According to an article, Dorset farm workers had eight meals a day: dewbit, breakfast, nuncheon, cruncheon, lunch, nammet, crammet and supper.
Admittedly, a Dorset farm worker probably needs more calories than a Dorset writer/office worker, and I’m generally happy with a mere three meals a day, but even so, I really want to know what they all consisted of and give them a go, possibly because I’m on a diet at the moment.
Dieting isn’t remotely new, as you can read in this article (hey – I have one vital statistic in common with the Venus de Milo! No, I’m not telling you which). It’s worth a read, if only to confirm that there’s nothing new under the sun, why William the Conqueror fell off his horse, and why you should never tighten a 16th century corset too much (assuming you have one on).
I enjoyed researching what my Roman era characters might have eaten. Recently, someone uncovered what looked like a painting of a pizza in Pompeii, even though tomatoes hadn’t reached Europe at that point. Farrell Monaco has created a recipe for what it might have been and when I’m eating bread again, I might give Adoreum: a recipe of a modern recreation of Pompeii’s flatbread a go.
Margaret frequents suffragette tea-rooms one of which serves vegetarian food. Many suffragettes were keen vegetarians and some were teetotal. Margaret is neither but likes vegetarian food, only she’d never get it past Fox at home, so has to eat it while out. While Margaret is fictional (don’t tell her) suffragette tea-rooms weren’t.
Poor woman, I’m editing the fourth book at the moment and realise she only has one large meal and a sandwich over the space of about three months. I’m going to have to add at least an afternoon tea somewhere.
Afternoon tea as a tradition is not as old as you might think and nowadays it’s a treat rather than normal event for most of us. The closest we get at home is periodically having scones with cream and jam instead of a pudding on Sunday. (With reference to the jam first/cream first debate, living in Dorset and unsure if Dorset has ‘rules’, I do one half with jam first and the other with cream first, but my Welsh husband goes Devonian all the way.)
Which brings me onto scones versus biscuits. I read all the Laura Ingalls books as a child and while a little baffled by references to biscuits and gravy, had in my head a sort of oat biscuit smothered in the sort of rich, brown, meat/chicken gravy the British have with roast dinners.
Years later I mentioned it to a Texan friend who said ‘Oh no. A biscuit is a bit like a scone without sugar, and the gravy is milk gravy.’
I decided that the biscuits must be a bit like ‘cobblers’ (savoury scones cooked on top of stews) and have since worked out that the milk gravy is similar to what my mother would call white sauce. One day I hope to try them in the States, and in the meantime, when back eating carbs I might try and make some. If you have favourite recipes, I’d be delighted to see them.
Here’s a US article setting out some of the differences between UK scones and US biscuits – do you agree? The things I’d add are:
- British scones can be savoury too. My normal recipe for cheese scones is here.
- British people can argue for hours about how to pronounce ‘scone’ (does it rhyme with ‘gone’ or ‘phone’?). This is not a regional argument and I don’t think it’s a class one either. I think it’s just from family to family.
- There is more than one biscuit in the UK (and they’re not all sweet) and we can debate/argue about the best type for even longer than how to pronounce ‘scone’. Scientists have even worked out which is best for dunking (I favour a ginger biscuit myself).
- We can argue even longer about dinner and tea. Is dinner a lunchtime or evening meal? If you call the evening meal ‘dinner’, is ‘dinner’ exceptionally a lunchtime meal on Sundays and at Christmas? Is tea a mid-afternoon snack or an evening meal/either/both? It was raised within my team at work one day and continued, after work, in our WhatsApp group. Despite at least four of us coming from broadly the same part of the country, two born in roughly the same place and most of us coming from similar backgrounds, we still couldn’t agree.
- And don’t get us started on what to call a simple bread roll (I call it a bread roll or bap for the record).
Since being told to lose weight, I risked my English and Scottish baking ancestors haunting me by doing some experimenting into low carb recipes for scones made with almond flour and coconut flour. Were they nice? They weren’t bad. Were they the same as the real thing? Not at all. Will I bake the real thing when I’ve lost some weight? You bet I will. Partly because I recently missed out on afternoon tea inadvertently.
In June, Liz Hedgecock and I met up for a couple of days in Bristol and Bath, as we celebrated Murder For Beginners being highly recommended in The Write Blend Awards and she gave me the trophy for the time-being. Despite my diet, we’d intended to go for afternoon tea, but in the end we were frankly too hot after clambering up and down hills being cultural in 30°C/86°F heat.
We even forgot to have the sparkling wine we’d planned, which shows how bad we are at celebrating.
Guess what’s on the agenda for the next time we meet apart from me giving the trophy back to Liz? Just see the left hand photo below for a clue in case you hadn’t guessed and in case you’re wondering, the silver-plate tea-pot next to the award was a wedding present of one of my Scottish great-grandmothers.
I gather she was a little terrifying, so she’s the one I fear may yet haunt me for making carb-free scones…