A “picky tea” might also be known as a carpet picnic, a buffet, an ‘iffits’ dinner (if it’s there you can have it), a DIY dinner or even tapas if you are feeling fancy.
The basic concept is a meal that is based around smaller dishes of food laid out on a table where people help themselves to the food that they want from the plates without there necessarily being a link between the foods on offer.
The food is often simple oven food or food that can be taken straight from the cupboard or fridge and requires little to no preparation.
A picky tea allows the diners to choose whatever they fancy from an eclectic mix.
It’s similar in style to party food but served at home, and usually aimed at children. A picky tea is a relaxed meal that benefits from losing the usual formalities of dinner times.
The Origin of the Picky Tea
The exact origin of the phrase “picky tea” is unclear. It’s generally considered a Northern phrase, perhaps with the same concept being given different names in the rest of the country.
Some people argue that the concept comes from the Italian antipasto plate, a plate of bite-sized portions served before a main meal. A picky tea however is eaten as a main meal, not just as a starter.
The word picky refers to the nature in which a picky tea is eaten. It is not served up to the diners, but the diners must go and pick the food themselves.
It could also refer to the concept of someone being picky that is being choosey and selective, and, in this case, a picky tea allows the eater to be selective over what they wish to eat.
Why Have a Picky Tea?
There are many good things about a picky tea:
- Convenience – A picky tea is quick to gather and doesn’t need any pre-planning or the buying of any specific ingredients.
- Cost – By using items already in the house a picky tea can be a good way of keeping meal costs down.
- Novelty factor – Children love picnics and party food. There is a novelty in them being able to choose what they’d like to eat and serving themselves. This novelty factor may encourage children to try new foods as well as adding some fun to mealtimes.
- Uses up odds and ends – A picky tea doesn’t have to contain food items that fit together. You can use an assortment of whatever you have left over in your fridge or freezer.
If you’ve had a few lone chicken nuggets in a bag for months these can be used up. As can part packets of crackers or crisps. It is a good way of clearing food storage space.
Picky Tea Ideas
The beauty of a picky tea is that there are no rules. Anything goes. Here are just a few suggestions to help you along your way.
- Chicken nuggets or turkey dinosaurs
- Potato waffles, potato shapes or even oven chips
- Mini pizzas, or large ones cut into slices
- Sandwiches, in small finger food sized portions
- Grapes or other smaller fruits
- Chunks of cheese
- Pieces of ham or similar
- Cocktail sausages
- Olives or pickles
- Scotch eggs, pork pies or sausage rolls
- Crisps, tortilla chips or rice cakes
- Crackers, slices of bread, savoury biscuits, or breadsticks
- Cucumber slices and carrot sticks
- Sauces for dipping
Some see a picky tea as something you go and buy supplies for, like tapas, a grazing plate or party food.
However, the most common interpretation nowadays refers to using items that are already in the house rather than purchasing them specifically for the meal.
So why not create your own picky tea next time and please the whole family.
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