Your response is, “Let me help you.” Your job is now to be your host’s humble servant, a role you cheerfully embrace. Follow your host into the kitchen and bring your gift along. “I brought you some chocolate almonds,” you say, as you place the gift on the kitchen counter. Then look around the kitchen to see what needs to be done. Do the obvious last-minute tasks without distracting your host from his focus on the scones. These tasks might include unwrapping the cheeses and placing them on a tray with some crackers and grapes, spooning the fig jam and the lemon curd into attractive bowls, placing biscotti and cannoli on the serving pieces for which they were intended, etc. Do not take over your host’s kitchen. Help him as unobtrusively as possible.
When the doorbell rings, say to your host, “I would be happy to greet the other guests. Will we be gathering in the living room?” Welcoming the other guests and making sure they are all comfortably settled in the living room will give your host the few minutes he needs to get the scones in the oven. Treat the other guests as though you are all embarking on a joyful adventure, and maintain a respectful attitude toward your host, letting everyone know that he will be joining you shortly.
In this little scenario, you have modeled the philosophy of afternoon tea. Spontaneity and a lighthearted touch of humor can help the philosophy of tea come alive. Even though the afternoon did not begin exactly as planned, harmony, humility, respect and creativity prevailed. When your host emerges from the kitchen, bearing a beautiful glass pedestal piled with hot, fragrant, Italian-inspired raisin and anise scones, you will seamlessly return to your former role as one of several guests. Now your job is to focus on the moment at hand—the glorious October afternoon, the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing Puccini arias in the background, the tablecloth with a map of Italy draped over the tea table, the tiny home-baked biscotti bursting with toasted almonds. There is so much to celebrate, so much gratitude filling the room.