The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

Sometimes things just work out right, you know? Such was the case this last Saturday when S. and I, with tickets purchased some months ago for a High Tea at the local Boatville Public Library, woke up to rain.

Let me explain: At this time of year, with gardens to prep, lawns to manage, apple trees to prune, and dozens of other “coming out of winter” chores facing us, committing one of your Saturdays to activities seems foolhardy. Especially when all the aforementioned things are so fun to do, after a winter of snow, snow, snow.

So S. and I dressed up and headed to town in the rain, completely unguiltily, leaving all the fresh spring mess behind us, going to have tea in town, at a special event managed by J., the lady in charge of the library. I ask you: How many “Official Teas”” have you attended, hmmmm? This was extra special, because we were celebrating the 90th anniversary of our library. (The New York Mills Library. I use “Boatville” in what I mean to be complimentary. Well, mostly.)

We attendees primped. We combed. We brushed. We polished. We selected clothes to wear. Looked in the mirror. Reselected clothes. Rebrushed and pinned our hair. We decided good enough was adequate, didn’t we. And off to the library to be seated at a table quite nicely prepared for us, the table being just as primped and polished as were we.

If you looked around, you found yourself surrounded by mostly ladies in their finest. What a treat to see! Long dresses, light colored in celebration of spring. And the hats! I tell you, the hats that women can pull off, now, that’s something I’ve always been a bit jealous of. There were hats that one might see at an English horse event, or like might be seen at the Kentucky Derby. Oh the hats!

S. and I were seated, and the first thing to arrive was a fancy tea pot, full of black tea. Perhaps now is a good time to tell you what the term “High Tea” really means. As best I understand it, the term “High” refers to a tea not involving anything referring to work. It is meant to represent the complete opposite; to represent, as were we, a celebration of an event. Compared to other Working Teas, this type of celebration involves a fancier presentation of food and public attire.

First to be served us at our table was a triple level tray of such savories as: Tiny cucumber sandwiches (of which one would have to eat dozens if one were going to next go do labor stuff); then came kiwi sandwiches topped by a blackberry and a hint of vanilla; then came Black Forest ham and cheddar sandwich bits; and finally smoked salmon with Boursin cheese sandwiches. Oh, my–so, so fancy.

(I’ve always wanted to go somewhere and have hor d’oeuvres, which is pronounced by the unenlightened as something sounding like “horses duvers,” but should be more like “or derves.”) I guess if you have to be instructed in the pronunciation of it, you haven’t been invited to it.

Following this magic blast of Savories came a fancily presented triple decker tray of Quiches, Scones, and Breads. When one first encounters such a prettily arranged assortment as this was, the first thought is how to get one. There was a fork at our plate. Use that? No, forking something that nice didn’t seem right. Grab it like we used to grab food in the middle of a day of baling hay back on the farm? Hmmmm. Nor did that seem right. I looked around. Everyone seemed presented with the same dilemma. We all finally couldn’t resist it any longer and used our fingers, so I guess this is why another name for this kind of food is “finger food.”

We daintily tweezered a bit of fancy. Or we grabbed. We fondled. We looked. We hmmmed. We wondered what this or that was. We munched. We chewed. We swallowed. We drank more tea. Tried this and tried that off the magic trays, which just kept coming.

And last but not least, then came ginger cookies, strawberry cream puffs, chocolate brownies, and lemon curd pastry. Oh to discover at this late point in my life that I have never had a lemon curd pastry! How deprived have I been!

But I’ve had one now! At the 90th Boatville High Tea, celebrating 90 years of wonderful books, wonderful library employees, the 50 years that I have now been here using the library, and now marvelous High Tea.

I must confess that, as I reached into that fancy tray to daintily–yes, daintily– You heard me!–fetch a cucumber sandwich, I hoped that I had scraped my fingernails clean of the remnants of a greasy piece of machinery that I had been working on back on the farm. Just like as a male, one must occasionally check one’s pants zipper, I now had to surreptitiously glance at my fingernails. And whew, they were okay.

Thank you, Boatville. For this. And for everything. You continue to impress.