Come for Coffee and Dessert

Fifty years of marriage!

This year we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary and ooooh my! What I have learned living in Britain! How naïve and stupid I was when a bride! Having lived most of my life in countries where the language had to be learned from scratch, I thought being married to an Englishman was going to be a dawdle, because they spoke English, didn’t they? No. Not my understanding of the word. Husband’s grandmother understood me, because she watched Westerns, like Bonanza!. I was slower to understand her Yorkshire accent. I had thought that there were only two dialects in Great Britain – Cockney and BBC English. See what I mean – naïve as they come. I did ask someone once, “how come such a ditsy little country has so many accents?” The reply was, “the amazing thing is that we actually understand each other. At one time we were a whole lot of kingdoms warring against each other.”

Examples of comprehending the new/old language.

I learned

  • That an airing cupboard is the most airless place in the house.
  • That to boil a kettle meant the water in the kettle.
  • That to go for an Indian, or a Chinese was not to join a racist lynching mob, but to book for a rather delicious restaurant meal.
  • That Cheddar Cheese has a gorge named after it.
  • That you never ever, EVER, EVER break queue (standing in line.) In fact, you don’t exist on this earth, until it’s your turn.
  • That a scotch egg was not the product of some monstrous hen up north, or eggs poached in whiskey, but one wrapped in sausage meat before baking.
  • That an English swede is not the product of intermarriage, but a locally grown rutabaga or yellow turnip.
  • That Southampton is nowhere near Northampton, that Watford is miles from Watford Gap, that Bedford College was in London and Warwick University is not in Warwick, that Southgate is in the north of London, that there is a Norfolk and a Suffolk, and  there’s a Sussex but no Norsex, and that none of this needs to be explained to a foreigner.
  • That “not too shabby” means pretty good really, and that if a Bedfordshire person answers to “how are you?” with “not too bad” you know that he is in the peak of health and wealth.
  • That pavement is a sidewalk because long ago sidewalks were paved and the roads were not.

Still learning

And there is more to learn. My most recent discovery is that  John O’Gaunt came from Ghent in Belgium. However, I’m still not sure what the definition of “tea” is – a brew? Cake and sandwiches? A full meal? And when I ask, the answer is always, “aaaahhh” and a peer into the middle distance. Speaking of tea, there is something upper class about putting milk in after you’ve poured the tea, and working class if you put the milk in first — or is it the other way around?

Coffee and dessert…really?

People didn’t understand me, either. One time I asked friends around for Coffee and Dessert. This was common in the town where I taught in northern New York State. We’d invite people over for mini-celebrations – a birthday, election results, or to meet a friend from out of town. It didn’t cost much to put on such an event, and provided a chance to be together.

Oh dear. When I tried it in Bedfordshire, the response was uncomfortable, or curiously bewildering. One guest was irritated. “Surely you can find something for first course!” she said, inspecting the kitchen for signs of a hidden lasagna.

Trying again 

So it was with hesitancy that I tried it again, inviting our choir  for a mid-summer sing-along, with coffee and dessert. This time it worked beautifully. The members were delighted to re-meet during the choir’s summer’s hiatus. Not only did no one search for the meat course, but they brought desserts themselves. A jubilantly happy singing session followed (still in good voice! ) and a fabulous selection of tasty dishes to ooh and aah over. Wow! What an evening!

Hot Fudge Pudding

This is probably my oldest recipe still in constant use. When I was 13 and going to an international school in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, the Home Economics teacher asked us each to bring a box for recipe cards. This meant taking a 20 – 30 minute walk to the bazaar to ask the carpenter to make one. ;(There were no cars in these hills then – you either walked or were carried, and this included the grand piano in the auditorium.)  I still have my box. It has travelled all over the world with me. When I first got it, I used to cut out recipes from my American Girl magazine, and stick them on the cards. This is one of them.

Find yourself a cup that measures 8 fl ounces [250ml] Use this for all the volume measurements. Mix 1 cup plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¾ cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Add ½ cup of milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and a cup of chopped pecans. Mix well. Spread in a well-greased 8” x 8” pan. Mix ¾ cup brown sugar with ¼ cup more cocoa. Sprinkle evenly on top of the raw batter.

Now here is the sloshy bit. It is best done as near to a preheated oven (350 or 180) as you can, preferably on the rack on which it will bake. Then pour 1 ¾ – 2 cups boiling water all over the batter, gently slide it into the oven and close the door. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. The hot water seeps through the batter as it cooks, leaving a rich gooey chocolate sauce under a brownie-like top. Serve warm preferably with cream or ice cream. Note: the pictured pudding was made with gluten-free flour and didn’t contain nuts.

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