Getting High at Wilderstein
“Announcing Wilderstein’s Daffodil High Tea,” the press release reads.
“Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck is hosting its annual Daffodil High Tea….A special treat for tea lovers, this event features a variety of homemade tea sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and other sweets. The afternoon will also include a tour of the mansion and sneak preview of Wilderstein’s new exhibition ‘1909.’”
What could be better?! A tea party, with delicious finger food, at wonderful Wilderstein! A bit on the early side for tea—1 p.m. - 3 p.m.— but that’s okay. More time to take in the view from the bluffs overlooking the Hudson, walk the paths of the Calvert Vaux-designed gardens, tour the Queen Anne riverfront pile last occupied by Miss Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, demurely described in the site’s literature as “a cousin and confidante of Franklin Roosevelt.” (Hah! The correspondence between Suckley and the president, found in a box beneath her bed upon her death at nearly 100 in 1991, suggests a relationship that went well beyond cousinly affection.) And, of course, the early hour allows time to check out the exhibition, a tribute to the Hudson River Tercentennial celebration, as the Suckleys and the entire region enthusiastically observed it back in 1909.
But there is one little nagging problem with the press release: their use of the word “high” to describe a tea party rankles. So, just to be helpful, so nobody is operating in the dark, I accompany my reply to the Wilderstein P.R. department with an excerpt from a Wikipedia article:
Afternoon tea is a light meal typically eaten between 3pm and 5pm….accompanied by various sandwiches (customarily cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste, ham, and smoked salmon), scones (with butter, clotted cream and jam — see cream tea) and usually cakes and pastries (such as Battenberg, fruit cake or Victoria sponge). The food would be often served in a tiered stand….High tea (also known as meat tea…) is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm…as a substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal….On farms or other working class environments [emphasis mine], “high tea” would be the traditional, substantial meal eaten by the workers immediately after nightfall…In recent years, high tea has become a term for elaborate afternoon tea, though this is American usage and mainly unrecognised in Britain. Such usage is disfavored by etiquette advisors, such as Miss Manners.
To which the director of P.R. at Wilderstein Greg Sokaris patiently replies:
Thanks for sending the tea info….Our Daffodil High Tea has been a hugely popular affair here for many years, although perhaps not so much among etiquette mavens who I know frown upon this American usage of the term!
Semantics aside, it seems like a really nice event.
Wilderstein Daffodil Tea Party
330 Morton Road; Rhinebeck; 845.876.4818
Saturday, April 18, 1:00 p.m.
Tea will be served in the recently restored Gate Lodge