Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow and Meals

Snow arrived in the Tyne valley yesterday,
so we took a trip to our favourite farm shop in case we couldn't get there in the next few days. I took the pics up there on the lane leading along the ridge to the shop, and it looked very pretty, but it was cold.

We've had a little more snow over- night but nothing to write home about. Over the last decade the north east, ie Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, has escaped most of the worst weather thrown at the UK. Way down south in Kent and Hampshire they've had it much worse. The winds seem to come from the west much more than they used to, and so the Pennines shelter us. This time, the wind is coming from the east, across the North Sea, and we're sitting targets - but again, the wind is veering south, so Kent is inches deep and we have ony a scattering.

A question arose on one of my groups this morning about meals in the UK and what they are called. A tricky question. There will be regional variants from the north of Scotland to the tip of Lands End, and class and culture comes into it, too.

Most of us start the day with breakfast, unless we belong to the generation that eats on the run these days, eating sandwiches on public transport and clutching plastic coffee mugs wherever we go. Then there'll be a break for elevenses, somewhere between 1o and 11am. A mug of tea and a butty for workmen, a cup of coffee and a bun or biscuit for the housewife and the office worker, perhaps. Then some of us stop again at 12 or 1 for lunch, and some of us stop for dinner. That's a bit of a class thing. The posh have lunch and the plebs have dinner midday, as they did in medieval days. Around 3pm there's another break, tea or coffee or chocolate - and there are so many varieties of coffee these days - I still don't know (or care) what they are.

The evening meal is where the fun starts. Personal preference dictates when you eat: 5.3o or 6pm for workers coming home, 7pm or later if you want to have friends round or go out for meal, or whatever variation suits the individual these days. I don't know how it works out for those down south, who commute such vast distances into and out of London (to my mind, 9 miles was far enough to go to work every day.) They must get home so much later. What you call the meal depends on so many things - the working class/lower middle class child might once have called it tea, as in teatime. As they grew and moved up the social scale they learned to call the meal dinner. Their parents, and those who claim to be working class even though they pull down large salaries, might still call the same meal tea.

What used to be called high tea has kind of died a death now, overtaken by the way everyone munches out of paperbags at any hour of the day. In my childhood, high tea was a cooked meal, but not a full dinner. Melted cheese on toast, perhaps, or baked beans on toast, a poached egg - yes, on toast! On Sunday afternoons in the sixties, it was still possible to go out for a drive and stop at a nice hotel or cafe for afternoon tea, which would be neat, delicate sandwiches with a savory filling, then a selection of scones, jam, cake and an endless pot of tea, all served in good china by a waitress neatly dressed in black dress and white apron, with her hair neatly tucked away under a cap or neat little starched linen band thingy that looked like a tiara. I can't think of a word for it, but I can visualise it perfectly.

Then, if you survived eating through the day, there would always be supper around 10pm. A cup of tea, and whatever you fancied. My dad loved a raw onion with bread and butter. I used to eat it as well, while mother looked on in horror. My brother often had a bowl of cornflakes.
Life was more active then. We walked off all those calories!
So, for an author wanting to write about meal in the UK, you'd need to check your region, then find out the words peculiar to that place, bearing in mind that class/culture thing, and the time period too.

4 comments:

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Jen, Thank you. I enjoyed your comments on meals in the UK. Five to ten inches of snow are expected near my home in Southern Maryland tonight and tomorrow. Since you've made me hungry, I'm off to the grocery store for tasty necessities for the weekend.

Enjoy your weekend! dmh

Jen Black said...

We're expecting more snw tomorrow, so who knows what we'll face?

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Loved your post, Jen. When we were in Scotland we had a hard time waiting until 6 to eat our evening meal. With all the walking we did, we thought we were starving. Another thing we often talk about are the little cafes in the back of bakeries. It was delightful finding them. I ate my first bowl of porridge and was surprised at the taste. It was quite different from our oatmeal.

Jen Black said...

I'm told the true Scot eats his porridge with salt, but I like mine with honey - had some this morning to keep out the cold. And yes, thanks for the reminder about cafes - there are still some lovely little tearooms scattered about the market towns. In cities, they're more likely to be Coffee shops.