May 22, 2006

Cream tea, please

An over-Blytonized childhood, one recalls, had elevated Cream Tea to near-mythical status in one’s fledgeling mind. It was, clearly, a beverage that went well with thrilling holiday adventures and all’s-well-that-ends-well boarding-school feasts. Something that caused every self-respecting juvenile to squeal with uncontainable delight and generally proclaim that things were as jolly as they possibly could be. One gathered that it was also drunk by distinguished old gentlemen at idyllic country manors and by fashionable ladies at the Royal Ascot.

And thus, over the years, one had built up this mental image of a frothy, buttery version of our chai, perhaps with liberal lashings of crème fraiche and a cherry on top. An entirely rich and wholesome affair. It became one’s personal ambition, people, to taste a cup of this sinfully posh, delightfully British indulgence.

So you will appreciate that the happiness knew no bounds when it was learnt, at a certain point in the mid-nineties, that the Father had been posted to London. Practically the first thing the young One did upon touchdown was to walk into this café, a nice and typically English teahouse-type place, and proudly say what one had been dying to say for years and years.

“Cream tea, please.”

And then one took one’s place at a table, and waited with what is generally referred to as Bated Breath.

And presently, people, it arrived. A tray that held a) a pot of boiling water with a couple of sad, soggy Earl Grey teabags dangling within (okay, so teabags are supposed to be soggy, at least when they’re inside boiling water, but there’s just no excuse for being sad)*, b) an empty cup with accompanying saucer and c) a plate with a couple of scones on it. But where, in the name of Frederick Algernon Trotteville, was that frothing cuppa, that Legendary Beverage?

After much argument with the waiter (one could argue well for a twelve-year-old) it was ascertained that said Legendary Beverage constituted of precisely the items lying on one’s table.

And then, gentle reader, there was nothing much to be done. One took a bite out of the scone. And poured oneself some Earl Grey. And tried one’s best to enjoy one’s First Taste of Cream Tea. And ruminated on how some things sound so much better in books.

* One has made one’s feelings re. these matters amply clear previously.


thistle said...

hope your scones came with a generous dollop of clotted cream and jam and if not, you need to take some serious legal action against the cafe! :)
great reads btw.

Casablanca said...

One went all the way to London to taste cream tea? Clearly, One's zeal for chasing things he likes could make for Blytonic stories.

Anonymous said...

Ah Fred.

I read every one of the 15-16 Five findoutters and dog series.

*shakes head*

Sheetal said...

And ruminated on how some things sound so much better in books.
One has placed his finger, as One so often does, unerringly on the very hub of the matter.
Indeed, over-Blytonised childhoods are prone to over-romanticising everything edible. I remember avidly craving frothy, creamy milk and fresh tomatoes - both of which items are frequently to be found in one's own refrigerator and never quite eaten in that way...
So that is what cream tea really is. pmhpf.

The Regular Joe said...

May be the cream had to be separately ordered?

Shweta said...

Such familiar pictures as you do paint! I remember at one stage trying to create those hot and cold treats (what’s the exact name? I just can’t remember.) with needless to say disastrous effects. Better/bitter sense prevailed in most matters but one abiding obsession was one that you coincidentally mention in your post, One- Scones. Ah! How many happy summer moments have been spent contemplating their unknowable goodyness.
When I visited more recently, London was unfortunately given to more modern culinary affectations. Not for them the wholesome scone. So I had to wait until Bath to gratify my lifelong ambition. The waters, Turkish baths, museums all paled into insignificance in comparison to a blackboard outside a patisserie advertising Hot Scones in virulent pink.
And of course it was a huge anti climax- I’ve tasted tastier maskaa-buns.
Life long ambitions I think should be taken to the grave. Far more romantic that way.

Brown Magic said...

ah that devil Blyton - like it wasn't enough that I was quite willing to leave home for the glamorous boarding school life, and become a detective, she also made me want to eat Kidney pie.

Karthik said...

Woe to you for shattering my dreams. Now that trip to London next year don't sound so good.

DeepBlueSea said...

Coo! Lovaduck! You're a caution if there were one.

Too bad about the Cream Tea though.

The snacktime descriptions of Blyton were the best... absolutely wizard!

Anonymous said...

Oh and that also brings to another blyton favourite food- Tomatoes and TONGUE.

I thought it was a slang for some other food- until I found out tongue was for........ tongue.


Drops Of Jupiter said...

Ah, hope floats.. drag yourself to Fosters English Rose cafe at Holland V.. they have this divine high-tea for a throwaway price.. with banana bread, scones with jam and cream, and those cute little sandwiches...
It's almost good enough to melt away your disappointment. =)

p.s I swear they didn't pay me, it's just really nice..

One in a Billion said...

Thistle: They did, in fact. One contemplated legal action nevertheless.

One is glad you enjoyed, and one personally welcomes you here.

Casa: More Byronic than Blytonic, actually.

Dee: And Dog, you mean. Buster demands capitalization.

Re: the tongue issue, one used to tell oneself that kidney pie was some sort of rajma preparation. And one generally tried not to think too much about liver.

Sheetal: And you have interpreted the One exactly, as you tend to do. A certain Ms. Rowling has carried on this romanticising-all-items-edible tradition, no? All those mince pies and treacle pudding. (Treacle pudding is quite all right, one finds. Better than cream tea, at least.)

Regular Joe: That is indeed what a normal (might one say regular) individual would suspect. But 'twas not so. The cream (as one should have clarified .. bad pun, forgive) is apparently to be found on the scones.

Shweta: But the maska bun is the very paragon of culinary perfection. And it forms a lethally perfect combination with extra-sweet cutting chai. Let us not even begin to compare such divine foods with these scones and this teabag-tea.

