Afternoon Tea on the Veranda

This is the third article in August of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on August 15, 1909, and is an article on how to have afternoon tea on the veranda. This is one of the few articles also printed in the Dauphin Herald which got me interested in Marion Harland’s serial work.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Afternoon Tea on the Veranda

I LIKE that word—“veranda”—better than “piazza,” and it expresses something that “porch” does not cover. The latter word is synonymous with the old Knickerbocker “stoop.” Both imply roominess and cozy comfort, a secluded corner in which mynheer and his hausfrau cold take their ease, with pipe and mending basket, when the hard work of the day was done. The neighbors gathered there on summer evenings, and the air was thick with tobacco smoke and gossip. As a rule, the mistress of the house discouraged the growth of vines about the square stoop. They were harbors for mosquitos and slugs, and dry leaves and dropping flowers littered the floor.

Our veranda would not deserve the three-syllabled word were it bared of the draping vines. We got it from the orientals, with whom it signifies seclusion gained by lattices and shutters and vines. An English lexicographer appends to this definition the gratuitous observation that “The veranda is erroneously called a ‘piazza’ in the United States.”

Afternoon tea and the rechristening of porch, stoop and piazza have come to us simultaneously, and they have come to stay. It may be long before, from mansion to hovel, tea will be made and served at 5 o’clock throughout the length and breadth of our land, as in England, Scotland and Ireland. Were the vapor of the tilted teakettle visible, it would obscure the face of the sun between 4:30 and 5 in the British isles. Queen and washerwoman drink together then, and the clink of china marks the hour as faithfully as the town clock.

When Shadows Lengthen.

With us the pretty custom gained favor so fast within a quarter of a century that it is an exception when the cup that cheers but not inebriates is not offered to the afternoon guest. In thousands of homes it is as truly a family meal as breakfast.

I have called the custom “pretty.” It is never a more graceful function than when carried out upon the veranda. The simplest country cottage where the habit prevails is furnished with a wicker table, or one of “mission” manufacture, than stands on the veranda all the time. It has a modest corner for its own and keeps in the background until the “bewitching hour” of afternoon tea approaches. The aproned maid then sets it in the foreground, spreads the teacloth and brings out the tray upon which is arranged the tea equipage.

If the beverage is to be brewed by the mistress or by a daughter of the house, the teakettle and a spirit lamp form part of the pleasing array upon the tray. Or a 5-o’clock-tea stand precedes the appearance of the tray and is set beside the table. A silver or copper kettle swings over an alcohol lamp. Boiling water was poured into the kettle before it left the kitchen. The spirit lamp makes sure the actual boil before it goes into the teapot which must be hot from a recent scalding.

After the English.

The cozy, another English importation, is almost an essential when tea is served upon the veranda. If there be any breeze in the long summer day, it may be depended upon to spring up as the sun nears the western horizon. Moreover, the canny housemother sets the table in the coolest corner of the shaded veranda. She slips the cozy over the pot after the latter is filled, and leaves it there for the two minutes that are requisite to draw out the flavor and tonic properties of the Celestial herb without poisoning the infusion with tannic acid. The hot-water pot flanks the teapot, in case it should be needed to weaken the beverage for a “nervous” drinker. An alcohol flame burns under it while the function goes on.

Don’t cumber the simple and elegant ceremonial of afternoon tea by numerous and various appointments that make it heavy and expensive. I have in mind one city of fair size and abounding hospitality where the custom degenerated into “receptions” demanding salads, ices and a dozen et ceteras, entailing an expenditure of labor and money that made this form of entertainment impracticable for the woman of limited means.

Ask half a dozen of the nicest neighbors you have to take a cup of tea with you on the veranda on a given afternoon when you have a choice fiend staying with you. Group easy chairs and wicker rockers invitingly in the corner sacred to the tea hour, and assemble your guests there as they arrive. Your prettiest tea cloth should drape the table, and all the features of the “equipage” must be the best you can bring to the front. A single vase of flowers not a mixed bouquet should grace the center of the table. As you make and pour the tea, see to it that the talk flows on smoothly. There should be no break in the thread of anecdote and chat. Silence is always formality under these circumstances.

Have a plate or basket of thin bread and butter. Some tea-lovers prefer this accompaniment to sandwich or cake. If you or your cook can make good Scotch scones, for which you shall have a recipe presently, they will be received gratefully by those who have eaten them “on the other side.”

