Friday, 2 February 2018

Back In Time For Tea

Did you think the BBC couldn't possibly take any more forays into culinary history. WELL YOU WERE WRONG!

It's nice to be wrong, isn't it?

A new series, Back In Time For Tea, starts on BBC2 on Tuesday 6 February. 
The Ellis family will be eating meals typical of a working-class family in the north of England, progressing through time. The starting date is 1918, just after the end of the First World War. That starting date is a little later than Further Back In Time For Dinner, and makes me wonder whether they'll take a decade-by-decade approach like that programme, or will try to cover a whole century over the six-programme run, ending now.

I have to confess, the press releases do trigger one of my rants as they focus mainly on the location. Using the word 'tea' for the evening meal is as much to do with class as geography; as someone from a working class East Anglian background who benefited from free university education and so is more middle class nowadays, I still cook 'tea' at home, but go out for 'dinner' – I grew up eating at home, but only really started going out as an adult. The different usages came about because of the time of the evening meal. The middle and upper classes tended to eat later, around 8-9pm; that was dinner. Tea was the afternoon meal. We're all familiar with afternoon tea, and nowadays the term 'high tea' gets misapplied to afternoon tea, but historically high tea got its name from being later in the afternoon and was a more substantial meal with hot components. The sort of thing farm labourers would have when getting in from the field, or factory workers at the end of their shift, or domestic servants would have before serving dinner to their employers. They weren't going to wait 'til 8 for their food!

That said, I do like the fact that they're concentrating on a particular region's foods, as there are still different food cultures all round the UK. Mr Robot's family is from the north-west; I hope the poor Ellises don't have to eat the lard sandwiches his mum was fed as a child, nor the home-made 'cottage cheese' (basically sour milk strained through old tights) that his nan used to make! Here's hoping for Bury black puddings, Lancashire hotpot and other tasty things. (Mmm, now I'm thinking of the delicious cow heel pie we had at a pub in Bolton...)

After the disappointment of Frankie Drake, which was simply too laden with silliness and anachronism to be bearable* this should be a proper palate cleanser.



*Seriously, it was like someone decided to film an amateur 'murder mystery' evening. Everything from script to costumes was not good.

14 comments :

  1. My working class great grandmother and her sisters called the evening meal tea, but they also called a late afternoon meal served to children, "tea." I think I got the Jewish version of a lard sandwich but with chicken fat. If they were feeling flush there might be an egg fried in the fat too. Don't knock it until you try it ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chicken fat sandwich sounds better than lard, to be honest. Though I've grown up with the virtually flavourless, prepackaged sort; perhaps it's better if it's the home-rendered meat-flavoured variety.

      (The baker I go to in Devizes still makes lardy cakes the old way. It's quite odd having a fruit bun that tastes vaguely of sausage.)

      Delete
  2. I have so enjoyed this series and am looking forward to this one, too! I do hope they do different regions as well; it is fascinating to find out about the differences in food choices and food habits around the UK.

    Growing up in a Irish working class London family we had breakfast and dinner (around 6) but only ever had a tea on Sundays as we ate dinner around 3 pm on that day. If we had lunch it was called dinner, too, but was a light meal!

    I've a friend from Derry and she calls the main meal in the evening (about 6) 'tea'. It can all get very confusing...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the words we use say so much about class and social mobility, it's fascinating.

      Delete
  3. We've already programmed it here at Dove Cottage, as this is really our thing. Hopefully it lives up to expectations. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enjoyed the first one - though that teenager who couldn't peel an onion startled me, and when they didn't know what tripe was...

      Delete
  4. I know what you mean about "tea" and "dinner" although we always had dinner and are not in the slightest bit posh. I do suppose that it has a regional context. The North East has some great dishes. When I lived in Newcastle I was introduced to all sorts of weird things like Pan Haggerty, Pease Pudding, Singing Hinnies and Irish Stew. Great seafood too from North Shields. I am not sure I could have eaten the "cottage cheese" and lard sandwiches sound appealing. My Mum told me that they used to have a "piece" (sandwich) on butter and sugar when she was small. Different times. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it is really fascinating. My stepmum (north-eastern, I *think* Geordie tho I'm not 100% up on the distinctions) used to make us something called panaculty when we stayed with her and dad, which seems to be pan haggerty with bacon. I always liked that one!

      Delete
  5. I’m looking forward to this, though the mention of chicken feet makes me queasy. Also I’m wondering how finicky the children are going to be, as the trailers suggest they're going to be hard work (dad too). I liked the Robshaws as the kids seemed game for anything.

    I grew up in Portsmouth, which is right on the south coast and come from a working class family. I ate packed lunch at school on weekdays, which we called dinner and ate my hot meal in the evening, which was tea. On Saturday I only had two meals, the middle of day one vanished for some reason, but my Grandad always had a fry up. Sunday meant a roast dinner, then Sunday tea which was sandwiches, jelly and ice cream or a fruit pie and ice cream. So, it was somewhat reversed for our family at the weekend.

    I’m sure referring to the evening meal as tea is a class thing, at least I've always thought so. Andy grew up in a middle class household and what he refers to as tea, which he ate in the evening, consisted of sandwiches as their main meal on weekdays was in the middle of the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like chicken feet done Chinese style, though they're not very meaty - more of a snack than a meal.

      The kids were at least trying things. As much as I like to tell people from overseas that British food is better than its reputation, British-style tripe looks abominable in all its forms, and I don't envy them having to eat it. (I'll eat it done in a Spanish or Chinese recipe.)

      Delete
  6. Well my Dad is working class from Kent and we called it tea. I still struggle to eat any later than 7.30pm if it gets too late I tend not to feel hungry any more. Oh and Dad absolutely loved dripping sandwiches!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's quite weird for us when we go to Spain and nothing gets started till about 8pm. Of course, for them lunch is the main meal of the day, and is really lingered over - no sandwiches al desko for them.

      I think I could live with dripping sarnies made from genuine dripping from the roast with meat flavour, but not the modern, packaged and purified stuff. Bland grease, bleurgh!

      Delete
  7. I always have to qualify when I mean 'tea' as in the drink and 'tea' as in dinner, because I too grew up referring to the evening meal as tea or dinner pretty interchangeably! Dad definitely came from an 'evening meal is tea' family but I can't remember whether my maternal grandparents did too - I do remember Sunday roasts being 'dinner' and eaten mid afternoon.

    Looking forward to watching this tonight anyway, I've enjoyed all the other shows in the series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was good, wasn't it? So interesting to compare working-class foods to the ones the Robshaws had. With the earlier series I felt it was hard to get a complete feeling for what the diet was like as they only spent a day on each 'year', and I wished they'd spent longer on each time period but for this programme it would've been mean to put the family through a long period in, say, 1931.

      Delete