Hot and cold treats .. hot and cold treats .. one simply cannot recall what those could have been. Might somebody enlighten us? Anybody?

BM: Well, at least that sounds civilized. One would spend evenings wandering around random wooded areas looking for ripe blackberries and treehouse-worthy trees.

Karthik: No, no .. London’s a nice place. Just stick to the Indian restaurants.

Deepa: Indeed they were. Entirely too good, what? She could probably have made boiled shoelaces sound appetizing.

Jupiter: Hmm. Well, one last time perhaps. And if one disapproves, it’s back to the dhoklas.

the Monk said...

My childhood pals Frank and Joe Hardy, along with the incomparable Jupiter Jones would be suitably appalled on hearing this. And make it their next great adventure.

Smita said...

The year my enterprising baby sister sold the everyday "nimbu pani" as its more exotic cousin "delicious lemonade"(with the FF endorsing it on a homemade poster) at the School Exhibition Foodie stall, we made double the money than any other year.

One in a Billion said...

Monk: Ah, the First Investigator! He’d probably get to the bottom of it in no time. Perhaps Worthington could be persuaded to reveal why the British love cream tea so.

Smita: Enterprising indeed! These angrezi names do appeal the average consumer, do they not? Exactly the same sort of thing happened with the young One, of course.

Jinguchakka said...

And how does a "happy" tea bag in hot water look like?

Casablanca said...

Where be the new post, Sire?

One in a Billion said...

Jinguchakka: Hmm. Never seen a happy one, you know. Glum things, these teabags. Not that one blames them - it's never nice to be in hot water.

BTW that should have been a Blogger question, no .. the kind they ask you when you create a profile.

Casa: Apologies. Very soon we shall write something. Very soon.

LAK said...

Ah, the joys of childhood, replete with as you say,over-Blytoning! I used to dream about meringues, and was told they are no big deal, so also eclairs. What about macaroons?Oh, and hot and cold goodies figure in the Faraway tree, so I don't think we could expect those in any English cafe'.They are like ice cream which gets colder and colder until you can't bear it any more, and then get hotter and hotter. Sounds like something devised to send dentists laughing all the way to the bank!BTW, in Chandni Chowk, they have come up with icecream pakoras, which seem the closest to those hot and cold goodies! As for steak and kidney pie, I never really thought about it until one of the protagonists in "The red carpet" by Lavanya Shankaran describes how it smelt!

Aditi said...

and how are scones like? always wanted to taste a scone, likewise a muffin...i think of them as similar to cream-rolls:P

Drops Of Jupiter said...

As always the Jups makes a splendid recommendation- Arab Street-Al Majili's ..the "chai au masala" is simply simply too good, hell, you could compare it to Rameshbhai's chai..

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Ah, right. So that’s what hot-and-cold treats were. That explains why one was unfamiliar with them .. one never really read those Faraway Tree books somehow. *prepares to be lynched by die-hard Blyton fans*

Re. ice-cream pakoras, one distinctly remembers eating fried ice-cream somewhere - it was ice-cream flash-fried in some sort of batter. Not bad at all, one remembers, hence it must have been in the Homeland somplace.

And now one must get hold of that book you mention. Just to see how that smell was described.

Also, for one's insights into meringues and suchlike, please refer to below comment-reply.

Aditi: No, no. Not like cream rolls. But fear not, for one shall present *drumroll*

The One’s Quick Guide To Largely Avoidable Firangi Food Items:

a) Scones : Little mini-bun type things that taste like semi-cooked dough (which, in fact, is exactly what they are).
b) Macaroons : Usually very sweet. Often coconutty. One cannot really tell them apart from scones, but then one can barely tell scones from cookies.
c) Eclairs : These are, as we all know, little toffee thingies. One was Distinctly Annoyed to find that the French had hijacked the name for one of their ludicrously overpriced and generally bland desserts.
d) Meringues : They have a rather peculiar taste, but they melt in the mouth in a rather agreeable manner. At least the well-made ones do.
e) Muffins : You have probably tried these, Aditi, without realising it. Cupcake-type things. One believes you can buy them at almost any Barista-type place. Utter waste of time and money.

Jupiter: Well. Worth a try, then. After the sojourn to Fosters English Rose Café.

P.S. Chai au masala really does take the scone, does it not? Next we’ll have palak avec paneer and poulet de tandoor.

LAK said...

Beg to differ on the eclair=toffee thingie theory. Cadbury's brought out their now famous toffee version around 1974, but eclairs had been around in Enid Blyton's and probably other books for years before that.

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Er. One was trying to be funny.

Casablanca said...

WHAT? Muffins are not cupcakes, okay? Okay. Muffins are harder, bigger, better. Okay? Ok.

Anonymous said...

*nudge* the blog is being roused gently but beware. Cold water shall follow soon!



One in a Billion said...

Casa: Umm .. okay. Ok?

Dee: Hey, that's a threat! Well, it worked.

LAK said...

oops, sorry for being so dense as to not see the joke---guess I was seriously into this attractive-food discussion.Also, um, I too thought muffins are like cupcakes---they sound like that!

Twilight Fairy said...

dear the one, I suspect the "cream" refers to the cream in the scones. What say? :p

BTW your writing *so* reminds me of PG Wodehouse! :)

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Well, Casa seems to disagree with the muffin-cupcake thing, and we'll just take her word for it.

Twilight: You are quite right about the cream, of course. And you have compared the One to ol' Pelham Grenville himself, for which one can only thank you speechlessly.

aristera says said...

ah, cream tea, the plums, the tea cakes and scones and the lemonade. i dreamt of it all my childhood.

One in a Billion said...

Aristera: Well, that makes two of us.

tangled said...

No one mentioned the pickled onions!

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Brunsonzanw said...

May be the cream had to be separately ordered?