Another pleasant accompaniment of tea is the toasted sandwich. That, too, we will have by and by. Sandwiches of tongue and ham and chicken are popular at all times. In hot weather I refer the lighter varieties of tomato, cress nasturtium and lettuce sandwiches. On very warm afternoons you may substitute iced for hot tea. Yet, since this cooling drink disagrees seriously with many persons, it is best to have hot tea for such as prefer it.

A basket of light cake or cookies is passed after the bread and sandwiches. For those who take no sugar in their tea, cake is not amiss. It vitiates the taste of the drink for such as qualify it with cream and sugar. In addition to cream jug and sugar bowl have a plate of sliced lemon if you serve cold tea, a bowl of cracked ice.

Stop there! Bonbons, fruit and “Frappes” are foreign to the genuine, quietly refined function. You vulgarize it by introducing any of them.

Afternoon Tea Scones.

Sift a quart of flour three times with two teaspoonfuls of baking powder and one of salt. Chop into this a tablespoonful of butter and one of lard for shortening. Mix in a bowl with a wooden spoon into a dough by adding three cupfuls of sweet milk, or enough to make a soft dough. Do not touch with your hands. Lay the dough upon your kneading board and roll into a sheet half an inch thick. Cut into round cakes with your biscuit cutter and bake upon a soapstone griddle to a light brown. Split and butter while hot.

Toasted Sandwiches.

Cut slices of white or of graham bread thin, butter lightly, and spread one with cream cheese. Press the two slices firmly together and toast the outside of each before a quick fire. Send to table wrapped in a napkin.

Cream Cheese and Sweet Pepper Sandwiches.

Scald the peppers to take off the biting taste, and drain them. Lay on the ice for some hours. Wipe and mince. Mix two-thirds cream cheese and one-third peppers into a smooth paste. Spread upon lightly buttered bread and put together in sandwich form.

Tomato Sandwiches.

Butter thin slices of bread and lay between them slices of fresh ripe tomatoes from which the skin has been pared. Spread each slice of tomato with mayonnaise or a good French dressing.

Lettuce Sandwiches.

Butter thin slices of bread and lay between them in sandwich form crisp leaves of heart lettuce which have been dipped in mayonnaise dressing. One leaf of lettuce suffices for each sandwich.

Nasturtium Sandwiches.

Substitute for the lettuce leaves petals of nasturtium flowers dipped in French dressing. This is a piquant and appetizing sandwich.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange
Advertisement

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree – In Russia

This is the fourth article in January of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on January 27, 1907, and is the final talk on keeping house in foreign lands.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree

In Russia

OWING to the distracted state of all ranks of Russian society few peace-loving nomads are inclined to settle even for a season within the Czar’s dominions. Should curiosity or expediency compel the step, one should, if possible, pitch the family tent in the capital or in some other city where the United States Consulate and a fair sprinkling of American residents make life moderately comfortable, because measurably safe.

In such a city one can rent a flat or apartment, where the task of keeping warm in winter is less formidable than in huge country houses, more like barracks or barns than human residences.

One’s menu, also, requires less thought in a city. In St. Petersburg, especially, supplies are easily obtainable, and one may fall back on French cooking when the national diet becomes too unspeakable for American palates.

In the country, where one is frozen in for months at a time, unless a housekeeper be prudent and packs away in the underground storerooms during the summer enormous supplies of fermented cabbage, beets—roots and leaves—dried or smoked fish, ham and meats in casks, barrels of flour, bushels of carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, kegs of butter and oil, cheese of every description, dried and canned fruits, and tidbits for the “zakouska”—eatables which form the staple diet of most Russians—starvation may tissue.

SERVANTS ARE HOPELESS

The servant question is likely to prove annoying, not from overindulgence, but because the Russian maid, being but a generation removed from serfdom, is hopelessly irresponsible and careless, with little regard for “meum” and “tuum.” One may hire them for a pittance, but too often they are dear at any price.

The arrangement of Russian meals does not differ materially from that in other European countries. We have the early breakfast of bread, coffee and tea, and the heavier midday meal between 11 and 2, similar to our luncheon.

At this last one has a soup, hot or cold; sour cabbage, mushrooms prepared with sour cream, some sort of cold meat or game, or possibly a creamed fish or vegetable salad, or a chopped-up meat in cutlet, with a sauce of vinegar and sour cream added to the fat in which the meat has been fried. The mixture is then boiled, with a sliced herring and sardine thrown in by way of zest.

Then there maybe curd dumplings, a remarkable compound of rennet curds, pastry, sour cream and eggs, baked in a moderate oven and eaten with melted butter or with sour cream poured over them. Or, perhaps, one tastes “Blinis” for the first time, the Russian hot bread, which enjoys as great popularity as our buckwheat cakes.

