The English Cream Tea Company: The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea

https://anglophilicanglican.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/etiqiuette20web19-2.jpg

Source: The English Cream Tea Company. Etiquette

One could hardly call oneself an Anglophilic Anglican – much less “THE” Anglophilic Anglican! – without holding the classic English tea (the meal, not merely the beverage) in great respect and appreciation. Ranging from a light snack to a fairly substantial meal, “tea” can mean a number of different things!

Contrary to the expectations of us former Colonials on this side of the Pond, what many of us would think of as “high tea” is nothing of the sort. “High” vs “low” tea has nothing to do with levels of aristocratic sophistication, but rather the height of the table: “high tea” is the traditional evening meal of the laboring class, featuring meat pies and other such substantial fare, eaten between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock at a high table (think dining room or – more likely for workers – kitchen) after arriving home from work.

What we often (and erroneously) think of as “high tea” is actually low tea – also known as “afternoon tea” – so named because it is taken at a low table surrounded by comfy chairs and sofas in the drawing room. It was and is served around four o’clock, to tide one over between lunch (originally, in upper-crust England, a mid-morning meal closer to our brunch) and a late dinner, around 8 o’clock.

A “full tea” is an afternoon (low) tea of three courses: the first savory (typically tea sandwiches, also known as finger sandwiches, and sometimes also including other savories such as quiche or soup), the second comprising scones with jam and cream, and the final sweet pastries and/or other confections.

Illustration depicting the difference between the different types of tea service

But the simplest form is a “cream tea,” consisting of – as one might expect – merely the scones, with clotted cream and jam, lemon curd, or similar, and of course, tea. It is this meal with which the linked Etiquette page, including a very enjoyable video, is concerned, for there is a definite etiquette involved. Yet, as Jane Malyon, of The English Cream Tea Company, points out, “Etiquette is not about putting on airs and graces and pretending to be posh! It’s actually all about consideration.” Indeed!

For additional information on the fascinating subject of the English tea, check out “How is High Tea Different from Afternoon Tea? Deciphering British Tea Time” and “What Is the Difference Between Afternoon Tea and High Tea? How history shaped the British afternoon and high tea traditions,” at The Spruce Eats.

There is also a Cream Tea Society, whose website notes that National Cream Tea Day (in Britain) is the 26th of June this year (2020). Alena Kate Petitt of The Darling Academy also comments on this day, here. And if you’re looking for ideas for a full, as opposed to a simple cream, tea, you might also want to check out these “Recipes for a Complete Afternoon Tea Menu.” For general information on British meals, see “The Different Meals and Mealtimes in Britain,” at the same site. And enjoy your tea!

 

Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

Image result for beginning of beowulf

“Here are just a few reasons why you might want to read Beowulf.”

Source: Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

There are many reasons you may wish to read Beowulf, the classic Old English epic – which has, of course, been translated into modern English many times. Among the reasons cited by this blogger:

“First, it is a famous example of literature from the Early Middle Ages. Second, it represents English-language literature in its infancy. Third, it has had impacted modern literature since its rediscovery.”

All true, of course! But I am convinced that the best reason is that it’s a rousing good story, created, recited, and later written and read, by and for our forebears – at least, the ancestors of those of us who are of English heritage, by blood, language and culture!

Here is a modern-English translation, and one that grasps the rhythms and richness of the great original. And here is a recitation of the opening stanzas, in the original language:

I like this one, because it’s set up in such a way that one can follow along in both Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and modern English!

 

Classic Recipes from the British Isles: Rumbledethumps, Colcannon, and Bubble-and-Squeak; Yorkshire Pudding, Toad-in-the-Hole, and Onion Gravy

Scottish Rumbledethumps

Traditional Scottish Rumbledethumps

Image result for robert burns
Robert “Rabbie” Burns, the Bard of Scotland

With tonight being Burns Night, I thought I’d start with the wonderfully-named Rumbledethumps: a traditional dish of the Scots Borders, from whence he hailed – and from which a good chunk of my father’s family likewise hailed! Indeed, we shared a town – Selkirk – with the Ploughman Poet, and had our own subtly distinct version of the well-known “Selkirk Grace”:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some have nae that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit!

