Don’t Live In A Place Where High Tea Could Reasonably Be Served? Pffffft

Welcome to my friend Amy’s place. Newly separated and having gone from an historic manse to one room with a kitchen and bath, she has triumphed over any kind of needless transitional nonsense.  It is a place filled with fresh flowers, bright colors and all of her Granfmother’s china!  That is all she needs to pull off one of her high teas.

Above is Amy’s own picture of what she had arranged for me today. I am her 4th sitting since she came to reside here.

The simplicity was the key.  Just beautifully sliced strawberries with blueberries. A lovely cream scone – moist.  Unsalted butter is a must.  An elderberry jam not needed on this voyage.  And sandwiches with red pepper/peach jelly and cream cheese and cucumber and ham or any combination of the aforementioned with interesting breads.

The tea was to die for and put up by TAZO: “OM.”  It is a blend of green and black teas and natural flavours of cucumber and peach.  She was kind enough to give me some together with a scone for the road.

Other parts to this cozy room – just a couple –

Here is her charming day bed she has fitted out with an assortment of custom pillows and covers.  You can see the corner of the tea table lower right of photo.

On the wall opposite a lovely small blue upholstered chair next to  an antique granite-topped chest adorned with more flowers.  To the right of that is her kitchen.  All tastefully done with an economy of means but  not of effort.  So you see, grandmother’s traditions live on in any circumstance if you put your talent and time to it.

From a website called “Smitten Kitchen.”

Dreamy Cream Scones
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (I used dried cranberries, and chopped them into smaller bits)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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At Gampa’s Table

I had Easter dinner this afternoon with a cousin who took his first steps around this  table of long ago.  He is now in his early 60s, I am just 70.  The warm tones of the old color photo let you know at once this must be the 1950s.

Belle Porter, Gampa’s English downstairs “lady” [you could never call them maids – they were the ladies] would serve the food with her pince-nez balancing delicately on her nose and making corrections to my childish actions in low, kindly tones.  Meat was on a silver parsley-ringed platter; green vegetables looked stunning in a silver bowl, and the mashed potatoes were peaked to perfection.  I now know that the only beef served there was aged and what a treat.  Lamb was not served with mint jelly.  No it was served with home made mint sauce and it was warm and sweet.

Grandmother had died the year I was born so my father sat at the head of the table opposite Gampa.  He was weak on one side due to a brain tumor so his foot lay heavily at times on the “buzzer”‘  beneath the carpet Grandmother used to touch to ring Belle for the next course.  Poor Belle, she popped in and out like a cuckoo when Dad hit that buzzer multiple times by mistake.

There were nothing but arm chairs at Gampa’s table.  He felt it was not very democratic for a host and hostess to have the only comfortable chairs with arms. He therefore  had an antique chair he favored copied eleven times by an old Rochester firm named Hayden hat specialized in reproductions.

A word about the silver loving cup in the center of the table. Gampa hated people who went as guests to peoples’ homes and commented on the contents therein.   One poor guest asked what the silver thing was in the middle of the table.  Gampa looked at him and said slowly and calmly: “my father’s ashes; like them near me when I eat.”

My brothers and another male cousin are all living out-of-town with large and growing families of their own but cousin Curtice and I hold down the fort here in Rochester.  We no longer have dinners at one of our homes but at the retirement home where he lives.  It is lovely and we have our even lovelier, warm memories.  We are blessed to have one another and to have learned about the lasting value of family and not “things” at Gampa’ s table.

Bulwinkle Teaches Us How to Catch, Prepare and Cook at Thanksgiving Turkey

SamHenry will be back soon with a seriously good recipe from my grandmother’s cook book.  In the interim, here is Bullwinkle with information about Thanksgiving that will keep you laughing as you prep and cook your bird.

Sarah Ferguson is Drinking French Ginger Tea – Should We?

Our grandmothers used ginger quite liberally – fresh ginger.  Ginger cookies were made with fresh ginger,  jams had fresh ginger.  But today, the taste of fresh ginger is something we know nothing about unless we are into Asian food.  Ginger snaps from the box are nothing like the real deal.

Now it seems there is something called French Ginger Tea and I found out about it from an article about Sarah Ferguson:

She claims to have adopted a strict fitness regime based on exercising, drinking lots of water and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The duchess is also a regular drinker of French ginger tea, which she dubs ‘a great disinfectant for the body’.

There are many websites with good recipes and some even add lemon or honey.  Here is an intriguing one at another blog called Do Right Fear Not.

