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In lieu of dinner?! Certainly not! Afternoon tea was brought in when dinner became later in the evening, in order to stave off those pesky 4pm munchies. Afternoon tea is something that is quite British I think. Certainly in every office I have worked in, 3pmish is always tea time, and we have tea and a little snack to perk us up.

Coincidentally I bought Young Entry today, but sadly it is destined to belong to someone else for Christmas rather than to me. I might sneakily read it first though!


Rachel--Okay. I love reading about these lavish teas characters are always having in these books in the 1920s. Of course I bet dinner was much later, so munchies would indeed need to be staved off. I still like the idea of tea and snacks, though someday I'd like to have high tea too (is it The Ritz that has the famous high tea?). And I'm finally getting into Young Entry. It's actually a quick read, so I bet you could squeeze it in before you have to give it away!


Tea always reminds me of the old after school snack, although much fancier!

Kathleen Pizzo

I usually only can read one book at a time for the same reasons you give but right now I am reading 3 and feeling awfully proud of myself! LOL


I've gone back to reading one book at a time, and it's really helped in terms of finishing things before I forget who the characters are, etc.

I've always had afternoon tea, at least a cup of tea and a snack, around 3:30pm. My energy level just dives head first without it! I'd like to try the kind of tea that you are talking about, though. It seems more like dessert than a meal, in that there are no real sandwiches or salads, just lovely pastries of all different kinds. Yum!

P.S. In the Daisy Dalrymple books, she talks about "elevenses" -- tea and a snack at 11:00am. I love that!


I have Molly Keane novels on my shelves and have almost picked them up several times recently. I should try one! Tea wasn't so much a tradition in my house growing up - a cup of tea and a biscuit at about 4pm perhaps. But my husband would get in from school to toast and cake and can often be found nowadays shovelling something in when he gets in from work at 6.30, way too late, close enough to dinner to spoil his appetite, but he is just determined to have his tea.

Table Talk

Afternoon tea is definitely still a tradition in our house, although it's rarely as elaborate a meal as this. Nevertheless, every day at four the best china comes out and the best possible pot of tea is made accompanied by either a scone or homemade biscuits. It's the time when we all calm down and take a breath. Invaluable.


I love the culture of tea, in all its forms.

Margaret Powling

Afternoon tea is my very favourite meal - if it can be called a 'meal' as that suggests something one needs rather than what one desires. Afternoon tea is non-essential, although desirable, and I just love it. Having friends to dinner is something we gave up decades ago, but having friends to afternoon tea is an absolute joy - you can prepare much of the things beforehand and it gives you a chance to use pretty china and linen napkins. The history of tea is fun to investigate, and there are many books on the subject. Anyone interested in tea, as beverage, should read books by Jane Pettigrew. And there are some lovely books on afternoon tea recipes, too. There is also a tea calendar which I buy every year (since having been sent one as a present a few years ago): The Collectable Teapot and Tea Calendar by Joni Miller, with photographs by Martin Brigdale. This comes with a sheet of postcards of the 12 photographs for each month of the year.
Margaret P


This afternoon tea thing sounds wonderful but is coffee allowed instead? :)

Margaret Powling

No, technically afternoon tea is just that, tea with some nice things to eat - the idea isn't to pig out as there will be dinner to follow (or we sometimes refer to it more informally as "supper") - and tea is the drink, whether black with lemon or with a little milk. My own favourite is Indian mixed with Earl Grey and just a little milk. Coffee is either a morning drink, or taken black as an after dinner beverage. It isn't really the thing to have with afternoon tea; the taste of tea compliments freshly cut cucumber sandwiches (these are de rigeur at afternoon tea; I also like egg and cress sandwiches on granary bread, cucumber sandwiches must always be made using white bread - peel, de-seed and salt the cucumber for several hours in the morning, then rinse off the salt and dry and you have perfect cucumber for sandwiches. Mix them with a little cream cheese for the perfect cucumber sandwich. Smoked salmon on wholemeal bread (open sandwiches, cut very small, and served with lemon wedges and black pepper) are also ideal for afternoon tea. Plus a lovely lemon sponge cake in summer or a tea bread, buttered, in winter. Or light-as-air scones with clotted cream and jam - and then the question is, jam or cream on first? Here in Devon it's cream first then jam, the opposite in Cornwall.
Margaret P


