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teatips.info :: drinking tea :: snacks

Cabbage pie.
Cabbage pie.

All tea snacks may be divided into four groups: substantial snacks, light snacks, sweet snacks, and fresh snacks. What dishes form these groups and what order should one serve tea snacks — this is what I am going to speak about this time…

So, there are four groups of tea snacks.

The first group of snacks (let’s call them substantial) includes the dishes which make one full with tea, as well as without it. First of all they are pies and pasties with substantial fillings: meat, pluck, eggs, cabbage, fish, rice, mushrooms, potatoes (ugh!), cottage cheese, etc. And, of course, with combinations of these fillings: meat and mushrooms, rice and eggs, and so on. Basically, barankas (short pastry of a wheel-form) can be ascribed to substantial snacks — if you spread them with butter, they become a very substantial food. Crepes with fillings are substantial snacks, of course, — in the case when the fillings are meat, chicken (with mushrooms and horse-radish — yummy!), vegetable mix, and other nice things.

The second group of snacks (light) consists of dishes which can be alternated with substantial snacks, and (which is very important) which are convenient to eat. Convenient not only at the table. If tea-drinking is informal, one can walk around or stay at the window with light snacks, plunged in thought. Light snacks include, first of all, different sandwiches — they are so nice to eat during a conversation — they do not distract
Pu-erh with milk and dried fruits. Photo by Sergey Kalinin.
Pu-erh with milk and dried fruits. Photo by Sergey Kalinin.
(unlike crepe, for example, which must be consumed thoughtfully), and keep you in food tone. Sandwiches are good with salmon (the best with trout), butter, cheese curd, cucumbers, meat and cheese, sprats, pate — anything that is usually spread on bread or put into sandwiches.

The third group of snacks (sweet) consists of sweets and dainties, of course. These snacks are normally served after substantial and light snacks — and after a sound pause, when guests relax after all previous dishes and converse meditatively with each other, imitating Russian landowners of the mid 19th century, discussing the merits of rasstegais (open filled pies) and giving their opinions on different global issues. Sweet snacks include any sweet pastry, chocolate, jam, honey, nuts, crepe with sweet fillings (the combination of red whortleberries and whipped cream is fabulous).

Finally, the fourth group of snacks (fresh) is similar to light snacks — but is used to alternate it with sweet snacks and not substantial. When guests are unable to eat crepe with jam any more, they (crepe with jam) can be substituted with fresh or canned. Better fresh, of course. Apples, pears, grapes, slices of melon or watermelon, peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries — anything that your heart desires. You may serve it with whipped cream, if you want.

Taiwanese candied olives.
Taiwanese candied olives.

The order in which the abovementioned snacks should be served is self-evident. Start with substantial and light snacks. After the guests have eaten (that is the first time they have got full), make a pause — satiety disposes to leisurely conversation, and such a pause will afford the guests pleasure and relaxation. The duration of the pause is arbitrary, depending on circumstances. An experienced host will easily know the coming of the psychological moment for serving the second portion of snacks — sweet and fresh.

Ideally, by this time substantial snacks should disappear from the table — if not all of them have been eaten yet, just put them aside. On the contrary, leave light snacks on the table, you can even add some more, — they combine well with sweet snacks. Basically, this very set of snacks (light, sweet, and fresh) should stay on the table till the end of tea-drinking. But if someone of the guests wants to have ‘those wonderful cabbage pies’ again — just bring them back.

That is it. From everything said above you may conclude that the main aim of tea-drinking with snacks is to stuff oneself. Of course, it is not like that. Gluttony is a quality peculiar to a particular person, not to tea-drinking. And if your guests’ culture is so, that they just get stuffed — they are bad guests (although, such behavior flatters hosts very often — that depends on what you like). Good guests both eat with pleasure and talk with pleasure, and even when leaving they complain that now they have to diet for a couple of days — there is a note of irony in their words and not of deep satisfaction.

Bon appetite!

Denis Shumakov (denis.shumakov@gmail.com)

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