Ham and Biscuit Ring – Perfect End to a Holiday Ham

In my paternal grandmother’s notebook she kept for her cook was the following recipe written in her hand.  The notebook no doubt dates from the 20s’ and 30s’ since she died in 1941.

Ham Biscuit Ring

  • Put through the food grinder (you can use a Cuisinart but don’t get the meat too fine) 1 lb cooked ham.
  • Add ham to your favorite rich biscuit recipe, adding an extra teaspoon of baking powder to the mix.
  • Bake in well-greased ring mold until done – in moderate oven (350)
  • Turn out on hot platter and fill the center with hot buttered peas.
  • Surround with peach halves filled with ground nut meats, brown sugar and butter having been glazed on a cookie sheet in the oven (375).

Shrove Tuesday Discovery: My Brit Ancestors Ate Pancakes Topped with Sugar and Lemon, Oh My

Photo Elliot Smith - the GUARDIAN

In perusing the UK’s Telegraph (no recipe just a discussion about the auld pancake of yore) and the Guardian this fine Shrove Tuesday, I made a shocking discovery for an American in love with fluffy pancakes topped with butter and syrup:  My Great Grandmother enjoyed thin pancakes (like the French) topped with lemon and sugar.  Brits wax very sentimental about these.

The Guardian provides an overview of the development of the British pancake going back to 1594.  That seems far enough when most humans can’t trace their lineage back more than a few generations.

…[M]odern pancakes are descended from those specifically designed to use up fat before the beginning of Lent, which means they tend to be heavier on the eggs and butter than, say, the fluffy American stack, or the squat Russian blini.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say.  Don’t look to these for any dietary benefit only taste.

Here is a website that will help you convert metric measurements.  Learn to do this because we are going global.

As for the pancakes, the key to remember is this.  The first pancake is always a mess.  That’s just how it is for all of us.  So let the cook eat the first one.  Looks bad; tastes good.  From the Guardian:

Makes about 8

125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
225ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
Small knob of butter

1. Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, and pour the egg and the yolk into it. Mix the milk with 2 tbsp water and then pour a little in with the egg and beat together.

2. Whisk the flour into the liquid ingredients, drawing it gradually into the middle until you have a smooth paste the consistency of double cream. Whisk the rest of the milk in until the batter is more like single cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

3. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat – you only need enough fat to just grease the bottom of the pan. It should be hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits it.

4. Spread a small ladleful of batter across the bottom of the pan, quickly swirling to coat. Tip any excess away. When it begins to set, loosen the edges with a thin spatula or palette knife, and when it begins to colour on the bottom, flip it over with the same instrument and cook for another 30 seconds. (If you’re feeling cocky, you can also toss the pancake after loosening it: grasp the handle firmly with both hands, then jerk the pan up and slightly towards you.)

5. Pancakes are best eaten as soon as possible, before they go rubbery, but if you’re cooking for a crowd, keep them separate until you’re ready to serve by layering them up between pieces of kitchen roll [could be parchment paper – I wouldn’t use waxed].

The King’s Grand Service – The British Royal Banquet Table Since George IV

Although there is one post here on royal banquets, many have reached this site searching for information on the silver flatware used during a royal banquet.  Not all research has been completed but enough has been unearthed that a few salient facts are available.

As you can see by the following excerpt, more than just flatware comprises the Royal Grand Service:

The magnificent dining silver-gilt used at a State Banquet is from the Grand Service, originally made for George IV when Prince of Wales. It was first used to celebrate the 73rd birthday of his father, George III, in 1811.  As king, George IV continued to add to the service throughout his life, and by his death it included more than 4,000 pieces. Today the Grand Service forms the core of the royal silver and encompasses the best examples of 19th-century design, drawing on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and medieval sources.  The dining plate is dominated by the monumental Mercury and Bacchus and Apples of the Hesperides candelabra, which stand over a metre tall.  Made by the master goldsmith Paul Storr and designed by the sculptor  John  Flaxman,  they  are  always  placed  on  the  table  opposite Her Majesty The Queen and the visiting Head of State. [royalcollection.org]

It is meant to overwhelm.  Looking at the flatware, it is given over to what is called fiddle, thread and shell patterns.  It is best illustrated if we look at the silver flatware “Kings Pattern” that Tiffany produced around the turn of the century and that was wildly popular.  It incorporates many of the decorative details of the above flatware and follows the development of these patterns through the Edwardian Era.  Replicas were found in every hotel in America.

As time permits, more research will be done on this.  Meanwhile, it is hoped that many of your questions have been answered here.  If not, leave your question in a comment.