Sitting at my computer here on Long Island, I can already hear what you are saying--"Alice, honey, what are you doing to us posting this now??? The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is two days away!"
Right you are, dear friends, yet this menu need not sit in your files until next year. Please consider hostessing a tea to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Patroness of the Unborn during January, perhaps preparing it for children or grandparents unable to attend the March for Life on January 22nd. While the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is hardly something to celebrate, I think it would be worthwhile to spend the day talking to the children about Our Lady of Guadalupe, emphasizing the difference between her blessed message of life and love and the bloodthirsty "culture of death" she came to crush.
This menu, it should be noted at the outset, has the potential to become a bit expensive, but perhaps some of you will invite friends to contribute dishes, celebrating the cause of life together, and praying a Rosary for the unborn. While you are putting the finishing touches on your spread, it would be lovely to have a mother or older child read the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe aloud to the children. As you introduce each dish, reiterate the aspects of the story each offering is meant to symbolize. I will include these simple points below to give an idea of some of what a mother hostessing the tea might share with the children.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Tea Menu
Heavenly Rose Punch
Juan Diego's Sombrero
A Woman Clothed with the Sun
A Mantle of Stars
The Tilma of Roses
Bishop Zumarraga's Miter
"Build me a Church"
Roses from Heaven Punch
Recipes and Suggestions
1. "Aztec Chocolate"
Chocolate is always associated with Mexico, so for this item, I would suggest serving any type of hot chocolate your family likes. If you think it is appropriate, it would make a big impact to provide mini marshmallows on the side of each saucer, encouraging the children to toss them in to the burning liquid to remember the many innocent human lives lost in the Aztecs' bloodthirsty sacrifices to the gods. As you stir, say the prayer,
"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may the perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, pray for us!"
2. St. Juan Diego's Sombrero
I do not know whether Mexican Indians actually wore sombreros in the 1500s, but I am sure they would have needed some type of headcovering to protect their heads from the unforgiving sun. Besides, what child could resist hats made from Pringles potato chips topped with tasty, sliced rounds of string cheese? For a more colorful display, green or black olive halves work too, although they would need to be eaten immediately, preventing the olive juice from seeping in and softening the chips.
3. "Tepayac Hill"
In our "recipe test" of the tea this afternoon, the children and I heaped potato salad on a plate to represent the place on which St. Juan Diego first encountered Our Lady, adding swirls of pimento to remind us of the roses she would provide for him later. Most of my children do not especially like Guacamole, but I would actually suggest a nice, green mound of this classic dip to make the perfect Mexican "hill." Fastening a holy picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe to a toothpick and sticking it at the top would form a memorable visual image as well.
4. "A Woman Clothed with the Sun"
When St. Juan Diego saw Our Lady, she was radiant and shining brighter than the sun. Her image on the tilma shows rays framing her person.
This menu item could be skipped altogether for a lighter tea, but, if you are serving lunch, try layering cream cheese, mild, beanless Hormel chili, and a generous layer of bright orange shredded cheddar in a pie or quiche pan. Pop it into a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes before arranging baked tortilla (triangular) chips all around the edge with points facing out to form a "Sun." Leave an extra bowl of chips on the table to accompany the guacamole.
5. "The Mantle of Stars"
I was intrigued to learn Our Lady's Mantle on the tilma contains forty six stars, the exact number of constellations that would have appeared in the sky on the night of her December 12th apparition. This fact will undoubtedly interest the children as well. There are many, many ways to represent stars--you might use anything from star cookies to star-shaped tea sandwiches, but we decided to take a simple, yet effective, approach by arranging exactly forty-six "Dora the Explorer Cinnamon Star Cereal" pieces on a plate. My guess is that children, particularly young children, will enjoy nibbling the little stars and seeing exactly what forty six of them look like. If you have trouble finding this exact cereal, try using star-shaped sprinkles or even white chocolate chips.
6. "Crescent Moons"
How stirring it is to see Our Lady standing on the crescent moon, proving she is the woman of Revelation, "clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet." Rev. 12: 2. There are many ways to represent moons--consider, for example, fresh baked crescent rolls, crescent shaped cookies or cheese slices or tea sandwiches. We opted for convenience choosing Stella D'oro Anisette Sponge, one of my favorite cookies.
7. "Supporting Angels"
While we were in the Stella D'oro aisle, we couldn't resist picking up a bag of Angel Wing cookies, reminding us of the trusted messenger supporting Our Lady with such love and care. This menu item is fun for the children, but optional, especially if you are concerned about too many sweets.
8. "Praying Hands"
In all her ethereal splendor, Our Lady looked to St. Juan Diego like an Aztec goddess, except her head was humbly bent, and her hands were in a position of prayer, pointing lovingly toward the Babe in her womb. To honor this gesture, we suggest "Praying Hands Tea Sandwiches." A mitten cookie cutter might work for these, but I cut them myself with a sharp knife from sandwiches made of cream cheese on firm dark rye. (I chose dark rye because it best mirrored the shade of the hands in the image). Olive cream cheese would be even tastier, but my children will have none of that!
