just had my sisters over for our monthly tea and, as it often does, conversation briefly touched on politics. And, as I do when it does, I did not say anything. My sisters are all much more conservative than I (starting with #5, who votes Republican; then #4, who things Republicans are too liberal; and finally #2, who votes Constitution Party because Republicans are too liberal on some things and not liberal enough on others).
The political comment in question was “Hillary should be more ladylike”. Followed by a brief discussion of how great it was that Obama held a chair for her at the beginning and end of a particular debate. And how wonderful it is that he’s being so gentlemanly. Which just goes to show, he’s popular among conservatives, too. I wondered vaguely if this was seen as some sort of putting-her-in-her-place by my sisters, but, again, held my tongue.
“What do you think, #6?” said #4 (and yes, we do often refer to each other by number, though not usually in conversations , to which I responded, “I think my political views are not welcome at this table.” Which got some put-her-at-ease laughter, and some more pressure.
All of these sisters wear skirts all the time. All of them believe that a woman should quit her job when married. So I was asked which Democratic candidate I would vote for, and I told them (Obama) followed by a caveat that I don’t vote Democratic because they’re too conservative for me. This prompted some fantastically uncomfortable laughter, and then I said,
“I think all candidates in any political sphere could benefit from more civility but I think that acting more “ladylike”, as #2 suggests would make Hillary seem inappropriate for a leadership role. Since that is what she is angling for, I don’t think that “ladylike” will benefit her.”
Talk turned to McCain, who could also use some additional civility (and was clearly the best of the choices mentioned so far, to my sisters) and then to Margaret Thatcher. Who is the best of all worlds as a conservative woman. “She was so classy!” said #5. To which I responded, “Hillary might well benefit from more class, but I don’t define that as being more ladylike.” [Of course, Ms. Thatcher is a Baroness, so she arguably has more class than any American ever could.]
Which got me thinking about “ladylike”. I have often said that “I ain’t no lady” and gotten mock-offended at people who presumed to call me such. I’ve also often said, (especially after working in an office and starting to actually where a skirt, an activity I rebelled against for much of my life) that you can put a skirt on a woman, but you can’t make her a lady. Being ladylike has always seemed, in my mind, to denote being demure, behind-the-scenes, and, above all, submissive. None of these are adjectives I ever want applied to me. None of these are adjectives I would ever apply to Hillary. As much as I disagree with her, I respect her; and it’s difficult for me to respect “ladies”.
I’m sure that other peoples definitions of “ladylike” would involve some additional skills, like knowing which fork to use, or cutting with your right hand; but even if I were to marry a Lord, I would object to the title of Lady. If he were a Baron, I would insist on Baroness, for example. There are connotations to “lady” that I am glad to not apply to the only woman ever to get this far in a presidential bid.
This morning, I dressed for tea: a skirt and nice top, with appropriate earrings. And so I was actually in a skirt during this conversation, but for some reason, it brought to mind the fact that all these sisters wear skirts; all the time. And most often, I wear jeans. (Even to tea, but today I hosted.) I see skirts as a way to combat the heat of LA: you get a nice draft that’s so great that I want to get my husband into utilikilts. Sometimes, as a way to show of my awesome legs. Occasionally, as a means of securing privacy while peeing in the forest. But my sisters see it as something more…something…ladylike. Which makes me think that they see pants as un-ladylike. And I’m very uncomfortable with gendered (anything) clothing. I’m a huge fan of boy-beaters (although I think men who wear them are of questionable morals, I don’t see it as a non-masculine article of clothing), I like skirts on men, I think bras are unnecessary for most men, but still don’t really see it as a gendered article of clothing. The only gendered article of clothing I can call to mind is the jock strap (which still makes me giggle: who invented that?!).
I guess this is just a rant about the differences between my world-view and that of my sisters. Am I wrong? Does “ladylike” ever denote something positive (in the sense that it could also be used, positively, to describe a man; a non-gendered positive), or is it always passive, submissive, and female? A girl in my apartment complex held the door for me the other day, while I was slowly making my way tot he laundry room with a full basket. I told her not to worry, that she needn’t wait for me. “Holding a door open only takes a second,” she replied. Good on her! Holding doors, coats, and chairs should be something people do for each other, not something men do for women.
The above was merely a case of the vapors, pay no attention to this lady’s ramblings.
When my husband went to Tibet with his father for his (the father’s) 60th birthday, they each brought me back a priceless gift. My husband brought a jewelry set that is precious to me because it signifies the moment that we both knew we would get married.