Usually there will be “kvas,” a Russian sour soft drink, to wash down the breakfast, or, perhaps, the fiery and intoxicating “vodka.”

The dinner hour in Russia varies from 6 o’clock to 8, and the meal itself is the most important function of the day.

The hostess who aims to be truly Russian will begin with “zakouska.” This is not the simple little appetizer of caviare on toast we know in America, but an elaborate “spread,” usually served in an antechamber; if in the salle a manger, at a side table. In fact, a stranger to the customs of the land may find that he has unwittingly made a full meal before he has approached the dinner table, so enticing is the array of cold dishes, dried fruits, cheeses, wines and liqueurs offered for his selection.

At the zakouska will be found, besides caviare, potted and highly spiced chicken, ham, fish, game and thin slices of aromatic smoked Russian ham, smoked sturgeon or dried salmon.

At the dinner proper one has soup and fish, a roast and curiously prepared vegetables, a salad and dessert, for all of which the preliminary appetizers have probably deprived one of appetite.

Perhaps the soup will be the national stchi, made of pounds of fermented cabbage, an equal amount of cold boiled mutton, chopped together, and boiled with two quarts of kvas, eight ounces of butter, concentrated soup stock, salt, pepper, a little barley and various herbs.

Then one may have the highly prized roast suckling pig stuffed with black buckwheat, hulled and boiled like oatmeal and browned in the oven before it is used as stuffing. Or there may be delicious half-grown chicken squabs, long known in Russia and now popular in the United States.

For an entree might be served Russian croutes, made of finely shredded smoked or spiced beef, cut into strips about an inch long and a quarter of an inch wide, and soaked for half an hour in a little French dressing. Cover the croutes, or blocks of fried bread, with a slice of hard-boiled egg, seasoned with salt and pepper. Place the strips of beef on the croutes and cover with a sauce made of whipped cream, or, better yet, sour cream, into which grated horseradish, cayenne pepper and a few drops of lemon juice are stirred.

The famous Russian salad of cold boiled peas, cauliflower, potatoes cut in strips, dice of carrots, turnips and beans comes next in order. Sliced raw tomatoes, chopped pickle and truffles are arranged in distinct layers in a salad bowl or fill a mould lined with jelly. Season each layer with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, pile the salad high in the centre, cover with mayonnaise and garnish with shredded salmon and beets, olives, capers and anchovies.

After zakouska, topped by dinner, it might be thought the Russian would survive until the next day without another meal. Not he! In winter there is always a light supper after the theatre, while in summer there are refreshments at 10 o’clock, such as berries, with cream and cake, followed by tea passed at midnight. The long twilights are conductive to late hours.

DELICIOUS COFFEE AND TEA

Both coffee and tea, by the way, are delicious in Russia, even when they are passed in great trays at the railroad stations. The samovar plays an important part in the social life, and it was from Russia learned to use lemon instead of cream in our tea. What the initiated palate considers a rather pleasant variation in the tea served at midnight is a spoonful of strawberry jam stirred into each cup.

Russian hospitality is sometimes overpowering. A whole family will meet a guest at the door on her arrival and shower her with attentions during her stay. Frequently at the table the host or hostess will jump up and offer some extra delicacy that has been overlooked by butler or footman.

This proved rather embarrassing to two young American friends visiting the home of a noted Russian scientist. Without a language in common, it was impossible to explain why the guests could not go on drinking indefinitely a heady wine to which they were unaccustomed. The host, thinking they disliked the brand, made an excursion to the cellar several times during the course of the dinner to bring out choice vintages in honor of his visitors, to the embarrassment of all concerned, as the guests dared not touch them.

The half-fermented cabbage of Russia is one of the food staples. It is dressed in a variety of ways, and is much used in soups. It is prepared by chopping the cabbage, pressing it down hard in casks, and adding a little salt. In a few days it will be fermented sufficiently for the casks to be sealed and stored away for winter use.

Sour cream is also to be found on every table and is considered a delicacy in any form in which it is used. It may be bought in all Russian dairies.

Mushrooms, both fresh and dried, are a national delicacy.

A curious combination of fermented cabbage, sour cream and mushrooms is made by stewing dried mushrooms in cold water, pouring the liquid over sour cabbage and boiling for fifteen minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and salt; stew till thick. Add sour cream, and, lastly, a tablespoonful of flour, browned in butter. Stir thoroughly and cook in a covered dish until as thick as boiled cabbage.

