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CLARISSA WRITES: Tea is not a meal Jennifer enjoys. I feel she rather thinks she has grown out of it. She does, however, reminisce enthusiastically over a high tea she ate in Scotland during the war. Coming straight from the deprivations of rationing, the large pats of white butter, the luscious ham with its gleaming fat, the fresh eggs and the plates of sweet offerings all made a great impression. I also remember teas like that, served on a snowy cloth, the scones hot and fragrant and all the baked goods smelling of fruit and cinnamon and spices; the homemade jams shining like jewels and the great black pot of tea dispensing good cheer. For me it was not wartime, and I came from a home with a lavish table, but I will never forget the beauty of a Scottish high tea.
Tea comes in all shapes and sizes: there is the massive high tea, which is really supper, and suggested recipes for which you will find in the Light Dishes, Appetizers, and Savories chapter of this book. Then there is tea served with dainty sandwiches and gooey cakes in an English country garden with a silver teapot on a silver tray, damask napkins and the plink of tennis balls offstage. I feel sorry for people who never set foot out of London and so do not realise that this world still exists.
For the programme, we chose to create a cricket tea. I grew up in the shadow of Lords cricket ground and spent my holidays sitting in the Secretary's private box watching Middlesex with devotion and adoration. Money and television have ruined cricket at top level for me, but I still find great happiness watching village sides. I am an accredited umpire, though I add new meaning to the term widethese days.
For me, a day watching cricket with devoted wives and girlfriends bringing cakes and sandwiches embodies a lot that is still good about England. They have ruined tea at the Ritz, cream teas too often come with artificial cream out of a spray can, and sandwiches come too thickly cut, with the crusts left on. I once knew a wonderful woman who had been a lady's maid and made delicious, wafer-thin tomato sandwiches which were well worth the effort. For me, a cricketing tea is the thing any day.
The tea itself is important. I hate teabags: Jennifer says used ones are very good for the eyes and you should keep them cold in the refrigerator, but I would rather use the remains of the cucumber from the sandwiches. Forget your hippy herbals, tea should be Indian, made in a silver pot and served with milk and sugar, or China, made in a fine bone-china teapot and served with a wafer-thin slice of lemon. On location we have horrid polystyrene cups, but whilst filming in Cumbria we ate excellent bacon sandwiches from the well-known van on the Devil's Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale and I am glad to say that the accompanying tea came in china mugs.
Honey Picnic Cake
If you go down to the woods today, take one of these along as a present. You will no doubt be made most welcome.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
6 eggs, separated
2 cups self-rising flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie
2/3 cup dark honey
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Cream the butter and sugar together well. Gradually beat in the egg yolks, then add the honey. Sift the flour, salt and spices together and add gradually to the mixture. Fold in the walnuts Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture.
Turn into a well-greased 8-inch cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees farenheit for about 50-60 minutes.
Test with a metal skewer and touch the top to test for springiness.
Deviled Fish Sandwiches
These are also good for drinks parties.
1/2 pound any smoked fish
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
several drops of hot-pepper sauce
heavy cream to bind
salt and freshly ground pepper
thin slices of bread
Mix together all the ingredients, except the bread and butter, to make a smooth paste. Butter the bread and spread half the slices with the filling. Make sandwiches, trim crusts, cut into squares and serve.