My father-in-law brought back a Buddhist mala made of bones. At the time, I did not do much meditation, but had just recently converted a favorite rosary into something less-Catholic. When he gave it to me, he told me that a part of the Tibetan-Buddhist practice is meditation on the impermanence of everything, including life. The beads of the mala were polished, he said, because it was likely a used mala, one whose bone-beads had been smoothed by years of the daily practice of the poor farmer who sold it to him. The bones, he said, were probably yak, but human bones are also used, and are considered to be some of the most sacred.
For a long time, this was the only mala I used: it was the right length (my olive wood former rosary was not), and it had a history. These days I use it specifically when I want to meditate on death & impermanence.
Today is my birthday. I’m going to spend some of it with my sisters, having our monthly tea, and I hope to spend some of it in meditation about death. With my father’s illness (and his emotionless updates on it) and my continual growing-up/aging, I think it’s appropriate.
Perhaps on my way home, I’ll stop by one of my favorite places in LA: Forest Lawn. I used to have lunch at the one in Glendale, and it’s still one of my favorite picnic spots. Maybe after visiting it, I’ll stop by the one in Burbank and see how it is.
In German, the word for cemetery is “Friedenhof“, which literally means “Peace-Courtyard”. I’ve rarely been in a cemetery that does not bring me peace, and Forest Lawn, though perhaps the Wal-Mart of the funerary business, does it very well.
Which reminds me, DH & I should write wills.
My father-in-law’s objection to my killing mosquitos was a very gentle reminder that, if I was going to do it, could I please not do it in front of him, or if I must, I should offer a brief acknowledgement to the universe: a short meditation of “Life is short”. I do this, now, every time I kill mosquitos (although sometimes I don’t think of it until after I do). Each tiny life gets this acknowledgement from me.
John has a special place in his heart for death & rituals surrounding it, so when I ran across this, I thought of him. It’s a blog by a veterinary technician who euthanizes animals as part of her (? I think it’s a woman) job. She eulogizes each one. Sometimes briefly: “An aged dachshund with cancer”, sometimes she gives stories. Each one is beautiful and each one is an acknowledgement that the ending of a life is not something to be taken for granted. (Look for the pet chicken, her soul searching about that one is poignant.) [hat tip to BoingBoing for linking me to it. Read the comments, many of them are also worth it]
I think the hardest part of dealing with my father’s illness is the knowledge that it generally ends in suffocation or starvation when the muscles in the neck cease to be able to function. At that point, I know what my father’s wishes are and I know that all my sisters and my mother will agree with them. And I’m preparing myself for my need to be okay with it.
I recently went to get tea at my favorite tea joint & as I was walking away, I realized why I really like my favorite baristo (I know, it’s Italian, but still): he looks like my hairdresser!
I immediately felt like sharing this but needed to get back to work. So I played out the conversation in my mind:
“You really look like my hairdresser!
and then I added mentally, “he’s not gay…”
Which absolutely disgusted me.
My hairdresser (and I say “my” because I paid him to do my hair once, maybe four months ago, & am plotting to go back to him to pay him to do it again, maybe in about four months, because this is how often I think about doing my hair…) is a very nice man, very good at what he does, and his girlfriend is a colorist. His girlfriend came up quite early in our conversation and, in a field dominated by women or gay men, I guess I understand that he feels its necessary to make the distinction. Prior to his mention of her, his sexuality had not really entered my mind, but after he said it, I evaluated him & decided he did not appear to be gay. If…that’s something one can appear to be.
The baristo in question is also in no way on one or the other side of the sexuality fence. Nor do I ever think of him in sexual terms (except in the thoughts above). In fact, unlike hairdressing, which I would agree is probably dominated by women & gay men, baristing does not seem to be a gendered occupation.
My disgust comes from my own need to tell this man, who I see a few times a week, that he looks like this other man, and then to attempt to soothe his sexual ego. What if he were gay (and who knows! he might be!), that would surely offend him. If he were not & took offense, thinking that I called him gay, I’d certainly think of him differently the next time I showed up for tea.
I hope he’s the kind of person who would have called me on it: “why are you apologizing for comparing me to a gay man? do you think homosexuality is shameful?”
No, I don’t. But I also don’t think it’s socially acceptable enough to mention such a comparison without shame. Mea maxima culpa.
Due to a miscommunication, you didn’t get any tea on Friday afternoon so it’s coming at you late but heartfelt.
