Afternoon tea at the Taj
When the English talk of "tea," they mean the hot beverage whose consumption follows any activity of moderate exertion.
(Where I grew up, tea was also the evening meal. Dinner was what you ate at noon.)
Hardly ever, though, does tea involve tiny sandwiches and clotted cream and daintycakes. This is a still-vivid misapprehension about life in England: that everyone stops work at 4 p.m. for a pot of tea and some delicate snacks.
In fact, most people are too busy for anything more than a quick cuppa and a couple of HobNobs.
So when we went to the Taj in Boston for afternoon tea to celebrate my birthday, it was as much of a novelty for me as for anyone else.
There were teeny-tiny open-face sandwiches with egg salad and prosciutto-melon:
Smoked salmon dolloped with chived cream cheese and caviar, and little lobster choux puffs:
And cucumber sandwiches, built from translucent layers of refreshing green crunchiness:
And then came dessert: scones with clotted cream and lemon curd,
Macaroons, opera cake, financier, and a lemon tart finished with gold leaf,
and a horribly out-of-season strawberry dipped in dark chocolate.
Oh, and there was tea, loose-leaf, served in individual pots that sat on handy warming plates. That too was a novelty; where I come from, you keep your tea warm with a tea-cozy.