Tea Towels and a Missed Opportunity

Before you yawn in boredom, let me explain.  A local bookshop promotes a new title ‘The Art Of The Tea Towel’ by Marnie Fogg, hardback 144 pages and selling well.

That author could have been me!

Last year I posted about my cotton tea towels, their history and some photographs.  Nobody, as far as I could tell, had done this before and I was rather proud of my efforts.  This year Marnie’s book comes out and I’m kicking myself.

The ‘what ifs’ start – what if I had ironed my linen tea towels, what if I had borrowed my great aunt’s classic designs, what if I had posed them with kitchen utensils and what if I had pitched to a nostalgic publisher who loves tea and scones?

Would I have my name on that cover if I’d taken the initiative?  Would, could, maybe…

Of course, there’s always the option of publishing my own tea towel book, but there would be the whiff of ‘copycat’ about it.  I doubt the literary world is ready for another one.

Interested in my meagre effort (I even designed my own) click here:
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/10/01/teatowel-of-ignominy/

Interested in Marnie Fogg’s selection, click book cover:

Art Of The TeaTowel 100 Best Designs

Both links explain the versatility of a tea towel and its usage in today’s world.

So, writers, you can guess the moral of this story.

I’m slinking off to find a handkerchief to dab at my eyes…hmm, handkerchief.  There’s another drying piece of serviceable domestic textile…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Tea Towel “Ayrshire Cattle Society” © By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, suppliers of kitchen textiles, Ulster Weavers Home Fashions Limited, Belfast.
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My well-used Scottish tea towel but I’ve never tried the Haggis recipe.

Afternoon Tea and Fancy Food

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”  Henry James, The Portrait Of A Lady.

Afternoon tea offers a variety of rich, creamy cakes and sweet pastries.  Ribbon sandwiches are sometimes served with savoury nibbles but the ubiquitous tea, scones, crumpets and homemade preserves are still in evidence.

The British aristocracy conceived Afternoon Tea a long time before their working classes began to consume High Tea in the evening.  Traditionally afternoon tea is lighter than high tea, the latter consisting of heavier food like meats and fish which possibly morphed into dinner.  Who knows?  I’m only going on what I’ve read.

Australia was founded by the British so, up until recently, a fair amount of our eating habits were ever-so-English and afternoon Tea For Two was practiced both domestically and in cafés until the advance of a more universal drink coffee.  Most people are lucky if they get afternoon tea now, e.g. in my experience people have a break at ‘morning tea’ time.

My grandmother’s hand-stitched tablecloth and serviettes were linen and a deliciously laden 3-tiered cake stand was placed in the centre of the table on a crocheted doily.  A posy of fresh flowers was discreetly positioned beside the teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl.  The cutlery was usually a knife, for spreading strawberry jam and cream, and a spoon for stirring your tea.

The crockery set was china or hand-painted porcelain and generally both cups and saucers displayed dainty flowers.  I learned to tell the difference between a teapot and a coffee pot by the position of the spout.  Not many people remember the design reason for this!  Sometimes during pouring, a small tea strainer was used.  I won’t go into the variety of teas available but traditionally alcohol was not served.

“Happiness for me is largely a matter of digestion” said writer Lin Yutang and added “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life” ― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living.

These are my thoughts becoming words and not necessarily historical facts; just how I remember it when I visited my grandmother in Melbourne, Victoria.  As a child, in the homes of my friends, a serving of apple pie with ice-cream was just as good.  Friday evening fish and chips were a treat, and when the first pizza was taken from the pizzeria oven, we were not sure how to pronounce it let alone eat it.

I have a pot of leaf tea with my breakfast and use a tea cosy.  Teapots come in all shapes and sizes, and tea cosies, once the staple of the twentieth century Australian woman’s knitting repertoire, covered the pot and kept it warm.  While the tea leaves brewed, a colourful and creative tea cosy added to the charm of many an afternoon tea table.

NOTE : Afternoon tea images may induce hunger pangs!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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History : https://afternoontea.co.uk/information/history-of-afternoon-tea/

Tea Party : https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-throw-afternoon-tea-party

Teapot Museum : http://www.bygonebeautys.com.au/tearooms/

Teatowels : https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/10/01/teatowel-of-ignominy/