​Tea on the Mountain Launches Cookbook

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
Tea on the Mountain feels closed off from the rest of the world, with a mere hint of the outside peeking through its cloaked windows.
The tea room in Tracy City is a good sanctuary to escape politics, traffic and social media, but it is also a good place to eat some of Myrna Nesbit’s “Lemony Chicken,” or at least learn how to make it. Myrna and husband Pat, recently released a cookbook with some of Myrna’s favorite recipes, which is stocked with family traditions, adaptations and Myrna originals.
A petite woman wearing a tin brooch of an angel carrying a teapot and teacup, she is a comforting presence.
“My grandmother’s mother taught her how to make cornbread and she taught my mother and my mother taught me; so that’s in the book. Pat’s aunt made the best Parker House rolls and that’s in there, but mine’s not as good as hers. I just can’t get that down right yet. I think she didn’t tell me everything,” Myrna says laughing.
After more than 10 years since opening the tea room and bolstered by customer encouragement, Myrna says she finally got around to moving recipes from the notebooks behind the counter into a cookbook. She says she’s most proud of her desserts, like bread pudding and crème brûlée.
Pat contributed a recipe or two but says Myrna does 99 percent of the cooking and all he did was mostly proofread the new book.
“I’m really not sure why she put my name on it,” Pat says.
“So he wouldn’t be mad at me,” Myrna jokes. “No, he was a big supporter.”
The Nesbits have been married for 56 years and first met in 1960 when Pat was a student at the University of the South and Myrna was the front desk clerk at the Sewanee Inn. Pat spent most of his adult life working in the insurance business and Myrna’s main occupation was front desk manager at Regency Inn.
When they moved back to Tracy City, Myrna’s hometown, from Little Rock, Ark., a tea room and restaurant was both an inviting prospect and uncharted territory. They loved hosting tea for friends at home and were inspired by their experiences in tea rooms in places like London, Paris, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Sydney and Hawaii.
“We enjoyed serving teas to people,” Myrna says. “It was an easy way to entertain; it was an impressive way to entertain. You could do little bitty things and it looked great or you could do big elaborate things and it still would work great in a tea.”
The tea lovers say the experience of running the restaurant has been the hardest and most rewarding work of their lives.
“I did not expect to meet all the wonderful people that we’ve met. People we would have never come in contact with any other way,” Pat says. “I didn’t expect it to be so much fun either.”
The Nesbits say when they started Tea on the Mountain they decided to continue in five-year increments and are now on their third run.
“I’m serious, as long as we can stand up and work we’re going to do it; it’s too much fun to quit,” Pat says. “It’s kind of like getting hold of a tiger’s tail; you can’t let go.”
The tea room and restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Afternoon tea, high tea, and dinner are also available by reservation.
The “Tea on the Mountain Recipes and More” cookbook is available for $15 at the tea room and via the Tea on the Mountain Facebook page.