As an Englishwoman who has lived abroad most of her life, there is one thing that I have brought with me on my travels – a love of afternoon tea and cake!
When I lived in Beijing I used to host regular ‘pudding parties’, where I would invite my friends for 9pm in the evening to feast on an array of English puddings and desserts until the small hours of the morning. The evenings were convivial, fun occasions that provided the opportunity to bring together diverse friends and encourage creative connections.
Fast forward many years and, as a mother to young children, all night gatherings are a thing of the past and we now host an annual afternoon tea summer garden party for friends and neighbours alike. Our garden is converted into a mini play park of sorts as we bring out the trampoline, paddling pool, swings and slides, sandpits and even convert a tent into a haven of arts and crafts activity.
The adults come for the cake of which there is a lot! Our most recent event starred a fabulous English Rose cake, layered with whipped cream and raspberries with pink frosting and accompanied some of my old regulars: pistachio and cardamom with white chocolate ganache, coffee praline, almond and marzipan, carrot cake with orange frosting, chocolate button layer cake, rhubarb crumble cake, sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce, lavender shortbread, scones with clotted cream and jam….the list goes on.
One of my favourite things is to host people at home. Growing up abroad, friends were the new family to me, far away as I was from my genetic family. A sense of inclusion and welcome is something I hold dear to my sense of home and I have strived to find ways to open my physical house to others as I have travelled the world.
Cake, of course, is a wonderful way to bring people together. Cake, with its sweetness, colour and creativity is something nearly everyone can get behind and food in general is such a marvellous way to encourage exchanges of ideas and conversation. And, for me, with a life that blends my work and family in equal measure, it can be an opportunity to forge new connections and introduce others to each other also. I love food that warms the heart, that has nothing but pleasure as its goal and makes people feel equally loved.
Baking too, is also therapeutic for me and in my efforts to blend harmoniously the different strands of my life I find often that a break in my working or parenting day to cook can act as a way to incubate ideas, mull over or consider a difficult decision or even to play with my children and introduce to them the love of good food and the joy that making and giving things to others can bring. Also, in a world so driven by technology, the simple art of making something by hand can be a very grounding activity.
And if sitting around the table sharing stories and good food could be an avenue for world peace…..ah, let me dream!
A few pics from last week’s gathering…..
Mum, stepmum and honorary foster mum. Passionate about fulfilling the potential of all the world's children - both big and little. Serial entrepreneur and life traveller now living in Paris. www.carolinewatson.org