A lot of things get passed down family lines from generation to generation. Some people inherit the family business, while other grandparents give their grandchildren the secret recipe to Kentucky fried chicken. Some kin pass on heirlooms, such as war medals, bottles of whisky or TY Beanie Babies without the tags taken off, in the promise that one day they’ll be worth thousands. My family passes down the ability to throw a great tea party. It all sounds lovely, until you’re the one that can’t do what is expected.
Weekly tea parties have been a tradition of ours for at least three generations. Every Saturday around 20 people descend on my great aunt’s house for it. Every adult has their role in the tea party preparation as bestowed upon them on their 21st birthday, based upon what they are best at. Some make sandwiches, some bake cakes, and some make the tea. At its best it is a ferocious, slick and sickeningly English machine.
“It is a ferocious, slick and sickeningly English machine”
I’ve had try outs at all of the roles. My sandwiches were so buttery that we had to throw them all away. I tried to make a coffee and walnut cake, but all the icing was the wrong consistency and slipped off, soaking the bottom to make the whole thing soggy. Then there’s the tea. I hate tea. How am I supposed to know whether something has been brewed for long enough if I’ve not drunk it for over ten years?
My sister threw a tea party yesterday. I was excited at the chance to redeem myself. I was first given the task of making the sandwiches, until my mum reminded her of the last incident. The tasks were listed through one by one until eventually the only thing I was trusted with was cutting up celery to dip into the shop bought tzatziki. To be honest, I was quite honoured just to be trusted with a knife.
It’s quite depressing to feel that you are a failure in the eyes of your family, but let’s face it – if tea party preparation is a machine, then I’m a button that you push to hear a sarcastic comment about the weather. I am of no use. I could give myself the job of ‘laying the table’ but then I could be so easily replaced. I think the only option I have left is to become really, really good at napkin origami. Thank goodness I’m not the only young one in the family, or this tradition could be doomed.