More Tea Vicar?

To round off the previous post on Afternoon tea that centred around sandwiches and cakes I should like here to add the final pages of the particular article on cakes that has shown some interest amongst visitors to this blog.

I should like for the recipes themselves to stand on their own merits. By no means have I tried them all myself but as with any archive of this nature what appeals to one may be un-appetising to another. What I appreciate is the opportunity to dip in and take those elements that appeal to me and give them a public airing. A good recipe will never become out-dated.

So, a little bit of the history of Victorian social history would seem appropriate here, to fit in with the overall vision I am trying to create. With your permission then, I shall indulge myself.

Despite the 19th century afternoon habit of ‘ladies to chat and gossip’ Mrs Beeton’s ‘Book of Household Management’ did not include recipes for cake and biscuits for such occasions until its 1880 edition.

At around the same time the advent of ‘early closing Saturdays’ sometimes as early as 2 pm and official Bank Holidays the working classes also had the opportunity to get involved.

Days out became a very real and welcome option. The picnic was born.

What had been a meal served on the best bone china cake stands and delicately filigree’d plates became a wax-paper-wrapped treat for the entire family.

The normal bland, but sustaining, food of the nursery took on a new significance when tea was taken on a day out. It became a lavish extravagance for children not normally permitted anything rich or spicy for fear of over-exciting them. (the Victorians knew a few things that are only just being rediscovered now)

Around the end of the 19th century the concept of a ‘standard of living’ began to emerge.

It was no longer the lot of the working classes to accept second best, to have to accept cheap, mass produced ingredients for their meals.

Tea-time was, in consumer-speak, a growing market. The diet of the nation was changing for the better.

Universally abhorred and expensive, railway food was not considered an option for a day out, so the Afternoon tea evolved into a portable meal, to be taken en-route or in a more salubrious location on arrival.

Town dwellers began the habit of ‘traipsing off’ to the seaside, the countryside or nearby stately homes with kids and food in tow. And everything except the kitchen sink went with them.

It was a taste of the high life to come, a true levelling of the playing field.

But that would not come to full fruition until the mid 20th century when, after two devastating wars, the social order would change forever!


I appreciate that a lot of the material I use is, at best, difficult to access via normal book-buying channels. The archive itself is unique and priceless to me, but I am putting together a bibliography of those books and articles that I can attribute to, so that others may access them.

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