The Joy Club member and host of our reflective writing workshops, Susanna Lewis, shares her nostalgic memories of food in this wonderfully sensory piece…
I remember afternoon tea as a special event in our house, when we would use the ‘special front room’ to celebrate the occasion. I felt honoured and excited to be allowed into this special room at 4 o’clock every day and – looking back – I can still feel the strong sense of ceremony that I felt then. The antique wooden table would be set with a freshly laundered table cover embroidered with the most exquisite dainty blue and pink flowers. A small delicate china vase of fresh flowers was positioned at the back of the table, providing an elegant backdrop to the stars of the show: the food!
Oh and how my mother loved to display her homebaked goodies, a spectacular feast of delectable cakes and sandwiches that looked too good to eat. The best china was always used from serving dishes to cake stands to the delicate cups and saucers that lay in wait for the hot steaming teapot – the last item to be brought through from the tiny kitchen.
Hot buttered crumpets were my favourite and were always the first to be eaten greedily by us all. Of course, we had to wait for grandma to say a prayer before we could start to eat, something I did rather begrudgingly, much to the disdain of my mother. But then the tea party could begin and I would enjoy the crab paste finger sandwiches, the cheese scones with lashings of hot butter, fruit loaf with Wensleydale cheese and not forgetting the Victoria Sandwich cake, which I always struggled to eat due to a rather over full stomach.
Thinking about these ritual afternoon teas brings back happy memories of our family and how traditions like this seem to have slipped to the wayside in many people’s lives. Life now seems fast and furious, with many of us grabbing food on the go, sometimes even eating at our work desk and – even more worryingly – eating in front of the TV in silence.
I wonder if, somehow, we have lost sight of the fact that eating is a natural community event, sharing food together and talking to each other with no distractions. Surely this can only improve our mental health, as we share with friends and family, not just our food but our day to day worries and concerns. Community is so important at staving off loneliness and isolation and sharing food surely is a wonderful way to bring people together.
Looking back at my own memories, I realise that this can only be achieved if we take the time to slow down and really make the effort to bring people together through the sharing of food. I certainly will make family meals time to savour, not just the food, but each other. Perhaps by doing this I can start creating new memories of treasured family meal times like the old days. However, right now, I intend to find my old family recipe book and start practising making that delicious Victoria Sandwich cake that my grandma would be proud of!
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