Steeped and stirred
We were young twenty-somethings, just settled in a new apartment when a large, unexpected, box arrived—a gift from my now-husband’s grandparents. They had recently visited Ireland, the country they emigrated from years before. While there, they purchased and shipped the gift—an Irish tea set with a delicate shamrock pattern.
To say we were delighted and surprised would be an understatement. We were, at the time, living together, unmarried, with no nuptials planned any time soon.
It was, it seemed, a blessing of sorts.
Was it a sign they had faith in our union? Perhaps—though its first service would be steeped in panic.
It was soon after receiving the box that we received word that “Big Nan” was coming from Queens, New York, to visit my husband’s parents. Barely 5'3", Nan was a petite woman, her Irish brogue as sweet as the tea we would sip from the cups they sent.
Upon hearing the news they were visiting, I suggested we invite Nan for tea.
Yes, my husband agreed, promising to call his mother to arrange a date. But there was no rush, he said, Nan would be visiting for at least a week—there was plenty of time to make plans.
But was there?
Just a day into her visit, late in the afternoon, the phone rang. “Nan and I want to stop by for a visit,” my mother-in-law said.
I was nearly speechless.
Ten minutes earlier their heir jumped into the passenger seat of his buddy’s blue and white 1970s AMC Javelin and took off down the road. There were no cell phones—he was gone and there was no way to bring him back.
My in-laws were coming and I was going to have to serve tea.
With a 20-minute window to tidy the apartment and pull things together, I gathered scattered clothes and books and tucked, dusted, and wiped what I could—all the while wondering, what will I serve with tea?
After scanning the cupboard, desperate for an idea, I settled on apple crisp. I turned on the oven, peeled half a dozen apples, spread them in a baking dish, and topped them with a mixture of butter, flour, sugar, oats, and a dash of cinnamon.
By the time they arrived, the table was set, the crisp was crisping, and I’d nearly caught my breath.
We sat at the table and I poured tea, served the apple crisp, took a deep breath—and let out a gasp. Sweet, petite Nan was eating her apple crisp with one of the small-scale souvenir spoons I had laid out for stirring our tea.
In my haste, I forgot to set out forks and they were far too polite to say so.
Oh, I blushed and apologized and fumbled for the missing utensils—and felt as though I’d faint.
But then we laughed, and they gushed over the crisp, the tea, the apartment, and how nice it was to visit.
And it was. It was a visit steeped in humor, stirred with kindness.
This is just one story of guests, dinners, and cooking mishaps I've had. How about you?
Exploring the art and writing of short story memoir