Sunday, April 08, 2007

High Tea and Hard Weather

It's Easter weekend and the far north begins to shrug off its isolation as the sunlight returns and the weather moderates itself. The cruise boats are beginning to return and so the hotels and restaurants and museums are beginning to open or to keep extended hours. For those of us more or less permanently here, it is the season for calving, lambing, sowing, and having family come to visit for the school holidays.

Morris and I celebrate Easter with a trip into town for a high tea at one of our regular restaurants. Tea, as in a meal, not necessarily associated with the beverage, tea. Comes in many varieties. Mostly, it is a light meal at about 5ish in the evening. High Tea comes earlier in the day and has more food assocaited with it.

When I was the native explaining American culture to non-natives, I learned that one of the biggest areas of confusion was words for food. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I can manage my way around a grocery store and know what fairy cakes are, but the many names for baked goods are still a bit of a mystery. Today's high tea--which is best described as a combination of breakfast brunch and lunch--included the three-tiered, circular tray with a handle on top of miscellaneous baked goods.

I recognized scones and pancakes (or flap jacks or drop scones). Scones are like biscuits, but rich in cream and usually a bit sweet, but there are also cheese scones. Today's scones were plain--no fruit or cheese, but a bit sweet and crumbly. Pancakes are here served either warm, freshly off the griddle, or cold. You can even buy them in plastic packages in the grocery store. They are eaten with jam or preserves.

Also on the tray was fudge--butterscoth rather than chocolate, and softer than tablet, which is more often chocolate. There was a macaroon--which I was told is coconut with a jammy filling and it came in a little tart pan. Another baked square was described as tiffin. It looked remarkably like the tablet. There was no million dollar shortbread on the tray, but I want to describe it to you. The name is supposedly derived from the fact that you have to be a millionaire to afford the butter and sugar that go into it. It is so sweet that my teeth ache and my eyes threaten to roll back into my head in sugar overload at the thought of it. If you are prepared for it, it was wonderful, but I defy anyone to eat more than one piece at a time.

Despite the fact that it is nearly mid-April and the days are longer and gales are less likely, we are experiencing what Morris calls "hard weather." The winds are cold (off the north this morning, so full of the sea and the arctic north) and gusts are nearly 50 miles an hour near the shore. Now the greyness has descended so that the horizon is flattened into a grey mist.

When the wind blows hard enough for white caps on the sea, getting in and out of the car is a two-handed maneuver. If the car is facing into the wind, it will take both hands to open the door enough to get out and to hold the door steady enough not to press you back into the car. Worse still, if the wind is behind you and the door, you need to move hand over hand along the door to keep it from getting the characteristic "Caithness crick"--an all too familiar crinkle in the metal over the door as it yields to the wind if someone is foolish enough to let the wind have its head.

Now arguably, the high wind and the greyed horizon could come in any season. The final defining characteristic of "hard weather" is the fact that grass can't grow in such weather. And if the grass can't grow, then the cattle can't get turned out onto the fields.


At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmmmmmmmmmmm // yummy yummie // scorrie //


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