For added symbolism, arrange the "hand" sandwiches on a platter pointing toward an image of the Christ child or the infant in the manger, reminding the children that Our Lady always leads us directly to her son.
9. "The Tilma of Roses"
This is perhaps the cutest of the menu items, and I hope your children will like it as much as mine did this afternoon. Our Lady asked St. Juan Diego to gather roses in his tilma to show the bishop. She arranged them lovingly with her own blessed hands, ordering him not to show what he was carrying to anyone along the way. To recreate this tilma for the tea table, take a large flour tortilla, cutting it in the shape of a primitive robe. For flavor and a bit of fun, apply an oval of bright mustard or even Thousand Island Dressing. (This will be a bit reminiscent of the shape of Our Lady's image on the tilma.) Then twist thin pink slices of Black Forest Ham into "roses," following the steps laid out in the photos below. You might also want to try proscuitto, bologna, or even turkey for this purpose, depending on what your children like. Now fold up the tortilla, serving one on each plate reminiscent of a tilma holding a special surprise. When your children open it, they will see the "roses" and smile!
10. "Bishop Zumarraga's Miter"
This optional offering is especially for all you wonderful friends who purchased gorgeous Miter shaped cookie cutters for the Feast of St. Nicholas and cannot wait to use them again! (Dawn, Katherine, Meredith--you know who you are!) Make a batch of gingerbread miters or use the cutter for special tea sandwiches to add to the bill of fare. Alas, we here at the cottage do not have miter-shaped cutters, so this particular treat will not grace our table this Tuesday. (It is a good thing too--if I were to attempt those gorgeous homemade gingerbread cookies, none of these other treats would ever be made!)
11. "Crushed Serpents"
My guess is that there are many young boys out there who will love this part of the afternoon. Some scholars theorize that "Gualalupe," the word Our Lady used for herself, was actually "Coatlaxopeuh," a Mexican Indian word meaning, "she who crushes the serpent." Either way, the sentiment is certainly accurate, and my guess is that the younger children round your table (and probably even the older ones) will not mind smooshing and smashing a few Gummi Worms meant to represent the "serpent."
12. "Build Me a Church"
Our Lady's wish that her Church be built was brought to fulfillment by the bishop. Just before the conclusion of our tea, the children will build their own representation of this Church, hopefully reminding us that we must always strive to carry out all of Our Lady's requests each day.
There are countless ways this could be done, but we plan on "building" a no-bake refrigerator icebox cake. My own girls will do this themselves in advance of the tea using chocolate wafers and fresh whipped cream (following directions on the package of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers). At the table later, the children will add a sugar cone steeple, "Chantilly" stained glass windows, and, hopefully, a pretzel cross at the top. I will be sure to post pictures and have no doubt our "church" will be more like a teepee on a log than anything else. Still, the children are guaranteed to have fun doing it, and chocolate refrigerator roll cakes are delicous. (If I had to do one thing over in shopping, I would have purchased Oreo chocolate cones, because they would go so well with the black and white cake.)
In lieu of a refrigerator roll, you might consider giving each child a cone, pretzels, and a few sugar wafer cookies to build individual "churches" of their own. Do not fuss with royal icing or anything like that. Have each child use the edible materials you provide as they would a set of blocks. They will eat their churches before the icing would have a chance to set anyway!
13. "Roses from Heaven Punch"
Pour any type of flavored seltzer along with two parts berry juice (we use Minute Maid from the refrigerated section) into a punch bowl (or, if you are like me, a large pot!). Add a bag of frozen mixed berries and scoops of raspberry sherbet for a rose colored punch the kiddies will love.
It is late Sunday Night, so this rough, unedited draft will have to serve as a post for now. I will try to iron out the kinks and post a suggested shopping list tomorrow.
My research and specific information on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes from the book "Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe," by Josephine Nobisso (Catholic Home Educating Mother and all around lovely, faithful woman).
I must go, but tomorrow I will post some of the photos we took in our test kitchen this afternoon. These should serve as proof positive that I have no claim on being a food stylist! Fortunately, the tea is meant for children, and they tend to see all things with a charitable eye. I hope to serve this menu to friends this week, so we wanted to try out a few things. I will post again to let you know how it is received by our guests, and to share a few ideas for decorating and presentation.
The Tilma of Roses, step-by-step:
Step by step ham "roses":
"Praying Hands," step-by-step:
"Supporting Angels" and "Crescent Moons":
A basket of possible ingredients for "Build me a Church":
Begin with a chocolate refrigerator roll, the easiest and most delicious little confection you will ever make:
Inspired by our tea rose centerpiece, Theresa suggests decorating the church by scoring jellied Christmas bells into roses:
Happy Feast, everyone!
Updated: Scenes from our Guadalupe Tea, including a photo album