Monday, 14 January 2013

Afternoon tea is not

something we normally indulge in. The Senior Cat has a cup of tea somewhere in the mid-to-late afternoon but he does not have biscuits or cake with it. I might have a drink or, perhaps, an apple.
Today however will be different. We are expecting visitors. One of them is our friend Polly. There will be her two sisters, her neice and her neice's partner.
It will be a very mixed group. Polly is a nun - not that anyone would notice. She does not, to the best of my knowledge, own a habit. She wears trousers most of the time. She has a wicked sense of humour and is good fun to be with. One of her sisters is the co-owner of a large and successful second-hand book business. We have known her for years as well - and she has found many useful books for the Senior Cat and me. She is the mother of Polly's neice, a professional bridge player (a game I know nothing about) and writer of multiple blogs. She also knits.
The other sister is the amazing person who manages to somehow keep an entire extended family together. There are rather a lot of them and I am not sure how she manages it.
We have yet to meet the neice's partner, although someone who has assures me he is "very amiable". I do not doubt it.
But, afternoon tea for this group? I had cause to hunt out my copy of Elizabeth Goudge's book, "The little white horse" recently. I did it because of the description of the afternoon tea produced by Marmaduke Scarlett towards the end of the book. It is an extraordinary affair with nineteen different foods named - and only Cornish pasty and lettuce sandwiches being savory.
The emphasis on sweet things is remarkable. What did it do to their waistlines and their teeth? What about their cholesterol levels? Did teenagers in that era never suffer from acne? Were there no allergies?
My father remembers my great-aunt spreading bread with dripping and liberally dousing it with salt and pepper. It was a pre-lunch snack at the dairy farm they lived on. Later we lived in a dairying district and our milk came straight from a local dairy farmer. There was no nonsense about pasteurisation or not enjoying the cream that accounted for at least a quarter of the container. My mother would cook it gently on the stove so that we had great dollops of clotted cream on our cereal and toast.
But today I will put out some home-made not too sweet shortbread and the last of Polly's excellent Christmas cake...and I know that almost certainly little of it will be eaten.
Afternoon tea is not what it once was - but the Senior Cat is looking forward to a good bookish discussion!


Jan said...

A good bookish discussion is food itself!

We had dripping on toast very occasionally for breakfast as treat. For my parents and grandparents it wasn't a treat, but a reminder of the Depression. Our milk came straight from the cow, although cream had been separated. Even so, there was still thick cream on it. Plenty of fresh eggs from the poultry farmers who also owned the cows.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I'll take any excuse for afternoon tea. :-) Usually I go out for it, if not at the Windsor then at a local cafe called the Goat House, where I shout my Mum to coffee and a shared extravagant cake, while I have tea in a lovely pot. But there are plenty of quick and easy things you can make before your guests arrive. Macaroons can be whipped up in about ten minutes, maybe fifteen altogether with baking and prep time. Scones in about twenty at most. Serve with jam.

As for book food, I always wonder how the students of Hogwarts manage to squeeze through the portrait hole to their dorms after a term of school breakfasts and feasts!