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Rituals and Celebration

March 2, 2008

I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with tea. Not the drink, although I like that too, but with the whole idea of ‘tea time.’ I haven’t started investing in expensive china or decorating with doiles, but I have been busy veganizing all the recipes I can find for little sammiches, cakes and scones.

Like a lot of ultra-fetishized ideas about foreign cultures, I’m aware that the reality of a custom and the actual practice of it don’t always line up neatly. Plenty of people don’t drop everything in the afternoon to eat watercress sandwiches. All the people I’ve known to actually attend a ‘high tea’ find that they’re generally surrounded by other tourists.

Still, the idea of it appeals. Like when I stayed at the home of a friend’s friend in Alsace and every morning she served a platter of scrumptious bread and fruit (and cheese, which I ate at the time) for breakfast. She freely admitted that her family didn’t eat this way every morning. Some days they were in a rush or her boys wanted cereal, but she always went ahead and at least sliced some fruit for everyone. I loved the idea of it. The morning ritual of slicing and peeling fruit, laying it out on a platter.

Adding a bit of ritual to one’s relationship with food can do wonders. Often I find myself falling into mindless routines: make coffee, drink smoothie, eat lunch….. I cook and I enjoy it, but it’s about taste and hunger only. Sometimes it’s nice to step back and slow down and add a bit of ceremony to our meals. It’s a bit like the difference between taking a shower and taking a bath. Both will get you clean, certainly, but I can’t melt some lush bath bombs and soak in a sea of fragrance in my shower.

I can make a chickpea salad sandwich, slap it on a plate and eat in front of the television, but sometimes it just feels better to cut it into triangles, arrange it on a plate and focus on enoying the moment. In some ways this feels like a natural step in terms of my becoming a true intuitive eater. Now that I’ve stopped fearing food or obsessing over what I “should” be eating, I’m also free to really really enjoy food. To slather earth balance on white bread and top it with a slice of cucumber without secretly worrying about fat and carbs, to make a scrumption orange blueberry bundt cake and eat a thick slice without mentally figuring out the amount of running that will ‘balance’ it is certainly a victory. But to create ritual and celebration around the food, to make eating and serving it an art is like giving the finger to the puritanical voices that lived for so long in my head and who viewed food as a necessary sin and/or a constant source of temptation.

Maybe it’s our puritan heritage that makes so many of us feel guilty about enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. Slicing and arranging fruit and fresh bread for breakfast?! Well, I could be working out or cleaning or getting some work done! We let ourselves have little ‘nibbles’ of dessert because sitting down with a plate of dessert looks decadent and wrong. Except decadence isn’t wrong of course and since food is also about taking care of yourself, then making heart-shaped watercress sandwiches is taking special care of yourself. Plus they’re totally cute.

Now if anyone can give me a full-proof vegan lemon curd recipe, I’ll be very grateful.

  1. Emmy permalink
    March 2, 2008 6:29 pm

    Since you asked, I’m delurking to tell you of a vegan of my long ago acquaintance, who made a very nice lemon spread that might be a passable sub for lemon curd. I think she intended it as a sub for the ubiquitous cheese ball, but the effect is the same.

    As I recall, it was just a block of silken tofu, the juice of about 3 or 4 lemons, a little pat of vegan margarine, and some fine sugar, all blended up in the food processor. It is delicious on melba toasts. You can add a drop of yellow food color if you like (and can find one suitable to your dietary needs, etc.), because it does turn out mighty white otherwise.

    Happy experimenting.

  2. mrsmillur permalink
    March 2, 2008 7:00 pm

    Yes! you TOTALLY deserve pretty little heart-shaped watercress sandwiches, if that’s what tows your boat.

    Nobody has time to fuss over every morsel, but when you have time- you are so *worth* the effort.

  3. Desdemona permalink
    March 3, 2008 9:02 am

    My mother is English, and my siblings and I were basically weaned on tea. I spend a lot of time in England, and what most Americans think of as “high tea” (little sandwiches, scones, teacakes, and the like) is actually afternoon tea, advertised as “cream tea” at tourist attractions, etc. High tea historically had the more working class connotation of a proper, hearty meal, eaten around suppertime: sausages, beans, bread and butter, etc.
    Anyway, I digress; it’s funny that I checked in here this morning, because I was just thinking about lemon curd yesterday (specifically, about how much I’d like to EAT some). Since I’m vegan, it’s been a long while since I’ve had it, so thanks very much for sharing that recipe, Emmy, I’m definitely going to give that a go!

  4. beckduer permalink
    March 4, 2008 12:04 pm

    I have a kick-ass lemon curd recipe at home. I’ve made it for a while now. Let me look at it and do some experimenting. I think I can fully vegan-ize it for you. It shouldn’t be too difficult since it’s a pretty simple recipe to start with.

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