A friend of mine had sent me an invitation to tea at the Trestler house as part of the Seigneuriales de Vaudreuil-Dorion festivities. I initially put the invitation aside for a solid week because I was quite unsure I would fit in or even feel comfortable in an activity meant to recreate the tradition of afternoon tea in New France.
I finally decided to go and wore my gardening hat for the occasion, telling myself I would be the lone peasant at the table. Ha! Ha!
I was the first in my group to arrive at this enchanting ancestral house and general store where actors in period attire welcomed me to the terrace overlooking the Bay of Vaudreuil across Terrasse-Vaudreuil. While waiting for the other ladies to arrive, I learned that the Trestler House hosts several quality music concerts throughout the year and is also available for private receptions and gatherings. I took note to bring my music-loving mom to this summer’s concert series festival and consider the location for an upcoming family reception.
For just $21, I enjoyed a two-hour tea service which included traditional English cucumber sandwiches and a delectable assortment of homemade desserts including scones with Devonshire cream and marmalade, apple strudel with a delicious caramel and a selection of teas to sample. Definitely something to try until mid-August for those with a sweet tooth.
What surprised me most about this delightful afternoon was how much I learned about proper etiquette and quirky little traditions surrounding afternoon tea. Don’t cut your scone with a knife since it is not bread. You should rather break it with your fingers. Everything in your plate should be cut or delicately torn into bite-sized pieces because it is “unladylike” to chew too long and it breaks the flow of conversations (the subject of which, for your information, cannot be politics or other serious matters since those are reserved for men who are able enjoy cigars and scotch inside… To my dismay, some of these conversational norms still exist in some family and community circles I am privy to). I also learned how tea bags came to exist. I won’t divulge this tidbit of historical information because I highly recommend you try this activity for yourself.
Unexpectedly, I felt quite “at home” in this setting. I actually knew a lot about the little tea traditions like pouring your milk into the cup after the tea to control its tint and temperature – something I knew from making chai for my mataji (grandmother). Other historical tidbits I knew from the childhood stories my father shared about British rule in India, a country which shares a colonial history.
Besides now being able to host an authentic tea-party with my kids, the most valuable lesson I learned from this relaxed afternoon, was that you can’t truly appreciate progress without an understanding of your past. I guess that is fundamentally what the Seigneuriales de Vaudreuil-Dorion are about. Afternoon Tea with Catherine Trestler at the Trestler House reminded me how fortunate I am to be able to talk freely about whatever topics interest me over tea (or scotch for that matter)!
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