Tea and time together

By Chef Don Bingham

Mother’s Day rolls around every year; it’s as sure as the fact that we all have a mother! Memories flood my heart and mind when I think of the headaches I must have created for my own dear mother. 

Libby Roller (from left), Barbara Watkins, Eloise Stowe and Becky Vint enjoying a high tea at the Bingham home.

Most mothers are amazing, and so was mine. Realizing I was not a normal child (writer’s opinion), Mom and Dad gave endless hours of sacrifice in the formation and guidance of this fragmented personality they called their son! For example, Mom and Dad bought me a full pedal Rodger’s Organ, a beautiful studio piano, and an antique pump organ, just to have for any training that might occur from age seven through college.

In honor of my mother, I’d like to share a story of how things are not always as they appear to be when it comes to our moms. My mom was a prolific china painter and produced amazing pieces that were available in many locations. Of course, Nancy and I wanted to have as many pieces as possible for our five children to have and for our own use. Each time we traveled home to Alabama, we would look forward to returning to Arkansas with a piece or two of her china to add to our collection. The only “skunk in the woodpile” was that Mom would CHARGE us for each piece! Can you fathom that? Charging her own flesh and blood, her own son, the very idea! I suppose we had the choice of not purchasing, but what fun would that be? So, we pressed on with the goal of our china collection, meanwhile, calling my dear mom every name in the book for her cheap and tawdry treatment of her own family!  

Nancy Bingham hosts her 11th granddaughter, Anna Claire Faulkner, each Tuesday afternoon for a tea party. In anticipation of her arrival, the tea pot is readied, pastries plated, and pinkies are properly raised for Tea Time with Nanna.

The day came when Mom passed away. It was a lovely memorial service, and upon returning home after the service, my dad called my brother and myself, along with our wives, into the bedroom and explained, “I know you all never understood why your mother charged you all these many years for the pieces of china that you wanted, but it was for this day she had been saving that money for you for all these years. She wanted you to have it to let you know of her love for you and for the value of a dollar in life.” 

Dad then presented my brother and me with a check for $20,000 from my mom! What an amazing lesson we learned from this experience.

Another treasure that has been passed down to the next generations, and to many friends, is that of the china tea services. I say “tea services,” plural, because Mom painted all five of our children complete services of tea pots, cups and saucers, plates and many serving pieces. Nancy has a standing “Tea Party” every Tuesday at 3:15 pm with our youngest granddaughter, Anna Claire, and we often have cherished friends over for High Tea in the Garden Room of our modest home! To celebrate all the mothers and their untold contributions to all of us, we have included some of our favorite recipes for a delightful Tea Time! 

Thank you, moms—how very much we love and cherish you all—mothers past, present, and future.  You are more valuable to us than “all the tea and china” available! 

Tea sandwiches with Butter-Dill-Cucumber Spread

2 sticks of butter, softened and at room temperature

1 peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped, 

  liquid squeezed out and discarded

2 Tbsps. of finely chopped fresh dill

By hand, or with a mixer, beat butter until smooth, add diced dill, finely chopped cucumber, mix to spreadable consistency.

Slice the crust edges from pieces of white bread. Spread butter mixture between the two pieces of sandwich bread. Cut bread pieces in half, forming two triangles. Place on serving tray, cover with a damp towel and refrigerate until ready for use. One loaf of bread and butter-dill spread should yield approximately 20-24 triangular tea sandwiches.

For more flavor: Add thin slices of cucumber on top of spread

Chicken Salad Spread for tea sandwiches

Five boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely grated onion (optional)

1 cup mayonnaise 

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil chicken breast in salted water until done, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Place cooked chicken breast in a food processor with steel blade and coarsely puree. 

Place chicken in a bowl; add pecans, celery, onion, salt and pepper to taste, and mayonnaise. Adjust seasonings and mayonnaise as needed.

Slice the crust edges from pieces of white bread. Fill sliced bread or croissants with chicken salad spread.

Edinburgh Tea Room Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

6 Tbsps. butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1/2 cup golden or dark raisins (optional)

½ cup milk to brush tops of scones

¼ to ½ cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 425. Add flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir to blend. Add butter or margarine and cut in with a pastry blender, or two knives, until mixture forms fine crumbs. Mix in raisins (optional) with a fork.

Measure 1/2 cup of buttermilk into a 1-cup measure and beat egg into it. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix with a fork just until mixture comes together.

Form the dough 1/2 inch thick, then cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour. Pat scraps together and cut out again. Place on a baking sheet about 1-inch apart. 

Brush tops of scones lightly with milk and then sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Makes about two dozen.

Rosemary Cookies

1 cup butter

2/3 to 3/4 cups of powdered sugar

Dash of salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp. vanilla flavoring

2 tsps. fresh rosemary

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop rosemary finely, then add to softened butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and flour. Mix until smooth and stir in nuts. Roll into small balls 1 inch in diameter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes, then move to rack until completely cool.

Don Bingham
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