This can be anything from a certain flower or scent that I can have close at hand to a picture or a photograph or a famous quote I can paste on my wall (currently, I have one of my Mark Twain favorites posted up there). I like to ask what other people think about when smelling this smell or seeing this color; "What does this picture make you think about?" or "What is the first word when you see this?" are great peeks inside the windows that are the souls in other peoples' eyes. However, I am – at heart – a hedonist, a creative extremist, and a foodie to boot, so I tend to go a little..."overboard" and serve my inspiration up hot.
It's already well-established that I have a certain love for steampunk-ery, the speculative time period where The Age of (Un)Reason meets Mad Science (or, at least, Weird Science)! And the idea for a Steampunk High Tea was born from the mad, mad minds of myself and the incomparable divinebird, who can always be counted on to encourage my particular brand of inspirational insanity.
So what might a Steampunk High Tea Party feature? [This was a key question that I used when planning my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Party, the Dinner Fit For A Hobbit & the not-quite-brought-to-fruition Labyrinth Picnic! Can you tell I'm a little gung-ho/crazy about Theme Parties? What fun!] Well, we thought about foods that would be steamed or things that could be "tweaked" at a regular Victorian High Tea Party (something I have also done in the past with my girls from the dojo; when you only see one another wearing gis and punching/throwing/kicking/grappling one another, it's nice to get all dolled up and eat scones and lemon curd, I'll say!)
But I have to confess what interested me more than the menu itself was the *feel* and the *look* of the thing. Anyone who has ever been privy to one of my mad forays into real-world inspiration knows this for a fact! I am big on ambiance, delving into the "milieu." (More often diving all the way up to my eyeballs, but why do things by halves?) So how I could make my dining room look & feel like a steampunk room with fixings appropriate to the idea? Well, I have to say, I was quite pleased with the results!
For the full photo-spread, please look HERE on Flickr. But here's some highlights of what you'll see:
- The dining set is my own fine china as well as a few added pieces, most notably the copper pumping clamps used as napkin holders, which had a dual purpose of adding a little bit of flair to the "steampunkiness" of the formal settings with the addition of glued-on jewels and, once the "dynamite" napkin rolls were removed, I had made clappers so that these each became tiny, working servant bells.
- Tea is a simple thing: infused water and sweetener, perhaps some cream. In my case, I wanted this to have a "mad scientist" feel so I got a wooden test tube rack and tricked it out with brass paint over the plastic and book corner covers as accents. Glass test tubes were filled with refined sugar, raw sugar, cinnamon, sipping chocolate shavings, and cloves to mix and match as each person saw fit. MAD SCIENCE! (Known colloquially as Vanilla Hazelnut and half-n-half.) The set worked marvelously and I can't wait to use it again!
- Originally, this was supposed to be a dessert and tea, but my piece-de-resistance did not arrive in time (pity. Next time, though...!) but I seized on my #1 idea for treats: butter cookies. Not just any butter cookies, either, but my mother's divine holiday sugar cookies with iced glaze, but I wanted them to be thematic, too. Gear-shaped cookies, preferably. (Can you *believe* no one has gear-shaped cookie cutters? Imagine!) Well, luckily, I am WAAAAAY too creative for my own good so a plastic cup, a small bowl, the cap from an old glue stick, one of the alphabet magnets (the 'i' incidentally) and a small binder clip became used in ways their makers had not intended and I made my own cookies shaped into gears, screws, gauges, barometers and clocks. Yep! The icing was too thick and the colors were sorta weird, but they undoubtedly *rocked*. The looks on the faces of my guests were PRICELESS! Add to this homemade New Orleans bread pudding with bourbon-creme glaze and I think this rounded out the flavors rather nicely...smothered in a blanket of sugar, no doubt!
- I decided to just cook a whole bunch of appetizers including those purchased at the local Chinese grocery store which brought the Asian-inspired veggie spring rolls, steamed red bean buns and candied ginger to the table. (A last minute spurt of inspiration took the long, copper screws from the clamps and skewered a piece of candied ginger on each teacup setting.) All in all, we ate rather well with small earthenware bowls, which were a gift from yhesad for sauces, and tiny liquor glasses that we filled with sparkling cider. Dark wood chopsticks and gold charger plates completed the table.
The only thing missing were the fancy hats and goggles! (Fortunately, I have plenty of both...Next time...heh heh heh!)
Inspiration, Aspiration & Gastronomic Innovation!