Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Afternoon Tea from the 1950s Housewife

on March 1, 2022

Although afternoon tea is not an established tradition in America as it is in the British Isles, women in the 1950s would often get together in the afternoon for card parties, tea parties, and luncheons in order to share gossip, recipes, husband advice, child-rearing suggestions, fashion, hairstyles, make-up, current affairs, and plans for vacations and interior decorating. These social events broke up the boredom and mundane routine of household chores, encouraged bonding and friendships, and strengthened neighborhood cohesion and security. Neighbors knew one another back then and turned to each other in times of trouble. On the flip side, there was the usual rivalry over who was buying the newest car, the biggest house, the most expensive television set. People gossiped about each other shamelessly, with everyone knowing each other’s business. But, shhhhh, don’t talk about it out loud! That would be bad manners.

Afternoon Tea Menu

Assorted sandwiches (see suggestions below)

Toasted Sponge Cake

Small cakes (like Petits Fours – see recipe below)

Sweet wafers (vanilla wafers)

Bonbons, such as nougat candy and fudge

Cookies, such as assorted macaroons or French macarons

Nuts

Tea with sugar, cream, and sliced lemon

Tea Sandwiches

“The tea sandwich is seldom made of meat, though such things as minced chicken, lobster, or crab meat, and sardines beaten to a paste, are sometimes used for it.”

Thinly-sliced bread, with or without the crust.

Fillings may include lettuce, mayonnaise, chopped olives, nasturtiums and other edible flowers, watercress, cucumbers, cheese, Vienna sausages, jam, preserves, butter, and almond spread.

Buttered hot biscuits with cream cheese and preserves provide a delicious alternative.

Recipe for Petits Fours

2 cups sifted cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Fondant (can be bought pre-made)

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cream shortening, vanilla, and sugar together until fluffy. Add sifted ingredients and milk alternately. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into 2 greased (9-inch) pans. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) about 25 minutes. Cool, then cut into 2-inch squares or triangles or use cookie cutters. Brush off crumbs, arrange on wire racks, and place racks on waxed paper. Melt fondant slowly over hot water (using a double boiler), tint with food coloring, and pour slowly over cakes. Decorate with nuts, candied fruit, small candies, coconut, or ornamental frosting pressed into flower shapes with a pastry tube. Makes about 30.

(Photo from Land O’Lakes)

Preparing the Tea

Avoid metal when preparing the tea! Glass or earthenware pots make the best tea. (Of course, every 1950s hostess had her favorite China teapot.)

Heat the teapot by filling it with boiling water. Empty it. Add the dry tea leaves (1 teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of hot water is a good guideline) and refill the pot with fresh boiling water. Cover and allow to brew for 3 to 5 minutes in a warm place. Serve immediately.

Tea may be served with sugar, cream, milk, lemon, cloves, candied cherries, orange peel, rose leaves, or mint. Cream should be used with black tea.

Mate and herbal tea may be substituted for traditional tea.

All menus and recipes from The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1952.

Dawn Pisturino

March 1, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


40 responses to “Afternoon Tea from the 1950s Housewife

  1. Jim Wingrove says:

    That sounds nice 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Timothy Price says:

    All the so called “trappings” the people rebelled against in the 60s. And here we are today.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Myheartscry says:

    I love tea. My daughter’s favorite birthday party theme is a tea party with scones. We have so much fun making the recipes and setting the table for tea. Thanks, Dawn, for writing a post on Tea. Refreshing post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Iowa Life says:

    Interesting. I remember quite clearly. My mom had a circle where they would alternate going 1 on 1 for ‘coffee’ at each others houses. Looking back its sad when one friend would drop out, and then eventually maybe around 1980 or so the whole thing stopped. I always find your posts on this theme interesting. Actual friends instead of Facebook “friends”. There were associated benefits as well. Housekeeping was better as a result, you didn’t want friends over to a pigsty. It just hit me it stopped because women went in the workforce! Tax code policy that essentially forced there to be a two income household, along with regulatory efforts by our government that pushed good jobs overseas, that had allowed the husband to be the sole provider. Another side benefit of the women being connected, it facilitated their children developing close friends, and also the husbands. A close knit community. We bowled together.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Harshi says:

    Such a delightful post! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nancy says:

    This describes my mother’s life and the community I grew up in. Although coffee was the drink of choice. Those were simpler days. Great post, Dawn.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve never owned a china teapot. It would be lovely. Speaking of lovely, the two women’s dresses in the feature image are beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Michele Lee says:

    All that before making dinner? I would be exhausted! πŸ˜† Looks lovely though. I do love my afternoon tea sans the goodies. 🍡

    Liked by 2 people

  9. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! Wonderful share! I love it, thanks for your kindness.
    Have a beautiful time!
    Elvira

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh this has hit me right on Dawn. Hot tea is my muse as it was with my mother. I love the pageantry of afternoon tea. Plus tea has great health benefits too. Thanks for sharing girlfriend. β˜•πŸ΅β˜•

    Liked by 2 people

  11. parikhit says:

    The British legacy has stayed on in the Indian subcontinent in an altered form

    Liked by 2 people

  12. yueqin2021 says:

    Wow! Wonderful share! I love it, thanks for your kindness.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. museonpaper says:

    Love this!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. LaShelle says:

    Afternoon tea SHOULD be established in America because it’s sooo much better than coffee. I’m 100% a tea person πŸ€ͺ

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Dawn, Petits Fours always seemed too fancy to make for myself, but they are delightful and worthwhile. Since you provided the recipe – I will try. I remember my momma and her bridge club members smoking around the card tables eating chips and dip made with cream cheese and milk.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] Afternoon Tea from the 1950s Housewife […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh my, think of the fun the ladies must have enjoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

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