Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tea for One

It feels like a special night. A rare lunar eclipse promises to be a spectacular sight in the clear, black sky. I will be witnessing this celestial event alone, as John is making his weekly visit to his friend Mike's. These evenings on my own provide the perfect opportunities for me to dine simply. I opt for a low-key meal of tea and pastries.

Moon gazing while having tea is a tradition I know well. Every autumn, my family celebrates the harvest moon, a bright, low hanging moon that appears to be within arms reach. The Chinese have largely been an agrarian culture who farmed based on the lunar calendar. Even though we're urbanites, we still purchase moon cakes for this annual event.

I am also fond of the English tradition of taking tea. Even a country not known for its cuisine takes time to savor a fine cup of tea and small snacks. Although it is dinner time here in San Francisco, I decide to have tea for one, complete with crumpets and lemon curd.

I zested some lemons and extracted the juice, mixing this with sugar and a few egg yolks over a low flame. Without letting it boil, I kept whisking until it thickened like a custard. I pressed a sheet of plastic wrap over the bright yellow mixture and placed it in the refrigerator to set.

An hour later, I pulled out the lemon curd and toasted two crumpets. I also brewed a pot of Whittard Afternoon Tea. My sister tasted it on a trip to London and became such a fan of the mellow bergomot and sweet jasmine that she bought me a tin to enjoy. It's perfect when you crave a cup of Earl Grey, but find the perfume overwhelming.

I put my evening tea on a tray and sat on a leather chair facing the window. The sky was clear, allowing me an unobstructed view of the eclipse in progress. The full eclipse was not expected until 8:00, but already the moon was bathed in a rosy red glow. I sank into my chair, nibbled on crumpets and sweet-tangy lemon curd, and sipped cup after cup of the floral tea. As the moon slowly turned a sanguine red, I think to myself, maybe this is the start of a new moon gazing tradition.

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