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Tea Book Favorites

by Diana Rosen

Several of my favorite books on tea are now in paperback. They make wonderful hostess gifts and delightful little presents for your own pleasure. They're bound to sell fast, so start shopping now. They are Alexandra Stoddard's Tea Celebrations: The Way to Serenity, Geraldine Holt's, A Cup of Tea Treasures for Teatime, and Soshitsu Sen's now-classic, Tea Life, Tea Mind.

Alexandra Stoddard's Tea Celebrations,
The Way to Serenity
by Alexandra Stoddard
Avon Books; $9 in paperback

Stoddard, a long-time interior decorator and author of many books on decorating and living well, almost gets it "right" about the serenity that tea can bring. She recognizes and respects the ceremonies of tea, with its careful preparation, and the calm needed to partake of it. Alas, the decorator in her always seems to come up to the surface and go on too long about making things pretty, when what she should do is allow herself (and the reader) to enjoy her more sensitive comments about the serenity she has found in a cup of tea.

I have enjoyed Stoddard's past books with what she calls "grace notes." These are asides that are either her comments, or quotes on serenity and living peacefully from favorite authors. This book is no exception to this thoughtful pattern. Some examples:

"When you understand one thing through and through you understand everything."
-Sunryu Suzuki

"Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world."
-Ti'en Yisheng

The book also includes some rather delicious recipes, but they seem to contradict the main message of the book: the way to serenity (unless, of course, you follow Alexander Pushkin's dictum that "Ectasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.")

Taking her lead that even serenity can involve good food to accompany it, we include a recipe from her friend Mary Ann Petro for:

Toasted Pecan Tea Sandwiches
makes 24 sandwiches

2 teaspoons melted butter
5 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco sauce
salt to taste
2 cups pecan halves
8 ounces cream cheese
garlic salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
24 slices fresh white bread, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter with three Tablespoons of the Worcestershire sauce, three dashes of the Tabasco and salt. Add the pecans and stir to coat thoroughly. Let marinate for five minutes.

Drain the pecans and spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven 15 minutes or until crisp. Chop and set aside.

In a second mixing bowl, blend cream cheese with remaining two Tablespoons Worcestershire, last dash of Tabasco, garlic salt and cayenne. Stir in the chopped pecans. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Trim bread and spread with a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture. Cut into two triangles and set out prettily on a tray

A Cup of Tea, Treasures for Teatime
by Geraldine Holt
Pavilion Publishing; $11.95

Geraldine Holt discovered the original drawings from the Minton porcelain factory and was immediately enchanted with the variety and look of these exquisite watercolor print patterns. She matched them up with classic tea quotes, and...voila!...a most charming gift book. Her discovery has spawned a veritable cottage industry of Minton cup designs on everything you can image: from wall prints to pillows to tea towels to...you get the idea. Now the book is available in paperback and would be a charming addition to any teacup collector's library.

Tea Life, Tea Mind
by Soshitsu Sen
Weatherhill; $12.50 in paperback

At least once every few months, I reread Soshitsu Sen's book Tea Life, Tea Mind. This 15th-generation tea master from Japan has a universal message that he takes everywhere he travels. The message is simple: if people can sit together and have a bowl of tea, they can resolve conflicts, mend discords and learn to live with each other. Who could not agree with this powerful message?

The Japanese way of tea, chanoyu, is a beautifully choreographed ceremony in which both the host and the guests play particular parts. One comes away with a feeling of harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.

To illustrate this, Sen writes of a disciple who once asked Sen Rikyu, "What are the most important things that must be understood and kept in mind at a tea gathering?" Rikyu replied, "Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in the summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration."

"If you do these things well," Rikyu continued, "I shall become your disciple."


Diana Rosen is a freelance writer  for eZines, web site copy, and print magazine articles on food, beverage, and other lifestyle topics. The veteran journalist is also the author of 10 nonfiction books and the co-author of three others. For more information, visit write to her at dianalrosen@aol.com.



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