One of my friends posted my wedding invitation on Facebook recently. It reminded me of an almost bygone era – when parties were opulent affairs.
I miss getting dressed up, the Champagne flowing, dining like royalty, and dancing the night away…
… and more than anything else, the invitations. It all started with the invitation – the kind that set off a thrill within you as you opened it. A tangible, well thought out, and carefully designed invitation complete with calligraphy, dress code, and an R.S.V.P. request that we actually bothered to respond to. Evites are just such an anti-climax, and much less effective.
So, you can imagine my excitement when this invitation arrived in the post last month. Trust the Brits to hang onto this exacting tradition, and who better than British Equity, the venerable actors guild, to reenact the glamor of days past. How could I refuse an invitation for tea with some of the most well known expats,
in the home of Orson Welles, no less? I’ll admit, I had one of those “I’ll never wash this hand again” moments when introduced to Jacqueline Bisset (don’t worry, I have washed my hands), and in case you were wondering what the OBE stands for after actor Michael York’s name, it stands for Order of the British Empire – a medal and honor bestowed upon the recipient, by the queen, for their chivalry and accomplishments.
The distinguished actor had all us in stitches, when after welcoming us, he shared the story of how he came by his stage name when he first joined Equity. There already happened to be a member with his real name, so he needed a new one quickly, saw a pack of cigarettes called York, and thought it as good as any other name. Of course his version of the story was infinitely more entertaining, and brought audible gasps when he pulled out the original letter welcoming him into the guild. I remember the pride I felt when I opened the same letter many years ago – the moment you can unabashedly call yourself an actor is a monumental milestone.
It was a glorious afternoon as we lingered over a proper cream tea, but scones are not the same without clotted cream. In the United States they usually try to substitute whipped cream which is not the right consistency at all. Clotted cream is made from heating unpasteurized cream until the thick, creamy, butter like fat rises to the top with a distinctly scalded flavor. Since I often do high tea for wedding and baby showers, and just this week received a request to do one during Brit Week LA, I was overjoyed to learn that Gelsons, my favorite grocery store, stocks Devonshire cream (clotted cream imported from Devonshire).
Whipped cream faux pas aside, I quite happily indulged in the cucumber sandwiches, cakes, and chocolate dipped strawberries. Now I’m busy dreaming up a slightly more whimsical menu for the tea I will do later this month – which will include traditional scones with Devonshire cream, and most likely my lemon lavender angel food cupcakes.
This recipe comes directly from a Be-Ro Flour pamphlet given to me years ago in London. I’ve been using this recipe, or my own variations of it ever since for tender, flaky scones still warm from the oven, lavished with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
- 8 ounces self-rising flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 1 ounce caster sugar (fine granulated sugar)
- 2 ounces sultanas or currants optional
- 1 medium egg beaten with sufficient milk to make 1/4 pint
- milk see instruction above
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease a baking tray.
- Mix flour and salt, rub in butter, and stir in sugar and fruit.
- Add egg and milk, reserving a little for brushing the tops.
- Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2″ (1 cm) in thickness and cut into 2 1/2” (6.6 cm) rounds.
- Brush tops with egg and milk and bake for about 10 minutes.
HEAT TO EAT