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Victorian Tea Time In Massapequa

There’s something to be said about ringing in the holiday season with a little elegance and indulgence; especially when doing so involves consuming delicious treats prepared by a professional chef and adhering to the ideals of Victorian-era society.

That’s just what happened recently at the Massapequa Public Library’s Bar Harbour branch, when Chef Barbara Sheridan of Mount Sinai hosted a Victorian-style Holiday High Tea, providing attendees with both a fascinating look into history and an afternoon of taste and class as well.

“High Tea started as an afternoon treat among the upper classes in England during the Victorian age,” she said. “Eventually, tea rooms were opened up all over the country, and that’s when High Tea became more popular...workers would be coming home later in the day and not eat dinner until 8 or 9 o’clock at night, so that’s here High Tea came in. It was more filling tea, served with light sandwiches and treats, and it helped them to make it to dinner.”

Sheridan’s version of Victorian Yuletide High Tea entails a sumptuous menu highlighted by a delightful brewed special holiday tea served with tempting items such as stolen scones with orange curd, white pimento cheese sandwiches, cucumber radish tea sandwiches with shallots and chives aioli, and her specialty- lemon poppy seed tea bread.

Adding to the novelty of the event was the fact that Sheridan prepared many of the menu items right in front of the attendees, giving them not only an interesting cooking demonstration, but something to make their mouths water as well.

Upon retiring after working 30 years as a nurse, Sheridan, who always had a bit of a cooking bug, trained to be a chef and then was treated to post-graduate course at famed cooking school Le Cordon Bleu by her husband as a 50th birthday present.

“I’ve always loved to cook, and it was something I was good at...I went to cooking classes when my kids were little,” she said. “But I never knew it was going to be a career that I was going to go into. But I just wanted to learn how to cook after Martha Stewart came around, and I really wanted to train where Julia Child went.”

After graduating, Sheridan then owned her own cooking school in Oyster Bay for 13 years; in addition, she even got to meet and work her idol, the iconic celebrity chef Julia Child herself, which she said was like a dream come true.

“I met her a few times at cooking conventions and whatnot,” she said. “I got to work with her a few times, as her personal nurse had to take a leave of absence, and since I was trained in both nursing and cooking, I took over here and there. It was really nice to be able to work with her.”

This day’s High Tea event was originally slated to accommodate 25 people, but the slots filled up so quickly that she allotted extra seats to handle more holiday revelers. However, overcrowding is an ongoing issue with Sheridan, who hosts popular culinary demonstrations all throughout the year.

“I do cooking classes all over Long Island...French, Italian, and more,” she said. “But around this time of the year I always like to do a nice Victorian-style Holiday High Tea, but I never knew it would take off like this, and we cover all the historical teas of Long Island, so it makes for a very nice event.”

Mickey Cohen-Howell of Massapequa was one of the attendees at Sheridan’s High Tea, and said that events like these are wonderful ways to ring in the holidays with friends both old and new.

“High Tea is always elegant and beautiful,” she said. “It’s a fun day, because you attend with friends, and you get to know each other a little bit better, and it’s a lot of fun, and the food is a absolute treat...Barbara is a great host and, more importantly, a great cook.

Rosalie Fletchall, raised and currently residing in Massapequa Park, and was excited to experience her very first Victorian High Tea.

“I’ve always been interesting in anything of a Victorian nature, going back to the concept of everything being so gentile and lovely,” she said. “It just sounded so lovely and very interesting, and so far I’m enjoying it immensely.”