Tea time and the ultimate pimento cheese

We like giving teas in the South. We’ll use almost any excuse to get our hands on those deceptively dainty tea sandwiches that can’t really add too many inches to our waistlines because they’re , well, so tiny. I am involved in two annual teas. The first is the English Tea at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin.

The English Tea began as a mission of the Episcopal Women of St. Paul’s to raise funds for restoration of our historic church.  Over the years, the tea grew from a small event catering to about thirty guests to a juggernaut with two seatings for a total of 240 people and a precise order of preparation that had to be followed to the letter. Here is what’s involved in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church English Tea. About four months before the tea the chair, Wanda Woolen, convenes a meeting of any volunteers who want to participate. But the main roles have been long filled with meticulous care. The food chairman is selected after reviewing the designee’s history as a very good cook, flawless organizer and having good enough standing with her fellow parishioners that she can convince at least twenty women to spend hundreds of dollars making tea sweets and savories, which we then turn around and sell to the public. The economics of this would not stand up to close scrutiny.

The decorations chair has also been pre-selected and a theme is agreed on. While the decorations chair starts rounding up whatever props are needed, the food chair starts recruiting volunteers to make a variety of tea sandwiches, sweets and scones. This calls for diplomacy befitting an ambassador to the United Nations because all cooks are not created equal. You must know who makes delicate, flaky scones and who turns out hockey pucks. The sandwiches each have their own set of rules: cucumber always goes on white bread rounds, pimento cheese on whole-wheat triangles, and chicken salad in phyllo cups. There are no variations and no substitutions.

The second tea I’m involved in is the Green Tea for P.E.O. That’s green as in raising money, not the kind of tea.  P.E.O. is a philanthropic educational organization that raises money for women’s scholarships. There is also a huge social side to P.E.O. All the members are referred to as sisters and we try to put forth the best attributes of that moniker. The Green Tea is a lot less meticulous than the English Tea. There were no formatted recipes, at least until I joined. By first assignment after initiation was as the Ways and Means Chairman. That actually means Green Tea Chairman, for that is the committee’s only duty.

So this morning, we had our first organizational meeting and the first order of business was sampling possible menu items for the tea. Which is a long-winded way of saying: Blue Moon Cheese Sandwiches. These are the most addictive, most unusual version of pimento cheese sandwiches ever in the universe. As I understand it, these sandwiches were served in a tea room in Montgomery, Alabama, that went out of business long ago. Thank heavens, someone saved the Blue Moon recipe. Here it is:

Blue Moon Cheese Sandwiches

2 cups finely grated sharp New York Cheddar cheese

1/3 cup chili sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup chopped stuffed olives

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Mix together well and chill before using. Cut the crusts off whole wheat bread and spread with mixture. Cut into four triangles.

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