We did an afternoon tea party for our daughter’s birthday last week and it got me thinking about the in between meals of morning coffee and afternoon tea. They seem to have all but disappeared from peoples socialising.
My Mother regularly met up with friends for coffee or tea and something to eat.
Coffee mornings quite often happened as fund raising ‘Bring & Buy Sales’, every one was required to bring some items of baking, brick-a-brack, flowers, plants or garden produce, pay a small entrance fee to cover coffee and a piece of cake or scone. And then buy some items to bring home. They were on in the mornings when children were in school and the mothers could get together for a good chat and a catch up on the latest gossip.
The funds raised went to support everything from the local school or parish to the latest humanitarian disaster on another continent. Few men seemed to attend these gatherings and those that did were retired husbands of women involved or elderly fathers of others.
They quite often happened in people’s houses and if the weather was good the tables and chairs were put out side and the garden became the children’s playground. There was a feeling of being let in on something grownup when they happened in the holidays and we children got to go along.
It was at a sale like this that I first came across globe artichokes. I bought two and my Mum gallantly cooked them and we ate them hot with butter. I think she thought them too much hard work to ever want to grow them, but we do now.
The food at coffee mornings always seemed to be sweet fruit scones with jam and cream, biscuits, jam tarts, tray bakes and sponge cakes. Chocolate sponge with chocolate icing and topped with half walnuts and half glacé cherries around the edge. Coffee cake with coffee butter icing and walnuts on top too. Sponge flans with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Fruit cakes were there too some with split almonds in a pattern over the top of the cake.
As for the coffee let’s not go there, this was in the days when no one had a coffee machine at home and cafétieres were still on the continent. The coffee was mostly percolated or sometimes it was made from Irel coffee concentrate. It was only when I was living away from home that I discovered how good real coffee could be.
Afternoon tea parties were different there was always a savoury element that had to partaken of before we moved on to the sweet stuff. Sometimes
It was plain bread and butter, but more often it was sandwiches without their crusts cut into dainty triangles or squares. Sometimes brown scones were split and topped with tinned salmon and hardboiled egg or if money was no object some smoked salmon and black pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
The cakes were pretty much the same as at the coffee mornings though meringues and chocolate éclairs sometimes appeared.
The tea was always served in cups with saucers quite often china ones.
For out tea party we had three sorts of sandwiches ham, cheese and cucumber. Crusts removed and cut small.
Plain scones were served with plum cheese made by the birthday girl and whipped cream.
As the first blackberries were ripe an apple and blackberry pie was a must. The left over pastry was used to make a few jam tarts, which are delicious with a blob of whipped cream on top.
No birthday is complete without a cake and the birthday girl’s sister did her proud with a simple chocolate cake covered in chocolate butter icing and chocolate shavings.