In which we consider tea, cake, insomnia and the terrifying menace of butter…………
Because we are situated somewhat off the beaten track, some of our customers travel quite a distance to reach us to visit our boutique. Sometimes the time taken can be more the result of getting hopelessly lost than the actual distance from A to B but it seems only right and proper that a good cup of English tea should be available to these intrepid travellers. There are also other customers to consider who have not travelled quite so far but who like to take a gentle pause every now and then between bouts of gamely exercising their credit cards in the shop. And so, when the weather is fine, afternoon tea is served on the terrace in the courtyard or on those less fine days which are increasingly becoming a feature of our spring weather here, the visitor can take their place in the recently refurbished vintage tea-room.
This new idea is proving a great hit with my French clientèle who delight in choosing the vintage English china and silver teapots they will drink from and who also enjoy the tea room’s hint of English style decor. The flower patterned curtains are immediately identified as ‘The English Chintz’ and confirm the popular French notion that most English homes resemble either Downton Abbey or a cottage from the set of Midsomer Murders. Similarly amusing misconceptions apply to the idea of ‘l’heure du thé’ or tea time, something which in reality takes place at around 4 o’clock in England but which in the French mind can happen at any time between the hours of 4 and 6.30pm.
The lateness of the hour presents its’ own dilemmas as my French ladies consider English tea to be murderously strong and quite certain to induce years of insomnia if imbibed without due care and attention. Even the weakest pots of tea are regarded with suspicion and only when the palest of light brown infusions is seen trickling into the teacups will everyone relax and enjoy themselves.
When it comes to the serious business of cake however there is rarely any difficulty. Anyone who has ever been in a French supermarket looking for breakfast cereal and perused the acres of double chocolate, triple sugar-coated products on offer will have rightly concluded that the French have an astonishingly sweet tooth.
“Would you like some cake with your tea?” I will ask , “Mais bien sur !” “Well of course!”will be the instant reply. Even the smallest, slimmest hipped of my French ladies is capable of putting away a pound or two of cake in a sitting and on those early occasions when I naively presented a large plate of my various specialities imagining each person would take a piece each, I have been amazed and amused to find on clearing away that not a single crumb remains.
The favourites by far are my scones. I serve them up with teeth-melting quantities of jam and heart attack inducing blobs of crème fraiche and lastly, the most important ingredient to the real enjoyment of a scone – a small pot of butter. And therein lies the danger it would seem. Rarely has a knife held in a French hand even scraped the top of the butter dishes. “But you’ve just eaten all that cream and sugar and jam!” I have said on many occasions “What’s wrong with the butter?” “Oh no!”, they will laugh, licking jam and cream from their lips, “Butter is really bad for you! ” …………….
All photos – © Jane Morley
10 Comments Add yours
….Which only makes it more curious that the French eat butter on (of all things) radishes! Have you ever tried to balance butter on a radish? But my mouth is watering and tea and cake sounds fab.
I suspect that’s the trick of it – indeed you cannot balance butter on the radish and therefore it remains uneaten…..
I have attempted to lick my screen clean to find what promised to be one of the most delicious looking photographs I’ve come to view. It was a tad shocking, to say the least.
Please, please, PLEASE, continue to post pics of your menu, and of course stories of your patrons, as I’m determined to live vicariously through you for the time being. That is until I can ring your bell myself and ask for a cup of wonderfully strong and sweet English tea.
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I will look forward to the day when you appear in my courtyard and I can offer you tea and cake, I think we would have to follow it with a whisky chaser?! 🙂
I’m flying over now for several slices of that delicious-looking cake!
Haha! All gone – it’s lemon drizzle cake today 🙂 🙂 Thanks for putting it on twitter Sarah!
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Oh, the French… One of my best friends lives now in France, although she’s Egyptian and lived quite a few years in the UK, so not sure what I eat when I’m at her place qualifies as French cooking, although her husband, who is French does things his own way (or maybe it’s a common thing, but…) Yes, he does love radishes, but doesn’t eat them with butter, and he eats raw artichokes). I guess the issue of the batter is like eating tonnes of cake and then having a diet coke… But in Spain it isn’t very common to have butter as accompaniment for sweet things either so…
I think every country has its’ own pecularities Olga! Here the ladies like to pretend they’re looking after their health but almost nothing will stop them eating sugar!