Now for two close cousins of Rumbledethumps: Irish Colcannon, and English Bubble-and-Squeak:

Colcannon recipe

Traditional Irish Colcannon

“Colcannon is a favorite Irish recipe, especially on St Patrick‘s Day. Seriously, what is not to like? Creamy mashed potatoes, fresh, crunchy curly kale, a bit of spring onions, and pats of butter.”

Delicious, and not just for St. Padraig’s! The spring onions and kale give it both a fresh flavor and a health boost. I don’t pulse or chop them mechanically, just give the kale a thin chiffonade, and slice the green onion into 1/8 to 1/4″ rounds. Be sure to include the green tops!

Bubble and Squeak

Traditional Bubble and Squeak

The first specifically British dish I ever made, many years ago (many, many years, now…), Bubble and Squeak is the lovely, quirky, evocative name for what is mostly fried leftover vegetables, usually from Sunday’s roast dinner (sometimes leftover meat, or bacon, is incorporated). The name comes from the sound it makes as it’s frying! It can be breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper, as circumstances may dictate.

Yorkshire Pudding

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding

In Yorkshire itself, these puffy pastries, baked in oil (yes, you heard that right…), are often served as a starter; in rest of Britain, they’re the classic accompaniment to a Sunday roast (see here for more on the Sunday roast or “Sunday lunch”). In either case, plenty of gravy is an essential accompaniment – see below!

Toad in the Hole

Family-sized Toad in the Hole

Another evocatively-named dish, Toad-in-the-Hole combines “bangers” (sausages) with a Yorkshire-pudding-like pastry batter (in fact, the Yorkshire pudding recipe could be used for this dish, although the one given here is a wee bit different). A classic supper dish, but could also be the centerpiece for a (slightly less traditional) Sunday lunch. The bangers are rather jumbled in the illustration; I like mine arranged a bit more neatly!

Onion Gravy

Rich Onion Gravy

Several – arguably all! – of the above could deliciously benefit from being served with onion gravy, and Yorkshire pudding and Toad-in-the-Hole practically demand it. As the linked recipe notes,

“The ultimate in comfort food must be any meat dish, or meat and creamy mashed potatoes, smothered in a rich onion gravy. The bringing together of sweet onions and a dark rich sauce—which is both sweet and savory—is a classic of both the British and Irish kitchens.”

And darned tasty on this side of “the Pond,” I must say.

Enjoy!

 

Plough Monday, 2020

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Today is Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night and Epiphany, and what used to be an important date in the agricultural calendar. Traditionally it was the day on which farm workers returned to their duties after the Christmas and New Year break. On this day,

“A plough would be taken to the local church to be blessed in order to ‘speed the plough’ and ensure a bountiful harvest later in the year. It was a difficult time of year for ploughman, as the ground was hard and difficult to work on, so the ploughmen would decorate their ploughs and take them around the local villages where they would ask for money from the wealthy landowners.”

This money was formerly used to pay for “plough lights”: candles lit in the church, to pray God’s blessing upon the agricultural work. And if a donation was not forthcoming, the miserly one might find that his yard would be plowed!

Today would be the perfect day for a classic English “ploughman’s lunch,” which at its most basic consists of rustic country bread, one or more varieties of (originally local, now any British) cheese, pickled onions, chutney and/or some other sort of “pickle,” and ale or (generally “hard,” but sweet would be a perfectly fine substitute) cider.

Some would add an apple, others some type of greenstuff (watercress would seem a traditional choice, as it might have been picked fresh from the stream running at the bottom of the field), or perhaps a boiled egg; but though one occasionally sees them with smoked meats, pork pies, or even Scotch eggs, there seems little need to go too far beyond the basics, to me.

Plough Monday, Cottage Loaf and a Ploughman's Lunch (Recipes)

This one includes spring onions and a (somewhat anachronistic, in my view) tomato, but otherwise sticks pretty close to the basic plan!

