Thursday, 26 January 2012

January 26th - My tea fetish and Cornish memories

Dear Nigel,

I have a pavlovian reaction every time i come into the kitchen, every time i have a problem, every time i need a small reward for doing something (or conversely, to give me strength), I put the kettle on. Again and again and again. My friends and family think it funny. I drink at least twenty cups of tea a day - well past the government's target. Latterly I've changed to big pint mugs as it saves me pouring two at the same time. I realize this is probably slightly unusual, but i'm so used to these sort of quantities that I start to get headaches and feel dehydrated if i'm out for more than a couple of hours without a drink.

My favourite tea is Twinings Yunnan tea, which the supermarkets seem to have stopped selling, so i have to buy it direct. It is a cross between a full-bodied English Breakfast type and an Earl Grey - not so Bergamotty. I love it and have been drinking it for years.

My Tea fetish started when i was at school. I used to buy coloured building block tins of tea in different flavours - orange pekoe and Queen Mary,Jasmine and Gunpowder . My friends would give me tins as Birthday presents and i had them all lined up on a shelf. The herbal teas arrived as a kind of new-age antidote to all that caffeine. Even now i must have at least twenty varieties in the cupboard: Cranberry for detoxifying, Echinacea for colds, Fennel for dieting, Camomile for calmness. Some taste absolutely vile and i'm only leaving them there in case i should get accustomed to them eventually.

You make a winter salad with cauliflower and chickpeas and lemon juice. It sounds nice. I remember when we lived in Cornwall and the main crop everywhere down there was cauliflower (although the farmers all called it "Brocc-ly" in their deep Cornish accents). I used to buy great cannonball heads of the stuff from little tables on the edges of fields for 20p in a rusty old tin. In frugal times, i used to make a cauliflower crumble with cheese mixed into the crumble topping, in an age when a family dined well for a pound.Fields of daffodils brightened the landscape there from Christmas onwards and there was seasonal work to be had for those prepared to bend and pick and bunch for a pittance.

I made the Iranian omelette yesterday and it tasted  good. The saffron was steeped in boiling water and the deep honey smell took me back to the Saffron buns i used to buy the kids. The Heavy cake and Lardy cake were lesser Cornish delicacies i always thought. And the baker in our little village of Praze-an-Beeble made a fine Pasty. Strange how some foods stay particular to one place. Saffron cake has such a delicate flavour when made well and properly, and not adulterated with unnatural food colouring. It deserves to be much wider known. Think i'll make some for tea at the weekend for the next batch of children to enjoy.

Yours with misty Cornish eyes,


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