Rebecca--Yes, my afternoon snacks never compared to that!
Kathleen-Actually three or four is really the perfect number for me. I concentrate on one and then rotate them until I've finished one and am ready to begin something new. However, I tend to not wait to start something new! :)
Debby--If the books are different enough I can usually keep storylines straight. However, some books really do beg to be read on their own. And yes, I forgot about elevenses! I never did pick up the habit of tea or coffee drinking, but given a spread like the one above I might be talked into it.
Litlove--You should give Molly Keane a try-I would love to hear what you think of her work! And 6:00 does seem a little late for a snack, but when you're used to it? I've wondered if most people still follow the tradition or not.
Table Talk--It sounds very civilized really. Life anymore is one big rush from place to place and I like the idea of kicking back and having a conversation and a relax! I even have a china teapot but it sits in my china hutch--unused!
Darlene--It is nice, isn't it. Do you do tea as well?
Margaret--Thanks very much for the descriptions--it sounds yummy. I've never had cucumber sandwiches--only read about them in books! I love the idea of sponge cake. When I was in Ireland, they also drank lots of tea, but I never continued the practice when I came home. I know the calendar you're talking about--I've given it to my sister as she collects teapots. And clotted cream--yum. I can get scones at the cafe in my library, but I bet they are nothing like the ones you make over there! And thanks for the heads up on the Pettigrew book--my library has one, but it's checked out, so I am requesting it!
Stefanie--In my case it might actually be hot chocolate! I like tea and coffee well enough, but I never got into the habit of drinking either. Still, I could be persuaded to try it sometime if I could have a proper tea! (meaning all the goodies as well).


I would guess poor people would have had just bread and butter, maybe with some jam (we're not poor but my nan used to give us slices of this when we'd visit, except we'd have some sort of horrible marg they don't make anymore so I wasn't a fan).

I'm really glad I started concentrating on one book at a time (at the most 2), with so many other things on the go it's nice to have just one good book to focus on at a time - no split attention.

Margaret Powling

Of course, you knew didn't you, Danielle, that with mention of afternoon tea I would just have to have a copy of this book ...


Jodie--Tea with bread and butter and jam sounds pretty good, too, but I've never been a fan of marg (I like the real stuff even though it's bad for you). I have been just concentrating on a couple of books at a time to make a dent in my pile and so far it's working well, but I bet I slide back into my old habits--we'll see! :)
Margaret--I've been reading her books and I like her--though the characters seem very much aristocratic and of the hunting class--if that's the right description. I'll be curious to see what you think of her. I've read a couple of her books, this is my third, and I plan on working my way through the rest!

kate kirby

Hi - from Cornwall in UK This is a recipe I have had for years that was written up in a magazine as Molly Keane's Crusty Sponge cake, I thought you might like it.

2 ½ oz McDougall’s Supreme Sponge Premium Self Raising Flour

2 ½ oz of Cornflour

6 oz Golden Castor Sugar

4 Hen’s Eggs, preferably not too newly laid

Pinch of Salt

Line two sponge cake tins with baking parchment cases ready, heat oven to Gs Mark 5, 375 F 190c

You’ll need three mixing bowls. In the largest put the sugar and four egg yolks plus two egg whites.

In the second put the two egg whites and in the third put the flour, cornflour and pinch of salt, all sifted.

Whisk the yolks, two whites and the sugar until thick and pale. Then whisk the two egg whites that are on their own until they are standing stiffly. Fold in the flour mixture into the yolk mixture alternately with the beaten whites until all is incorporated, not mixing too much, use a metal spoon, folding lightly but thoroughly.

Turn at once into the sandwich tins – you could cover with paper or foil to prevent burning. Cook for about 30 minutes, until golden and firm. Turn out onto wire trays to cool and then sandwich together with good jam and maybe some fresh fruit.

Eat at once!

Variations, add lemon zest to yolk mixture or use geranium/estoril leaves in bottom of the tins for extra flavour.


Kate--Thanks very much--this is wonderful! It sounds delicious and I will have to get adventurous and give it a try sometime soon!

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