That great British tradition, the afternoon tea!
A basic menu would include sandwiches, cakes, buns, biscuits, scones, pastries and perhaps a chilled speciality like a soufflé or a magnificent jelly. In the Victorian kitchen the cook would be expected to ‘rise at six, clean and prepare the oven for the days labours and have the household breakfast ready for eight’
The morning would then be spent in preparing various sweet-meats and savouries for the store cupboard, (cakes, biscuits etc.) before beginning that most important meal of the day, the evening dinner.
The evening meal was the opportunity for the lady of the house to show her prowess as a Hostess. Guests would include the husbands work colleagues, important neighbours, up-and-coming socialites and any available ‘celebrity’ to entertain the normal guests.
A celebrity back then, would not require anything so vulgar as payment, but would expect a convivial evening of food, wine and an appreciative audience for their trouble.
Tea, on the other hand, was an opportunity for the Hostess to display her abilities in producing an interesting and sometimes exotic array for ‘The Ladies’, her social equals and very often connected through their menfolk.
Those people with whom the husband, or Master of The House would have social and business connections.
Any children would be confined to the nursery or playroom with a nurse or guardian with their own, more light hearted tea-time, and to keep them out of sight.
One-up-manship was the name of the game!
The number of available servants to serve the guests was also a major plus factor, a massive Brownie point in the social status stakes!
For many reasons tea itself was an expensive commodity, unlike today, and the tea caddy was an important fixture. It would be a solid box (or mini-safe) to which the Hostess, or possibly a very trustworthy housekeeper, held the keys. The expense, the cost, of the tea available was also a status issue.
Propriety and saving face were the most important elements of the Tea-Time ritual.
Otherwise we British are quite normal!