This shit wasn’t on my Citizenship test

So I saw our landlady in town today. We’ve been meaning to get in touch with each other for weeks but she took an “emergency holiday to Egypt” and I’ve just been forgetful. Anyway, we chatted for a few minutes, I got the go-ahead to install an adjustable height bar for the shower (lets the shower head slide up and down for the vertically challenged such as myself – 5’3″ without shoes. Right now I’ve rigged the shower head to hang lower on bungee cords – pure f’in class.), and we agreed to get together to alter the inventory, thereby removing a few more items that we’d rather not use. She mentioned calling us to arrange a meeting and so I put on my bravery pants and invited her over for tea. She enthusiastically accepted the invitation.

I went about the rest of my day (working the part-time job) and then later, during dinner, let Neil know about the loose arrangement. As we stuffed mounds of perfectly cut vegetable medley into our faces I thought about what having the landlady over for tea might mean.

First, it means I need to get some neglected areas of the flat tidied up. No problem. We’ve only been here a little over a month so if I tidy up a few more places I think we’ll look like highly organised people. I have been really good about unpacking but a bit more wouldn’t hurt.
Second, it means I need to learn the British ritual of tea. I asked Neil about this between bites of tasty dinner bliss.

“So, uh, this tea thing… do we need snacks for it?”
“Well, yes- some biscuits* or cakes of some sort. For biscuits we should have a few kinds out: custard cremes, thingamabobs, and thingamabobs.

OK- he didn’t say thingamabobs and thingamabobs, but I can’t remember the other – WAIT! One was digestives! I can’t remember what the other thingamabobs signifies. Anyway…
“Three types of cookies? Cakes? Do they make this stuff in a medley pack or something? A tin?”

Hallelujah, evidently, they do. Not that I’d screw up and buy the wrong sweet treats for tea- I’d buy too many. I would want to be extra sure that I got it right so I know damn well that I’d buy up half the shop’s stock of cakey-cookiesy-biscuity-tastiness. It would be the most expensive tea ritual ever. Well, for me anyway. I’m sure Chuck and Camilla have fair-trade gold-leafed organic angel toes on their table. I digress.

So then I asked about what cream tea is. It is a whole different spread of stuff and has nothing to do with putting cream in your tea. The cream goes with a baked good on the side. You still offer milk with the tea. That’s about all the information I managed to retain about it. I’m just never offering cream tea on our menu and that takes care of that.

At least now I know a bit more about having someone over for tea. Toast is not on the upcoming menu for tea either, yet for some weird reason, toast is an acceptable and almost expected snack if your guest gets the munchies. In a country where it’s hard to find late-night restaurants – let alone something like a Waffle House, Denny’s, or Perkin’s – you work with what you have in the cupboard. And I’m about to fill mine with biscuits…


*Yup, that’s cookies for American readers.

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14 thoughts on “This shit wasn’t on my Citizenship test”

  1. I say F*@k the tea and have her over for a beer. Tea sounds way to confusing. If you have her over for a beer, then you just have to throw some pretzels at her.

  2. Just one minor fly in the ointment….for those (weirdos) who use the nomenclature “breakfast, dinner, tea” instead of the (sane peoples’) “breakfast, lunch, dinner”, this now means she’s going to be turning up expecting dinner and you’re serving her beverages πŸ™‚

    Happy confusing!

    (oh, and “Medley Pack”? do the biccies form a barbershop quartet and perform a Richard Digance ditty?? – you might wanna add this to your list of Americanisms and replace with “Variety Pack”?) πŸ™‚

    Oh, finally – could be Hob-Nobs?

  3. Yeah, see, you’re panicking already…as I would.

    You should have invited her for coffee and cake or coffee and pie–something Americans do well. Then you would be operating in your comfort zone.

    Or the ever classy and memory destroying KEGGER!

  4. @Mike: I have adopted many words, pronunciations, and customs here, but “dinner” remains in the American sense as being the last of three meals in the day in this household. On this, I have not budged. πŸ™‚
    As for “medley”β€šΓ„ΓΆ?Γ‘?Γ†Β¬Β¨β€šΓ„β€ yes, perhaps “variety” was the word I was looking for in describing the tin of biscuits. Good spot. (It’s still a “vegetable medley” to me though… πŸ˜‰ )

    @Mom: You’re right… perhaps I should’ve gone with what I know! lol
    And yes, a digestive is nothing too exciting, unless covered in chocolate (ala Hobnobs) and then they’re kinda like oaty-chocolatey cookies. Yummy!

  5. I’m afraid young Jen that you have barely scratched the surface. Toasted tea cakes, cucumber sandwiches, lighted toasted squares of bread with Gentleman’s Relish [actually if you like anchovies try and get some GR – my mUm used to love it and it comes in a beautiful little jar]. I won’t list all the biccies that would be suitable but I must mention the Gypsy Cream. Or go with the beer idea.[digestives not exciting!the highlight of my day!!]

  6. Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner in this household. Always has been, always will be – Interlopers be damned!

    Anyway, as DaddyP says, you have barely scratched the surface. There’s:

    Nice (never had any idea whether they’re Nice as in the place in France, or Nice as in “quite pleasant”)
    Jaffa Cakes
    etc etc…

    In fact, in my fit of Googling due to my lack of a memory for all things biccie without having the aide-memoire of standing in the local Sainsburys/Waitrose aisle, I rediscovered a very good site for you:

  7. I absolutely hate it when I have to make tea for British people–I’m convinced it’s never quite right and they are only drinking it to avoid appearing rude.

  8. @Sarah: You’re so right! Me too! When Neil’s parents or some friends are over I get very self-conscious about it all.
    I think I made a really bad cup of tea for a friend recently – it must have tasted like dirty hot milk, I’m sure of it – but he drank it and didn’t say a word. He’s a nice guy. Next time I’m offering a glass of wine or water though… lol!

  9. Your friend has lovely manners. An American friend would most likely have said, “Jesus Christ! This tastes like a–“! Then, you’d both have laughed yourselves sick and had a stiff drink πŸ™‚

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