Then, last summer, I fretted about an upcoming interview on national radio to everyone who would listen to my wimpy whining.
Marilyn knew that the interview would likely stir up very painful memories. She kindly offered to be nearby. And she created an afternoon tea party for the CBC Radio team and me after the interview. It was the perfect thing to do.
p.s. The Amaryllis bulbs may re-bloom next winter, if I let the leaves grow after blooming, through the summer months. I stop watering in late August, let the leaves dry, then store the bulbs in a cool dark place for 3 months. Doesn’t always work, mind you, but these enormous flowers are great in the pot or a vase, and are an inexpensive jolt of colour in winter.
Green grocers, famers markets and supermarkets are awash in local apple displays.
This situation calls for afternoon tea with an apple. We did just that. Yesterday.
Today we are far more adventuresome with apples. After a quick consultation with broadcaster, author and fellow blogger Cynthia Reyes about apples and how to cook, can and consume them, we have decided to adapt one of Cynthia’s recipes for an apple cake.
You will recall from earlier bogs that Cynthia is the author of A Good Home, a very good home indeed which boast a couple of heritage apple trees.
As we’ve toyed considerably with the recipe, we have re-christened it Lady Cynthia Cake.
200 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup cooking molasses (treacle)
2 large eggs
350 grams self-raising flour (or regular four plus one tablespoon baking powder)
100 gram rolled oats
As Christmas approaches, Marilyn Mirabelli is a very busy woman.
Marilyn, the person behind one of my favorite websites, has a tea catering company called Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you’ll find her filling clients’ orders and preparing to cater afternoon teas for tree-trimming or other Christmas parties. Marilyn Mirabelli knows her tea. And, since 2004, she’s been living her dream of having a thriving tea business.
As you’ll see on Marilyn’s website, she’s revived the afternoon tea in classic style:
“ASimply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teaunfolds with the well-appointed tea table: Crisp white tablecloth and tea napkins; china teapot and cups and saucers; freshly-made tea sandwiches that are trimmed and quartered, small cakes, biscuits, and of course, classic English scones with imported Devon double clotted cream. This is accompanied by the choicest loose leaf teas.”
Marilyn is also a talented writer who produces a series of high-quality, interesting stories on her website. It’s like having some tidbits of history with your afternoon tea, and enjoying it too! Here’s something I learned from Simply Splendid:
“Queen Victoria made afternoon tea popular, very ‘it’. But she did not invent the tradition. That honour goes to Anna, Duchess of Bedford, a Lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and prone to fainting spells in the afternoons. The royal doctor was called; he diagnosed Anna’s fainting spells as hunger from the long stretch between lunch and supper and prescribed a cup of hot tea and buttered bread whenever a fainting spell was coming on.
Anna found this so agreeable, she invited other Ladies-in-waiting to join her. Pretty soon Queen Victoria cottoned on to a good idea and she asked for afternoon tea too. The rest as they say, is history!”
As well as bits of history, you’ll find interviews with interesting personalities on the website. It makes you realize that the person behind the site and the company is both extremely knowledgeable and passionate about afternoon tea.
But you won’t find a great deal about Marilyn herself on the website, so here’s a tidbit about her:
The former journalist and communications consultant says she read a book called Dreams Don’t Have An Expiry Date by Deanna Rosenswig in the early 2000’s and decided to start her tea business. She was determined that her cakes, sandwiches and other offerings would all be made to order from fresh ingredients and she’s kept that commitment. Her tea selections come from estates monitored by the Ethical Tea Partnership.
As the company’s fame spreads, a wide variety of clients – individuals, families and corporate workplaces — have asked Marilyn to cater afternoon teas for special occasions. Former broadcaster/politician Isabel Bassett described the tea Simply Splendid prepared for her daughter’s baby shower as “exquisite… the guests are still talking about it.”
I was raised in the tea-drinking capital of Jamaica – Manchester. Afternoon tea wasn’t just a hot drink: it was an occasion, and for some, an almost-sacred ritual. (See “Afternoon Tea”, Ch. 10 in A Good Home.) So I was thrilled when the Simply Splendid website chose A Good Home as its favorite book for the month of July. It was a great boost – the book had only been released weeks before.
Then, this autumn, Simply Splendid gave me a delightful surprise when they created a special apple cake which they named “Lady Cynthia Cake”.
Within days, friends, acquaintances and strangers alike were trying out the recipe, to oohs and aahs of delight. The cake was served at an afternoon tea in Whitby, Ontario, where it was declared “delicious”. Then, a friend invited me for tea in her home, and surprised me by serving the Lady Cynthia Cake she’d just made. Again, delicious.
Marilyn’s tea blends, cakes, sandwiches and other creations are, simply, splendid. Congrats on living your dream, Marilyn, and we wish you well.
For more information about gift packages, special tea blends or to book an afternoon tea – do visit: splendidafternoonteas.com