England 40 Years Ago — November 9, 1980

Early last week Gillian H came over to watch me make bread. I thought most recipes for bread were fairly standard, but evidently the English ones differ in several respects. They (Caroline was with her, being out of school for mid-term) exclaimed over the greasing of the dough before the first rising. Maybe that’s why the loaves here are so crusty and dry!

In return, I asked her to teach me to make tea, and she said, “Why, that’s so simple!” Might be simple to her, but there is a ritual to it. She brought the water to a boil, poured a little in the pot to warm it, poured that out, measured about two teaspoons for two cups of tea, poured on water, stirred it, and let it steep two minutes. Then she poured milk in the cups! She claims it makes it taste different to put milk in and then pour the tea, but says her husband disagrees with her. I’ve tried it several times, but it doesn’t taste as good as when she made it, and it was done here with my own tea! They disdain tea bags. Tea is poured out leaves and all; you just don’t drain your cup. If you were having tea in the sitting room, you’d have a bowl handy for the “slops” she said, if you’re having a second cup right away.

We had our interview at Fair Dene school. While waiting on a stair landing for the head mistress, who should come up to speak to us but Mary L [from church]! She is the Latin teacher at that school! The head was young and very pleasant.

Two days we had snow flurries and woke up to white on the ground Friday. Everyone exclaimed over it; normally none sticks until after Christmas. I had never seen snow with fall colors still dressing trees nor snow on hydrangeas.

View from our bedroom window

John had been after me to get the geraniums in the house, so I finally did it. It would have been comical to watch; there I was in the old horse-blanket poncho digging away while the wind blew the coat over my head. John $ was in tears as fancy company began arriving across the street for a school fete of some sort. The final indignity was blowing rain! I got half in the pots when a particularly stiff breeze came along and knocked them all over. Since I got them amassed on the desk in the guest room, I haven’t dared go near them. They say plants can feel when a threatening force comes near.

We went to Inger L’s for a proper English tea. Never mind that she is from Finland! We had toasted cheese sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, fancy biscuits (cookies), mincemeat tarts, and jellies (jello). She had put her old high chair out for $, though it looked finer than ours the day we bought it. Also had a plastic bib, cup and plate. He ate everything in sight!

The new Silverstone cookware got me in trouble. I was doing crepes one day when I noticed how slippery the pancakes were in that fine pan. I was tempted to try flipping them in the air. The first one flipped all the way over and landed in the pan, but on the side already cooked. The next one didn’t want to let go, and there I was gyrating with the pan while the crepe held on with 100 feet. The next to the last one did a beautiful flip, went right past the pan and landed in a heap on the floor. Tasted good, though, to the birds.

One’s burning ambition for an only son is not that he become a garbage collector. John $ has! At least it was clean garbage this week – he chewed on a discarded sliver of soap.

46 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — November 9, 1980

  1. What a difference 40 years makes. Nowadays, most English folks use tea bags and can’t be bothered with loose tea, (which I prefer). The other thing I can’t get used to is self-rising flour. Why?? Mom always greased the loaf before the first rising. Her bread was so good. We called my baby girl a garbologist as she collected garbage everywhere.

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    1. I don’t use self-rising flour. How long does it take to measure out a teaspoon or so of baking powder??? It may have salt in it, too, and these days many folks are on a salt-restricted diet. I love your word garbologist! I haven’t looked lately, but I don’t think you can find loose tea in grocery stores. You’d have to go to a place that sells specialty teas.

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      1. I’ve never had it with milk. I do drink the foo-foo teas especially when I’m cold in the winter and don’t want the sweetness of hot chocolate. No one in my family except my sis-in-law drinks it so I never acquired a taste for it but to be honest I’ve never tries chai and all the variations available now.

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  2. Your posts from 1980 make me think of what my life was like then. I was 8 months pregnant with our middle son! Isn’t the tea ceremony beautiful? So calming.

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  3. I have never heard of milk in tea. GAH!! I’m not a fan of milk anyway so it wouldn’t be for me at all! I had a good laugh at the wind blowing your poncho over your head!! Ha ha! Oh, and while I was in Germany, I learned that homemade bread isn’t buttered on the top after removing it from the oven. That’s what I always thought kept the crust soft. Isn’t the “greased dough” more to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl or hands after rising?

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    1. I can only imagine what my neighbor’s fancy guests thought when they saw me across the street, looking like a vagabond steeling plants.

      I never thought about buttering the top of homemade bread. Recipes don’t call for that.

      You must be right about the purpose of greasing bread dough before it rises. I did it because all the instructions included that step. It did make it easier to handle and probably kept it from drying out.

