Friday, February 1, 2013

Tea time

Last weekend I went for a lovely afternoon tea with some girlfriends. It was a mini baby shower, replete with a sweepstake on when the baby's due, tiny sandwiches, and cupcakes with nappy pins on the top. (The pins were inedible but at least were made of plastic, so not as dangerous as they sound). It was a real treat. I love a good afternoon tea.

TLOML, by contrast, is baffled by the concept. He has been ever since we first spent a weekend with my parents. On Sundays my mum always does a big roast for lunch, and then later we'll have afternoon tea. The table is laden with scones, crumpets or tea cakes, egg salad sandwiches, cakes and some little sweet things like brandy snaps or millionaire shortcakes. We eat it at about 5, maybe 6pm at the latest.

'What is this?' whispered TLOML to be, as we sat down for tea that very first time.
'Tea', I said, leaving the 'you idiot' unspoken.
'But... it's not just tea, there's all this food. What meal is this?'

The penny dropped. And it's a fair question. After all, this is a meal named after a hot drink, one which you consume as part of the meal. It's your last big meal of the day, and yet it's clearly not dinner. And it consists predominantly of cakes, which we have been raised to know is not a proper meal.

Still, in our family at least, it is a regular part of the repertoire. Not just for special occasions in fancy hotels, but for everyday life when you've had a big lunch.

As it happens TLOML rather likes this kind of tea. But he is still rather confused by it, and refuses to consider it a proper evening meal. The clarion call 'what's for dinner' will still cry out at about 8 or 9pm.

To add bewilderment on top of confusion, any evening meal in the North is 'tea'. That's just what they say instead of 'dinner'. (They eat dinner at lunchtime, but let's leave that for another time). Living as they do in North Yorkshire, my family have 'tea' every night of the week - whether it's cakes at 5pm, or chicken casserole at 7pm. Quite how TLOML will cope when we move up there in the spring is a bit of a worry.

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