This second Lenten Tea menu proved a bit more challenging to prepare than the other for a number of reasons.
First, when representing a subject like the Crucifixion, care needed to be taken to avoid menu items appearing frivolous or in poor taste. Hopefully, this menu will be palatable for the children, yet help them to recollect the particularly solemn nature of the sacred event it represents. Second, the menu needed to be meatless and include no sweets, in case it is ever served on Good Friday itself. Needless to say, this limited menu options somewhat. Finally, the Tea had to be balanced and hopefully nutritious, in case adults fasting on Good Friday choose to use it as a light dinner.
At long last, here is the second menu, based on Chapter 15 of St. Mark's Gospel:
Lenten Tea Menu, Part II
The King's Crown
Out of Envy
The Purple Cloak
The Crown of Thorns
The Seamless Garment
Vinegar to Drink
The Roman Centurion
Laid in the Tomb
Recipes and Suggestions
1. "The King's Crown" (Mark 15: 1-5)
There are many possibilities to represent a crown for the tea table. (Fruits or vegetables cut with a serrated knife can be made to look like crowns, for example). To create "The King's Crown," for this second Lenten Tea, I plan to line a pie or tart pan with cream cheese, arranging baked triangular-shaped corn tortilla chips around the edges, forming the points into a crown-like halo. Needless to say, if your family likes salsa or any other meatless accompaniment, extra condiments could be layered on top of the cream cheese before adding the tortilla triangles. Also, if they are available in your area, specially shaped tortilla chips called "Scoops" would work well as crowns and could be set out on a platter with no other advance preparation.
Quote: "And Pilate asked Him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' And He answered him, 'You have said so.'" Mark 15: 2.
2. "Out of Envy" (Mark 15: 6-15)
Green is the traditional color of envy, and store bought or homemade guacamole makes an excellent compliment to "The King's Crown." Green salsa would work equally well if your family prefers it. "Out of Envy" could be set out in a bowl on its own, or layered over the cream cheese as part of "The King's Crown" itself.
Quote: "[H]e perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Him up." Mark 15: 10.
3. "The Purple Cloak" (Mark 15: 16-17)
Ideally, I would suggest fruit leather cut into large squares to represent "The Purple Cloak." Still, fruit leather, available in many organic specialty stores, may prove difficult to obtain. Instead, a bowl of scarlet or purple jelly could be set out and served as an accompaniment to the next menu item, "The Crown of Thorns."
Quote: "And they clothed Him in a purple cloak . . . ." Mark 15: 17.
4. "The Crown of Thorns" (Mark 15: 17-20)
These savories require a bit of individual preparation, and might be difficult to provide for a large crowd of children. Still, I would suggest creating individual crowns by coating Ritz crackers (or any other round cracker) with natural peanut butter (cream cheese or another substitute if allergies are a concern) and then sprigging the outer edges with broken bits of very thin pretzel sticks to serve as "thorns."
Quote: ". . . and, plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him." Mark 15: 17.
5. "Golgotha Eggs" (Mark 15: 21-23)
To represent "The Place of the Skull," each child might be given a hard-boiled egg with a skull drawn on the shell in non-toxic black marker. Not only are eggs a good shape for depicting a skull, but these mournful "Golgotha Eggs" will provide a sharp Lenten contrast to the joyful colored eggs abounding on Easter morning.
Quote: "And they brought Him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of the skull)" Mark 15: 22
6. "The Seamless Garment" (Mark 15: 24-27)
This is another offering that might work better for a small group, but I do believe the slight preparation involved is well worth it for the memorable image created. "Seamless Garments" can be cut out of flour tortillas using a medium-sized Gingerbread Girl cookie cutter. Once the head, legs, and feet are trimmed, you will have a tunic-shaped piece of flat bread (clean kitchen shears could also be used to cut shapes from tortillas). Each of these "tunics" will be served with two small cubes of white or yellow cheese on top, representing the dice cast as the soldiers gambled for Our Lord's garment. (Mozzarella cheese would work very well with the next few menu items.) St. Mark's Gospel does not specify that the tunic was seamless, so you will notice that the quote for display on the tea table (below) is from St. John.
Quote: "But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.'" John 19: 23-24.
7. "Two Robbers" (Mark 15: 27-32)
As a palatable addition to the next two menu items, not to mention the squares of mozzarella suggested along with the "Seamless Garment," I will be offering each child two fresh sprigs of Basil to represent the two robbers. According to The Herb Society of America, legend has it that the Basil plant grew around the site of Christ's crucifixion. The Victorian Language of Flowers lists Basil as symbolic of both hatred and best wishes. The taunting thief and the good thief come to mind.
Quote: "And with Him they crucified two robbers, one on His right and one on His left." Mark 15: 27.
8. "Vinegar to Drink" (Mark 15: 33-37)
A bottle of Balsamic Vinegar will go well with the mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes suggested in menu items 6 through 9.
To help the children understand what it would be like to be given vinegar to drink, instead of merely a tasty condiment, I plan to offer them each a bit of plain vinegar on a spoon to try first (optionally, of course). Small bread cubes or croutons could be soaked in vinegar and passed around instead.
Quote: "And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.'" Mark 15: 36
9. "The Roman Centurion" (Mark 15: 38-39)
In the Roman army, a Centurion would have commanded one hundred men. To represent the Centurion present at the crucifixion, a bowl of exactly one hundred grape or cherry tomatoes would work well. If the children are serving themselves, encourage them to make a little salad of the tomato, basil, mozzarella, and Balsamic vinegar.
(By the way, one hundred may sound like a lot, but a pint of grape tomatoes contains about sixty. If you prefer not to purchase two pints, it would only take a few minutes to split fifty of them in half.)
Quote: "And when the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He thus breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God.'" Mark 15: 39.
10. "Laid in the Tomb" (Mark 15: 40-47)
For a Tea representing so solemn an event as the Crucifixion and Burial of our Lord, no sweets need be offered, but a muffin or mini-muffin would make a pleasant treat at the end. To represent the "Tomb," cut the top off each muffin, scooping out the centers slightly. Place a grape, berry or banana slice on the inside, and replace the lid to represent the stone being laid over the entrance of the tomb. For a smaller group of children, serve the prepared muffins and fruit separately, and allow the children to fill and cover the "Tomb" themselves. (If you prepare this yourself in advance, please be careful to mention anything tucked in the center of the muffin to reduce the risk of choking.)
Quote: "And he brought a linen shroud, and taking Him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb."
11. Other Possibilities
--Instead of serving water in the tea pot, put it out on the table in a punch bowl to remind the childen of the moment Pilate "took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this righteous man's blood.'" Matthew 27: 24.
--Provide paper napkins, and encourage the children to rip them in half when you read, "And the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." Mark 15: 38.
--Serve the Tea at 3 o'clock, to remind the children of the moment Jesus breathed His last.
As with the first Lenten Tea, the specific quotes are included to help you or your children create small cardstock signs explaining each of the dishes on display. We used purple index cards for our last Tea, and the meaningful little reminders greatly enhanced the overall look of the table.
Lenten Tea, Part II, Shopping List
guacamole or guacamole ingredients
100 grape or cherry tomatoes
fruit (banana slices, berries, grapes or strawberries for tucking inside the muffins)
muffins or mini-muffins
mozzarella or other cheese for cutting into cubes
Triangular-shaped tortilla chips, preferably baked (or "Scoops")
Thin pretzel sticks
Ritz or other round crackers
Fruit leather (optional)
Natural Peanut Butter
Scarlet or purple-colored jam (if not purchasing fruit leather)
Salsa (optional for layering on "King's Crown")