I have 5 sisters and three of them live very close to me. We rarely see each other and usually only for major events & holidays. So one of my sisters recently called to discuss the possibility of a monthly gathering of sisters. As I discuss it with each of my other sisters it’s interesting to see the differences in what each of us imagines it will be. I imagine a monthly tea involving teas, some nibbles, and the younger children. One of my sisters imagines a meal, potluck, with the food groups brought by a complicated rotation of sisters (based upon how far they’ve driven & whether they’re hosting). But in talking to her (and realizing the presence of children that her presence would imply) I remembered a family tradition: Chris Tea.
When my mother & one of her sisters lived close to each other, they would meet frequently for tea. When my aunt’s eldest got to be old enough, he began to demand that he be included in said tea. Not wanting to fill him up with caffeine, Chris Tea was invented, after the child who first drank it. Eventually, all of us kids ended up enjoying Chris Tea, even long after we were able to make it ourselves. Sometimes it was accompanied by Graham Crackers and I was well into adolescence before I realized that these were not named after Chris’ brother Graham…
So in honor of Chris, in honor of his mother & mine, and in honor of the next generation of Chris Tea drinkers here is my family’s recipe for Chris Tea:
a cupful of recently boiled water, cooled slightly
milk, to further cool the water
sugar to taste
serve in a suitably fancy-but-not-too-fragile cup with a side of Graham Crackers
I’ve put in a lot of overtime the past 2-3 days, and have no blogging energy left. I’m just going to leave you with a flickr photo (not mine) of something that would be appropriate for a Halloween tea party.
One of the teas to which I always return (though other tastes and fads may come and go), is Earl Grey, with whom I am so familiar that I often refer to him as “EG”. Legend has it that one of the Earls Grey, while stationed near a tea-growing-&-drinking area, saved someone’s life & was rewarded with the recipe which is: a blend of harsh black tea (like an Assam) with milder black tea (e.g. a Ceylon…couldn’t resist) and a hint of bergamot (berg-a-moe) essence. There are many problems with the story, mostly relating to the nationality of the grateful drownee vis a vis the nationality of the tea, but the bergamot is a citrus native to Italy, so who knows where this really came from.
What is certain is that it is an English staple and if you want an example of classic EG, hie yourself to Cost Plus and check it out by Twinings. Twinings also has a wonderful riff on the theme in their Lady Grey, which has more mild black and less harsh black in addition to cornflowers (?) and citrus flavorings besides bergamot. She is worth a try as well.
There must be something about the staple-hood of EG that makes it so open to interpretations. Just about every tea manufacturer worth its salt has at least EG, if not two. Republic of Tea’s Earl Greyer has more harsh black tea and a very strong bergamot flavor. Harney & Sons has “Winter White” EG which is intriguing. Teavana‘s Earl Grey is similar to the classic, Earl Grey Creme has vanilla tones, and Mrs. Earl Grey not worth mentioning.
My current favorite is a Persian blend of mild black teas. I sweeten it by adding a bit of honey to the pot before I pour hot water over it (evens the sweetening for each cup).
I like EG in the morning, as a pick-me up before I face the day (often while I catch up on the news online); the citrus of the bergamot is a wonderful complement to the caffeine of the tea. Together, they make for a great start.
Mormon dietary laws, as interpreted today, prohibit members from
drinking tea (though non-caffeinated herbal teas are excluded from this
restriction). Green tea is also forbidden, even though it has less than
half the caffeine of a can of Coke (which gets a thumbs up from Church
Green tea is as much a part of Japanese culture as red wine is a
part of the French. It is embedded in hospitality custom as well as in
religious aesthetic and artistic sensibilities. So when I went to Japan
as a fresh convert and missionary and tea-totaler, I was eager to help
the Japanese to accept Christ and reject the “foolish teachings of
their fathers.” It is difficult for me to believe now that I spent
eight months in Japan’s premier tea-growing region and even walked
between the rows of tea plants without ever enjoying a cup of it.
When I lost my belief in Mormonism some years later, I made the
conscious decision to drink green tea. While I’ve sometimes had to
fight discomfort or residual guilt when turning my back on LDS
practices, I felt triumphant when I returned to green tea after my long
Everything about it felt right. It was deeply soothing. It
complimented the flavor of steaming rice perfectly; it nurtured my
thirsty Japanese soul.
In discussing the changes that we were implementing to the site (and when I say “we” I mean “John”), Friday catblogging came up (we both live with two cats, meaning that we’re sadly behind on our quota of catblogging. Personally, I merely tolerate the kitties and, while I think they can be alarmingly cute, I’ve seen enough of other people’s children that I know better than to inflict my cats on you. If I had a dog (when I get a dog) you may be in trouble.
So we decided we should do Friday Teablogging, but decided that sounded a little too vulgar. So Afternoon Tea it is! Read more >>