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  4. Breadmaking and making tea. You are the cutest. My sister bakes bread but I have yet to give it a go. Milk or tea first is very controversial. Do you follow her steps until now? I add milk last. Not sure if there will be any difference otherwise. I will have to try this.

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    1. I was going to say that I still follow Gillian’s steps for making tea, but the only thing that remains is putting in milk before pouring the tea. I heat water in the microwave, dunk a tea bag in it, and pour it into a mug. Once in a while one of the grandsons will have tea with me, and then I use a teapot. We can no longer buy loose tea in the supermarket. We’d have to go to a specialty shop where there are many kinds of flavored teas and few plain ones.

      I just thought of one good reason to put milk in the cup first. Your cup wouldn’t be too full. Many people almost fill a cup with coffee or tea, and there isn’t room to add the amount of milk you want. You prompted me to think of that, something I never considered in the last 40 years.

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      1. Oh, I love teapots. Actually Markus likes them more. We are such big tea fiends. I think microwaving the cup is okay, as well as teabags. Love plenty of milk on the cup. Sometimes I go half and half. I really wish I can have tea with you, Anne.

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  5. Maybe John is like Salem, he eats out of the garbage all the time. My human was a Windsor Guildhall once, she had a lesson in making proper tea and biscuits. They taught her with a tea bag though. And she didn’t like the milk in the tea at all. But the biscuits turned out ok. She didn’t bring me back any though. And you’re quite smart, I also read research once that showed plants do feel presentiment. They know when someone is about to cut them down, or kill them, and right before the person comes, they start to wither. How sad. And don’t worry about the pancakes falling to the ground, they taste the best!!!!!!!

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    1. Suki, I had to laugh. Your comments were most amusing. Most Americans don’t like milk in tea. Plants are sensitive to a point. I have mentally slaughtered the wicked wisteria a thousand times in six years. It still sends up new shoots from its underground bunker. If you were to visit, I’d be glad to drop pancakes on the floor for your dining pleasure. You would lick the floor clean in that spot, wouldn’t you?

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  6. I learned about cucumber sandwiches over twenty years ago when we gave a “proper tea” as a bridal shower for a family friend. I still eat them today which my entire family thinks is disgusting!😄

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  7. My daughter used to fight me over the dust bunnies she wanted to eat when she was crawling. They apparently were delicious! One thing that has confused me watching the Great British Baking Show is the term “strong flour.’ You just reminded me to go look it up. One minute. Hey it’s just bread flour. Thanks for jogging my memory to look it up.(And you get a taste of my stream of consciousness to boot!)

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  8. What a smart idea…to warm the teapot. My husband sometimes puts our dinnerplates on the rim of the hot pots on the stove before we put food on them in the wintertime. England…one of my dream destinations…the way the world is now though…wonder if I’ll ever see it. I enjoy seeing it through your eyes Anne, even if it was decades in the past.

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    1. My father-in-law and I were the two who appreciated warmed plates, not that we had them often. We were the slowest eaters in the extended family. John doesn’t care if his food is warm or cold. I should be thankful he doesn’t want things warmed up when he is halfway through a meal.

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  9. One of the characters on a TV drama is English, and went to live in Boston. In one episode he looked at the “American preoccupation of putting DIAPERS on tea” Just about dropped my teeth with the image it created in my mind!

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  10. You and I had touched briefly on making tea a few posts ago … it was nice to read the whole ritual and interesting that the Brits do not like tea bags, just loose tea. I like the idea of “the slops” – the only time I ever had tea with loose tea was at a psychic tea room where the “Psychic Reader” must have tea leaves to read after you drink your tea. $ got a taste of having his mouth washed out with soap with no bad words to precede it.

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      1. It’s much more convenient to be honest. I am hearing how people are buying cappuccino makers and French press coffeemaker, grinding their own beans now that they don’t get their coffee out like they used to – so this is their new indulgence.

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          1. I have it for convenience as it’s just me drinking it. My mom resorted to tea the last 15-20 years or so as coffee gave her heartburn, so I was the only one drinking it, so we always had instant. I like robust coffee and Nescafe’s Clasico is just that. I use powdered creamer (one spoon of Coffeemate and another spoon of flavored creamer) and I really like it. We used Maxwell House for years, but the instant tastes like the coffee bean ran through it.

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  11. I copied/pasted your tea ritual (as per Gillian H.) and Messengered it to my John, the fussy tea maven. He’s in the bath. 🙂 Will let you know what he thinks! Although he uses tea bags, so… we shall see!

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          1. Hahahahaha! Almost as simple! He puts tea bag (loves Red Rose) in cup, pours in boiling water, waits x amount of time (I forget!!), takes out bag and adds some milk. That’s it!

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