REAL RUSSIAN TOFFEE

A Russian toffee beloved by the children is made with a pound of loaf- sugar, a half-pound of butter and a half pint of cream. Stir all three over the fire till the mixture draws away from the sides of the pan. Flavor with two tablespoonfuls of currant jelly, pour into buttered pans, and when cool cut into squares.

“Kvas,” for which a recipe is given here with, is a refreshing and healthful drink, and is also used in souring soups and roasts.

“Blinis” would make a pleasing variation in our hot breads. The moulds can be bought at Russian delicatessen shops in this country.

Russian Recipes.

BLINIS (NATIONAL HOT BREAD).

One pound flour.
Four eggs.
One and a half glasses milk (lukewarm).
Half-pound rice flour.
Two ounces German yeast (or one yeast cake).

Dilute the yeast with a large glass of warm milk. Pour the flour in to a bowl, make a hollow in the centre and pour in yeast. Stir in the flour gradually to a light, soft paste, and let it rise three hours. Beat the yolks of four eggs and mix with one-half glass of tepid milk. Knead into the risen paste one-half pound of rice flour; add the eggs and milk, and, when light and smooth, a glass of whipped cream and the well-beaten whites. Let the paste rise in one and one-half hours.

Ten minutes before serving, warm a dozen small blinis moulds (shaped like tartlet moulds, but larger and higher). Grease with melted butter and put into each a tablespoonful of paste. Slip a spatula under the moulds and put into a hot oven. Turn, moisten with a paste-brush dipped in melted butter, and three to five minutes later serve hot with a sauceboat of melted butter.

KVAS (A SOFT DRINK).

Four quarts of malt.
Eight pounds rye flour.
One and one-quarter pounds wheat flour.
Seven gallons cold water.
One and one-quarter quarts warm water.
Three-quarters gill of yeast.
Three ounces mint (scalded).

Mix the rye, malt and three-quarters of a pound of the wheat flour with boiling water to a dough and set it in a moderate oven for a number of hours to sour. Take out the dough, place in a large crock or tub and pour over the cold water, mixing till there are no lumps. Let it settle and pour off.

Stir together the rest of the wheat flour, yeast and warm water, then mix with the kvas or soured liquor; beat till very thin and pour into a cask, in which the scalded mint has been placed. Cover the cask and put into a warm room over night, when it should be removed to the cellar or other cold place and bottled.

ANOTHER KVAS

Four pounds barley meal.
Two pounds honey.
One-half pound salt.
Four gallons boiling water.

Put the barley, honey and salt into a stone jar, pour on the boiling water and stir well. Place it on the back of a stove, where it should simmer but not boil for twelve hours. Strain it and let it stand five or six days to ferment slightly. Skim off the foam, strain again and bottle. This drink is non-alcoholic and refreshing.

The honey gives it a flavor not unlike that of the old English drink, metheglin.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
The Housemothers’ Exchange
A Talk on the Servant Problem

Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – Hot Water No. XVI

This is the first article in June of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on June 6, 1909, and is an article on tea and hot water with specific attention on tannic acid.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – Hot Water No. XVI

MRS. BROWN’S “Dietetic Department” took a new turn today. Not that most of us were surprised when she not only declined but denounced the tea which she had lauded, not three weeks ago, as “Tired Woman’s Sweet Restorer, Balmy Tea.” As I have already remarked, we knew the tannic acid stage must come in the natural course of her lectures.

“No tea for me, dear Mrs. Sterling,” she murmured, a regretful glister in her eyes. “Against my will I am convinced that it is absolutely poison to one of my digestive idiosyncrasies. I have nothing to do with other people’s principles and practice in this respect, although I shuddered, this morning, in listening to the professor’s analysis of teas—even those for which we pay preposterous prices as the best and purest brands. We all know, of course, that green tea owns its color to Prussian blue, the base of which is prussic acid. But everybody does not suspect that tannic acid-a deadly poison—lucks in every cup, whatever may be the kind of tea used. After ten minutes maceration” (Mrs. Martin smiled openly at the technical term) “the diffusion is little better than diluted digallic acid.”

“Good gracious!” cried Mrs. Martin, helping herself to a slice of lemon and another lump of sugar, abstractedly. “How horribly and delightfully interesting! Do go on! It is such a comfort to know just what one drinks! And what does the digalltannic stuff do after we swallow three or four cups of it?”

Mrs. Brown was [] up without one ray of humor. She replied, promptly and gravely:

Tannin’s Ill Effects.

