Friday, August 16, 2013

TWO TEA-RIFIC TITLES--a review, a recommendation, and a recipe too

Teatime for the Firefly


My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. For a young girl growing up in India, this is bad news. But everything began to change for me one spring day in 1943, when three unconnected incidents, like tiny droplets on a lily leaf, tipped and rolled into one. It was that tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together - me and Manik Deb.
Layla Roy has defied the fates. Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent by her eccentric grandfather, Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb - a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women's lives were predetermined - if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.

Layla's life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world's finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labor and British efficiency. Fascinated by this culture of whiskey-soaked expats who seem fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards, she struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize, and the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.

But navigating the tea-garden set will hardly be her biggest challenge. Layla's remote home is not safe from the powerful changes sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial society is at a tipping point, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.



Well-known tea author Diana Rosen shares her fabulous menus, recipes, and suggestions for relaxing and celebrating common-life experiences over a cup of tea specially selected to fit the occasion. Celebrations include a private moment of early morning tea, a large group gathering to celebrate a graduation, and an airport tea send-off for family members. Well-known tea author Diana Rosen shares her fabulous menus, recipes, and suggestions for relaxing and celebrating common-life experiences.


A deceptively slim little volume, "Taking Time for Tea", by Diana Rosen, is actually brimming over with delightful tea tidbits and tasty treats. Ms. Rosen's tea expertise and love of subject are blended with insights into the production of tea and gentle reminders to be as good to yourself as you are to others. There are also a number of suggestions for themed tea parties. My favorite was "Irish Breakfast on a Rainy Morning"--an Autumn morning with the sound of the rain beating on a cottage roof. A mug of hearty black tea, sweetened with milk and a little sugar, is accompanied by warm, freshly-baked soda bread, butter, and marmalade. The recipe for the "Irish Breakfast Soda Bread" sounds wonderful, and I mean to try it very soon! Prepare yourself a tray loaded with a pot of your favorite tea, delicious little sandwiches, cookies and other nibbles, and settle in to read this beautifully produced and very enjoyable book.

Review Copy Gratis Storey Publishing


Image of Diana Rosen

As a passionate enthusiast of fine specialty tea, I've explored its history, customs, and charms in several books, amplified by two trips to India. Next on the agenda, Japan and China!

In the meantime, I write! Of my 13 books (so far) six involve tea, and other topics include coffee (yes, I'm bi-beverage), ice cream, Social Security, Incense and with the delightful Deborah Felder, 50 Jewish Women Who Changed the World (but enough about me.) I'm a facilitor for freewrite classes, coach and editor for other writers, and contribute prolifically to various web sites on food, beverage, and lifestyle topics.

I play mah jongg at the slightest invitation, and host locals and tourists at the incredible historic landmark, the Los Angeles Central Library, as a docent. Whenever you visit LA, come see us!

In between time, as a lover of my adopted hometown, Los Angeles, I enjoy all its cultural icons: movies, theatre, museums, Art Deco and Beaux Arts architecture, and an occasional premiere or two.


A recipe from me to you...


1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract**
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

powdered sugar for topping

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture (the dough will be soft). Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Place on a serving plate and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.

**can use other flavor extracts like lemon, orange, rum, etc

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