In conclusion:

Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendor and state:
I envy them not, I declare it.
I eat my own lamb,
My own chickens and ham;
I shear my own fleece, and I wear it.
I have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruits, I have flowers;
The lark is my morning alarmer.
So, jolly boys, now,
Here’s God speed the plough!
Long life and success to the farmer!

(I am almost positive that this verse is on the other side of the mug seen in the picture, above!)

The largest ever Bronze Age hoard in London has been discovered | HeritageDaily – Archaeology News

The largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London, the third largest of its kind in the UK, has been unearthed in Havering.

Source: The largest ever Bronze Age hoard in London has been discovered – HeritageDaily – Archaeology News

“A total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800 BC have been uncovered during a planned archaeological investigation, with weapons and tools including axe heads, spearheads, fragments of swords, daggers and knives found alongside some other unusual objects, which are rarely found in the UK.”

Fascinating! Unfortunately, not much (if anything) is said about the “unusual objects, which are rarely found in the UK.” Hope more information is revealed, as the project continues!

Blighty Boys: The UK’s Countryside Alliance

“The Countryside Alliance is the campaigning organisation that promotes the rural way of life in Parliament, in the media and on the ground.”

Source: Countryside Alliance – Home

Just as the urban / coastal elite in the US ridicules what was once called “America’s Heartland” as “flyover states,” and conservative, traditional country people as “rednecks” at best, “deplorables” at worst, so the urban elites in the UK disparage countryside people, pastimes, and traditions.

The Countryside Alliance was founded, IIRC, in 2005, in the aftermath of the ban on mounted foxhunting under the Tony Blair administration. As it says of itself on its website,

“The Countryside Alliance is the campaigning organisation that promotes the rural way of life in Parliament, in the media and on the ground. We campaign for the countryside, for rural communities and for hunting and shooting.

“We publicise the economic, social and environmental contribution the countryside makes to the national economy and quality of life.

“Our aim is to promote understanding and acceptance of the rural way of life and activities such as hunting and shooting in a managed landscape, and to protect them from bias, misinformation and over regulation.”

Campaigns and causes sponsored or supported include the Campaign for Hunting, Campaign for Shooting, Game to Eat initiative, Food and Farming, and Rural Communities – among others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Any true Blighty Boy would, or at least should, be a member!

Must Farm: Britain’s Pompeii Reveals Burning Bronze Age Secrets | Ancient Origins

Remains of a house at Must Farm showing the unburnt stumps of posts under the waterline during the fire (top-right) and collapsed joists

Archaeologists discover that Must Farm Bronze Age settlement, dubbed the Pompeii of Britain, was burned to the ground soon after it was built.

Source: Must Farm: Britain’s Pompeii Reveals Burning Bronze Age Secrets | Ancient Origins

The site – a farming settlement built on piles in a wetland (fen), most likely for defensive purposes – continues to yield tremendous insights into the material culture of the period. This, despite the shortness of its habitation: apparently only about a year passed between its completion, and its destruction by fire. Of course, that very fact makes it a valuable snapshot of a particular moment in British prehistory!

“The press release for the article in Antiquity states that the fire was ‘A tragedy for the inhabitants, but lucky for archaeologists, as the fluvial silts have preserved wooden artefacts, pottery sets, bronze tools and weapons, fabrics and fibres , querns, loom weights, spindle whorls, animal remains, plants and seeds, coprolites…'”

It appears that between 50 and 80 people may have lived at the settlement – suggestive of a small tribe, or perhaps a large extended family (such distinctions can be blurry, at best). “Tools, housing, and even vitrified food have all been impeccably preserved at the waterlogged site.” Lead archaeologist of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Mark Knight, comments,

“Working at the site was a series of daily, almost hourly moments of astonishment and wonder (with each new discovery seemingly outshining the last). This was invariably accompanied by a faint rotten-egg smell that goes with most waterlogged sites – the smell of gradual organic decay.”

Enough to make me wish I had stuck with archaeology! Although the chances of being able to work on this site would have been slight, even if I had. Alas! For more, check out these links:

Excavations at British sites are Revolutionizing Prehistoric Studies and Revealing Secrets of the Past

Bronze Age time capsule: 3,000-year-old vitrified food found in jars in England