Afternoon Tea, Sunday Tea and a very fine teapot.

tea

I got a bit carried away yesterday with #NationalTeaDay and downloaded some interesting images for tweeting.

This oil-painting is by artist Yehia Dessouki, an Egyptian painter and visual artist making contemporary art using diverse kinds of media both traditional and digital.

Image credit: By Artist Review [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

Afternoon Tea (1905)  by Isidore Verheyden, a Belgian painter of landscapes, portraits and still life.

Image credit: Isidore Verheyden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Afternoon Tea: Rhymes for Children by J. G. Sowerby and H. H. Emmerson. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1880.

Image credit: By John George Sowerby (1850–1914) and Henry Hetherington Emmerson (1831–1895) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, Sunday Tea was always the same.

The best cups and saucers came out of the cupboard along with the starched, white tablecloth and the two-tier cake stand.

Slices of buttered white bread and Hovis; a salad made up of one or two lettuce leaves, a few slices of cucumber and bottled beetroot and two quarters of a tomato; a lump of tinned salmon (preferably John West’s) with the bones picked out and the skin removed; half a hard-boiled egg; and a shake of Heinz 57 Varieties salad cream. For afters: tinned fruit in syrup with Carnation evaporated milk which always curdled if poured over tinned pineapple; fruit scones; sponge cakes; and tea with sugar and a splash of milk.

It was the same if we went to visit our relatives on a Sunday. Whichever aunt, great-aunt, granny or friend of the family we went to see the identical tea was served; only the patterns on the cups and saucers were different.

But the amazing thing is that my husband, who grew up at the other end of the country, had the same Sunday Tea as well. And he says it was exactly the same when they went to visit their relatives too.

The only difference between my family and his was that our cakes were home baked and his came from a baker’s shop. And he says they had custard on their tinned fruit.

Did everyone have this meal in the 1950s? Was it replicated from John O’Groats to Land’s End? Were there any regional variations? Not much difference between the West Riding of Yorkshire and the East End of London if our experience is anything to go by. And has anyone else, apart from us, continued the tradition?

(From Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood © C Murray 2015)

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