Granny’s Tea


Sometimes I miss my paternal grandmother, the only I had enough proximity with. My other granny died before I had three years old and from this one I just have a faint memory of caring arms, a suave sensation probably rooted in descriptions of her tender manner.


My paternal grandmother, the one from whom I’ve got my first name and in a certain extent her fate too, is very present in my mind. In same ways, it is strange that I have a recollection of the first time I met her, when I was around 4 years old, right before Ilha, and no idea of the last time I’ve seen her, most of my contacts with her dating from eight to twelve years old.


She dressed always in grey and her hair and looks were very neat. She was a queen in the female universe of my bachelor aunts, and let me tell you that her role wasn’t an easy one.


My grandmother wasn’t the type to call granny or even grandma. I can’t even remember a single kiss, though I guess we would greet her with a kiss if the right circumstance. Lurking under the surface of all her coldness there must have been some sort of tender feelings, though with a subtle way of showing.


She wasn’t a favorite of my mother and I still remember how she talked about my easygoing grandfather (a little bit too easygoing, as a matter of fact!) being a victim of a ruthless woman. On the contrary, my father had (and still has) the deepest admiration for her.


That was a woman who took care of her family the only way she knew: to perfection. Despite all the limitations of those years, her house was spot clean and her family survived the worst.


She wasn’t a woman of nice words or warm smiles. Her care was only visible in almost imperceptible gestures, the most common being the way she cooked for us. If there is heaven, tasting her food was like picking into it. If she were alive I would be at her side learning, without a shadow of a doubt.


She had always something nice prepared for us, but she wouldn’t accept to see us eating just for eating. It was all about mealtime and, maybe because she was so heavenly good with food, drinking was terrible important too. She would prepare various wonderful drinks, like warm wines with spices and all kind of herbs, but here I am just talking of three.


First thing in the morning, her house was invaded by the irresistible smell of the filtered coffee we usually had with milk. She could have had gold served for breakfast, but coffee still would be the pièce de résistance. The same happened before going to bed, when she prepared a pot chocolatier right in the middle of the kitchen fireplace, where we liked to stay reading, playing or just talking with our effusive aunts.


As far as I can remember, her hot chocolate was made with: 1) Very fresh full cream milk. 2) The same rich chocolate powder she used for her patisserie. 3) A touch of flour. 4) Some scented thing I can only guess. 5) A noisette of the best butter. The result was soothing and divine!


Finally, the meal I liked the best when I stayed at her place: teatime! My favoritism came from that being the only occasion she authorized us to have generous amounts of cakes, tartlets and many other decadent wonders her skillful hands could create. Once again she wanted us to enjoy a meal, not only sugary treats.


She was the one who introduced me to tea, which she usually prepared by mixing a strong black tea with a scented one. The idea of milk at this hour was never touched. In face of my deepest protests because tea was very hot and she wanted us to eat while drinking, not just munching the cakes set on a plate over the table, one day she sat beside me and taught me how to drink my hot tea without having to wait for too long. According to her, to speed up the process (and have a rapid access to her cakes) the only way was by blowing the teaspoon and drink from it until the remaining tea inside the cup was drinkable. It wasn’t very polite, but at least I didn’t have to choose between waiting and burning my lips.


That was her best moment of tenderness towards me. A very simple gesture, but you cannot imagine how out of this world teatime was: having two or three bites of cake and then a few spoons of scented tea! The system used to take me a long time (thankfully!), another good reason to have even more cakes with the excuse of still having tea to drink.


Due to her influence, I still have two drinking approaches: 1) If I’m just having tea, I wait for the right temperature. 2) If I have goodies to go with it, I still use the teaspoon method.


I do have to tell that something happened between my grandmother and me, shadowing the good memories I should have. I didn’t behave and she slapped me once. I recognized my mistake, but during years and years I couldn’t forgive her for the physical punishment. In my opinion, slaps could only be a mother thing, not her prerogative or a proper grandmother’s behavior.


I am almost certain that she lived with the pain of that moment, but then she wasn’t the type of showing or talking about her feelings. That slap was our unresolved business, and it’s going to stay like this forever. Not keeping things for myself, that’s another precious lesson I learned because of her. I wish our relationship had stayed the way it was the moment she taught me how to drink very hot tea.