Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 62: English tea and the Word of Wisdom

I mentioned that one food-like substance at which the British are excellent is tea. I was informed by an exhibit at the British Museum that what is now quintessentially British was, embarrassingly, first French. Chinese tea was introduced in the French Court (was it Marie Antoinette?) by means of Asian trading.

Regardless, the British have perfected the art of all things tea, exhibited by the fine sellections provided by the many English tea companies, including Whitings & Whittiard (I've fallen in love with their peppermint, licorice & rose concoction), the three tea companies in Covent Garden (yesterday I discovered the Tea Palace, complete with hand-brewed teas in “smart” metal tins and free minature samples), and the very-English High Tea.

I enjoyed High Tea yesterday afternoon at Oxford's Old Parsonage. This quaint hotel and restaurant inside a (not surprisingly) made-over old parsonage was filled with Christmas boughs and holly, pine cones and fresh fires to make anyone feel good cheer. I also very much enjoyed the fact that the college subsidized 70% of my turkey and cranberry tea sandwich, small cakes and clotted cream and scones.

I should pause here to provide the Mormon version of enjoying tea. As a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I subscribe whole-heartedly to our health code, interally referenced as “The Word of Wisdom.” This revelation to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s (prompted by his wife being disgusted by cleaning spittle up after priesthood meetings) prescribes a few non-mandatory recommendations for the “weakest of all saints,” including low meat levels, eating lots of grains and fruits and vegetables, and now-mandatory (for card-carrying, temple-going Mormons) commandments to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, “hot drinks,” interpretted as coffee and tea, and illicit drugs.

I will post my recent reflections on the alcohol portion of this code at a latter date, but here the tea section should be flushed out. I and most members of the Church interpret the taboo “tea” as black, green, or white tea, and thus exclude all herbal variants, which I greatly enjoy and which allows me to relish English tea in all its forms, high-brow or otherwise.

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