It is nice to see the Victorian afternoon teas making a comeback. It’s disappointing though to see commercial companies offer afternoon teas which are nothing like the elegant teatimes of the past. Cakes and other dainties are served but there’s no crisp cotton tablecloth on the table, no dainty china cups and no real tea, only teabags. There does seem to be a difference on how you feel, depending on the type of afternoon tea you are attending. Add all the frills and fancies, linen serviettes instead of paper, patterned china instead of the standard hotel earthenware cups. Scones served with curls of butter and jam in proper jam dishes instead of prepacked portions. All that transports you to a genteel era, housemaids with black dresses and white aprons and caps serving dainty sandwiches and cakes on a tray. Also tea served from a teapot, kept warm under a tea cosy. Though a dedicated coffee drinker, I have a selection of proper leaf teas for the guest to chose from and not a teabag in sight.
I do wish I had paid attention to both my granny’s and mum‘s baking though. Granny’s scones were second to none and none of the ingredients were weighed. Handful, pinch and spoonful were the measurements instead of pounds and ounces. When the milk was sold in glass bottles and cream would still rise to the surface, the short life without the fridge didn’t mean sour milk was wasted, we kept it all for granny to use in her scones. No science degree to tell you sour milk makes the scones light, I use active yogurt instead to replace the ‘live’ bacteria milk processing takes away.
Having inherited a number of recipe books, handwritten by my mother and both grandmothers, it’s quite comforting to see the titles such a “Mrs Hamilton’s Fruit Cake”, or “Sadie’s Chocolate Cake”, let your imagination loose and not only do you see these people in your mind’s eye, but you can almost smell the baking as well.
Many years ago, I bought an S.W.R.I. (Scottish Women’s Rural Institute) cookery book. Some of the recipes date back generations and one such recipe from the book, I will share:-
“Hatted Kit (A very old Highland dish)
Warm slightly over the fire 2 pints of buttermilk. Pour it into a dish and carry it to the side of a cow. Milk into it about 1 pint of milk, having previously put into the dish sufficient rennet for the whole. After allowing it to stand for a while, lift the curd, place it on a sieve, and press the whey through until the curd is quite stiff. Season with sugar and nutmeg before serving, whip some thick cream, season it also with a little grated nutmeg and sugar and mix gently with the curd. This dish can quite well be made without milking the cow into it., although the contributor’s mother always considered that direct milking put a better hat on the kit.”