After being so very English and doing so very much gardening yesterday (or at least, so very much agitating around the subject of gardening–spent less than an hour actually working at it), it seemed right to watch a lot of Brideshead Revisited and to have a proper cream tea, today.
When I was in England nearly two years ago, I made a point of studying the cream tea, as a phenomenon. A cream tea simply means that scones with clotted cream are included on the menu. From Liberty’s to Claridge’s to the Randolph Arms in Oxford, though, everything was predictable and similar.
Tea sandwiches: cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches, either egg or chicken curry mayonnaise sandwiches, and sometimes also Black Forest ham sandwiches.
Scones: always light and made with white flour, no Scottish oat scones here, and with simple fruit inclusions–raisins or currants or dried apple. No orange-strawberry-walnut nonsense. The scones are eaten with clotted cream, of course, and with a selection of strawberry and gooseberry jam and orange marmelade.
Well, here I departed from tradition. The tea usually also includes a selection of tiny pastries, which I call “Frenchified dainties”. I happened to have some Chocolate Insanity cookies sitting around, or I would have made chocolate-backed shortbread. No, I didn’t make the cookies. No, I don’t have the recipe. Yes, I want it and will work on getting it (just for all of you). I do know the theory behind them, though–that if one is making a chocolate cookie, and is really committed to it, one has no use for flour. One uses cocoa powder instead. Get my drift? Yes, they are INSANE.
Brown sugar lumps and milk for the tea are standard. There are so many things on this tray that I’m fond of–the sugar tongs were fetched for me from Holland, and the repousse silverware (silver plated) used to be my everyday set, until it got too beaten up to give to guests.
I have been working my way through Brideshead Revisited with a fellow Anglophile. Today, we watched episodes 3, 4, and 5–then decided that we either needed to stop and do something cheerful, or start to drink. Well. We stopped. Episode 5 is a bit much, you know? The first two episodes–the double-length pilot and then episode 2–are just dreamy, though. The happiest three hours of television ever, as far as I am concerned.
And we kept a teddy bear and a hand-knit Fair Isle sweater vest close at hand, just for atmosphere, in case my fishpots and chintz curtains didn’t do it for us.