Thursday 21 October 2010

The perfect tea-table?

When the cocktail fashion was in full swing
there was a particular tea-table in London that remained notable.
Whether you were hungry as a hunter 
or merely wanted tea and talk,
it met the case perfectly.
I must describe it because it seemed to me 
the apotheosis of the tea-table.
Its beauty did not lie only in old silver and delicate china,
but in the intelligent way the food was served.
For the hungry there were different breads on a wooden platter
 to be cut thick or thin as you pleased. 
There were cheeses also on a wooden board 
and a long dish of lettuce hearts and radishes.

There were home-made jams and exotic jams and aromatic honeys. 
There was dark, sticky gingerbread and cream 
to eat with it if you chose; 
there might be an ethereal orange cake.
Lady Portarlington, whose table it was, 
has a gift for associating beauty with essentials. 
That combination of the elegant with the robust - 
the wood and silver touch - stays in my mind.
Lest you think it unseemly to describe 
so rich a feast in these austere days, 
let me point out that the principle is perfectly suitable now. 
No food cut about, no sandwiches to go stale, 
nothing left to waste because it was uneaten.

Cheese from Neal's Yard,
 breads from The Tassajara Bread Book- 
so now I just have to choose the cake recipes.
Nigel Slater has a Double Ginger Cake,
Nigella has Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing 
and John Pawson has the ethereal
Orange and Almond Cake
with cardamom syrup.

text from Come into the Garden Cook by Constance Spry 1942 .

Painting Still Life of Salt cellar, Cheeses, Bread and Radishes.
 by Maerten Boelema de Stomme 1611 


  1. Mmmmm. I'm hungry now...
    My mother made a dark gingerbread cake with lemon sauce, which I also make.

  2. I shall be rummaging in the depths of the cupboard for cardamom seeds (lest they go off, of course!).....

  3. I made Nigel's recently and it would take some beating.

  4. so now I am wishing I had some of these tasty morsels to savor ...