“Digallic acid is but another name for tannin. When taken into the human stomach it precipitates all starches and glutens (which is the best principle of bread, you know), all albuminous deposits (that is eggs), and if you have eaten jelly—sweet or aspic or meat jelly—it forms a most insoluble compound, almost like leather!”

“Good gracious!” ejaculated the fun-loving auditor anew—her eyes widened until her forehead was a gridiron of wrinkles. “You make me feel like a tannery! Yet it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a leather-lined stomach, when one comes to think of it!”

Mrs. Sterling interposed the usual buffer between ball and ball:

“But my dear Mrs. Brown, sensible people who have read of the properties of foods—and beverages—do not let tea steep for ten minutes! They know that stewed, or overdone tea, is an astringent, and that it must carry on the tanning process you have described.”

“I beg your pardon” returned the thoroughbred, with perfect temper. “There is not a leaf in the pot! As soon as the boiling water had stood upon the herb five minutes—or less—the tea was drawn off into that pot having been made in another, and set in a vessel of boiling water until I rang for the tea. Once here, the wadded cozy keeps it hot for an incredibly long time, and it loses none of its freshness. Neither,” smiling at the disconcerted reformer, “does it extract tannic acid while standing. Patent neither obtained nor applied for! The trick is free to all. Now, let me give you something to drink! What shall it be? Coffee? Lemonade? Milk?”

“A cup of freshly boiled water, please!” with what remnant of self-possession defeat had left her. “It stimulates and cleanses the mucous lining of the stomach.”

While the water was in boiling Mrs. Sterling went on talking naturally and easily. That a guest should suffer discomfort of body or spirit in her house is, to her notions, a breach of hospitality.

The Virtues of Hot Water.

“My sister, Mrs. Field, never wearies of descanting upon the virtues of hot water as a beverage. A cup—freshly boiled, as you say—is brought to her bedside every morning before she rises. She takes nothing else for sick headache and indigestion. When she is inclined to be bilious in the early warm weather, she adds the juice of a lemon without sugar, and insists that it does her more good than quinine ever did ‘in the dark ages when she pinned her faith to doctors and to drugs.’ If it be a delusion it is harmless—and clean. Here is your invigorator, at last! I thank you for not going away thirsty.”

After a few minutes of desultory chat, the hot water question came up again. It was, I think, Mrs. Green who asked, “What is a ‘bain marie?”

“One meets with the term often in recipes, especially for the preparation of French dishes,” she said. “I judge from the connection in which it is used, that is has to do with hot water.”

“It is rather a grand apparatus in hotel kitchens,” replied the hostess. “I have a simpler form—a very crude construction—in mine which I will show you, some day, if you wish. I had a []zinc box—or pan—made by a stove manufacturer, oblong, about six inches deep and with a deep, round cover. Any tinner could make one. It is about twice as large as an ordinary covered roaster. This stands as the side of the range all day long, or at the back, wherever it will be out of the cook’s way, and is always half or quite full of hot water. Dishes are set in it to heat before they are filled, and to keep the content hot after they are ready for the table. Coffee and teapots go into the same while they await [] convenience. Soups may be kept hot against the master’s coming for an hour without injury. Even the steak, done to a turn, does not lose flavor or juices after it is committed to the warm embrace of the ‘bain marie.’ The same may be said of fish and even oysters, and it is on record that an omlette was once saved from flat ruin by the ‘Cook’s Best Friend.’ That is the name it foes by in our household.”

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Return of The Russian Samorar

This is the third article in February of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Feb 21, 1904, and is a very short article on the samovar. Considering the eastern nature of many of the immigrants who moved to the west it would not surprise me that one or two samovars made the journey over for those who could afford the item and space.

School for Housewives – Return of The Russian Samovar

Among the various Russian and Japanese belongings which acquired a sudden vogue by the first rumors of war in the east is the Russian samovar.

This picturesque urn is so little seen in our country that many housekeepers have at best a very vague idea of its nature.

The accompanying picture will consequently by of general interest.

The photographer has so far conceded to American prejudices as to include a cream pitcher among the various articles of the outfit whereas your Russian tea drinker considers sliced lemon the only correct accompaniment.

With this single exception Russian tea drinking in America is carried on in true Muscovite fashion.

For the sake of those to whom the outfit is totally unknown, it should be added that the samovar is a copper urn used in Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and elsewhere, in which water is kept boiling for use when required in making tea.

The heat is produced by filling a tube, which passes up through the urn, with live charcoal.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Marion Harland’s Interesting Talks With Housewives and Parents – Members Gather ‘Round the Council Table to Give and Seek Advise on Many Subjects
Some Recipes for Good Nursery Foods