Posts Tagged 'drink'

A Diary of Cake and Tea: II

These first photographs, with the brown and cream cups, were taken last weekend.  We went to a country house, somewhere in Cheshire, which I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of.  The house is surrounded by the most beautiful, sumptuous gardens, with flowers and lovely green lawns, and it only opens its gates to the public for one day every year.  For the rest of the time, the house is shut away, behind high gates, as a family home and television offices, but one day each year sees it opened to visitors.  Inside the house there were tables, set perfectly, and lovely garden furniture outside on the lawn, and some local ladies were serving tea and home-made cakes and scones, and sausage rolls (both meat and vegetarian).  It was wonderfully unusual and blissfully English.

A diary of cakes and tea.

It has been brought to my attention, by three separate people, that my family and I are forever eating scones and drinking tea.  Actually, it’s true.  A combination of two months of wet spring weekends, a mammoth festival of bank holidays thanks to Easter, the Royal Wedding, and May bank holidays, plus four damp days in Wales, have resulted in a string of occasions where we have found ourselves at a table, perhaps in a teashop or on a lawn somewhere, with a cup of tea and scone with jam and cream.  In fact, I’m not complaining, because it is a lovely, very British way of spending an afternoon, whether it be sunny or drizzling.  The teashops of these fair isles are a thing of wonder.

Spring started with a weekend full of picnics.  The first was a bikeride to our local Heath, and saw the début of the heart-shaped picnic basket I’d received for Christmas from my Grandmother.  The second picnic took us to Wales, the beautiful town of Conwy, for a small stony spot by the beach, surrounded by fishing boats and the wing of a dead seagull, which was only discovered after we’d eaten.

We celebrated two birthdays this Spring, both with Cake.  For one we  went for breakfast at the local teashop, and ordered Pizza in the evening, for the other we went walking in Derbyshire.  Both were lovely.  In our family we always make a special fuss of birthdays, and never let one pass without doing something special.

April 29th 2011 brought with it THE ROYAL WEDDING, and the country celebrated in true old-fashioned style.  In fact, I didn’t even have to verify that date, I just know it.  In our house we eschewed the children and beer ridden street party that our neighbours were holding, and instead had our own celebration, with cakes and tea, and dresses from Jack Wills and Cath Kidston.  We spent the night before making bunting, and had a whole day devoted to shopping for outfits and porcelain memorabilia.

We watched the event, glued to the screen, from start to finish, relishing every moment, feeling part of something special.  The only thing that momentarily robbed our attention, and only in the boring bits, was the food.  Chocolate cake, pink fairy cakes, strawberries, trifle, garlic bread, pizza, tarts and quiches, homemade pies, and everything in between.  It was a true feast.

We wanted to make it a special day, one we’ll always remember, like the wartime street parties and jubilee celebrations of our grandparents, and we certainly succeeded. I’ll always look back on it as a lovely day.  Of-course, we had champagne and lots of tea.

The Easter weekend felt like much-needed holiday, and with the bank holidays, and royal weddings, and days off, it felt like a long break.  We had a day walking in Derbyshire, with a picnic on the edge of a river, always entertaining with pensioners, walking along eating Easter eggs, and a sumptuous dinner in a beautiful hotel in Buxton.  Now that we have a child in the family, my cousin who’s almost two, we had a legitimate excuse to have an Easter egg hunt, something we’ve been doing for years anyway.

We hunted for eggs in my grandparents’ garden, on an unusually warm and sunny morning, and then we sat down to tea and cake.  My Mum had baked fairy cakes from scratch, and arrived with arms full of cake tins and Tupperware, and my Nanna made a typically eccentric chocolate cake with layers of cream and strawberries.

My Nanna comes from a family of master bakers, and was rightly proud, as was my Mum.

The past two weeks have been busy, with three beautiful but slightly damp days in Wales in a caravan, which gave us two opportunities every day to have tea and cake, an opportunity we took full advantage of.

For the record, I drink builder’s tea.  Medium strength, but with lots of milk, and two and a half sugars.  Any other way, and I can’t drink it.  Made properly, I luxuriate in tea, feel comforted by it, am taken to a higher plane by it.  I am so grateful whenever anybody makes me a drink and brings me an unexpected cup of tea, it’s a lovely surprise and kind gesture, but one thing I can’t stand is when someone makes you a drink the way they think it should be made, rather than how you like it.  The worst culprit is my grandparents.  They believe that tea should be the colour of mahogany, with a thimbleful of milk, and one sugar.  After years and years, I’ve finally succeeded in making them accept that I take more than one sugar, and they’ve gone up to two very small ones, but will never reach the full two and half.

There’s nothing quite like sheltering from the rain on a cold day, or stopping off on the way home after a long journey in a cramped, packed-up car, for a nice cup of tea and some sandwiches and cake.  Better yet, a lasagne.

I’m actually in love with tea and cake, I’ve just realised that.

These last few pictures were taken at The Davenport Tea Room, at Acton Bridge in Cheshire.  It’s down a tiny lane, signposted opposite Marco Marco and The Leigh Arms, and is well worth a visit.  In a beautiful old farmhouse, with antique tables and exquisite china, they have a wonderful menu and the perfect atmosphere.

All this writing about tea, I’m gasping for a brew!

Machiavellian Marketing, Vegetarian Rights.



Machiavellian Marketing, Vegetarian Rights.

Vikki Littlemore


In May 2007 a company called Masterfoods, the umbrella company responsible for producing Mars chocolate (including Minstrells, Milky Way, Twix, Malteasers and Galaxy) announced the decision to use animal rennet in their products.

All chocolate and cheese contains whey, but the majority of manufactures use a vegetarian-safe form of whey from non-animal sources. However, Mars and Masterfoods made headlines in 2007 by announcing the use of animal rennet, an enzyme extricated from the stomach lining of newly-born calves and a procedure rendering slaughter inevitable. It is the enzyme produced by calves to aid the digestion and absorption of milk. This enzyme is what makes chocolate and cheese hard but many manufacturers use equally effective vegetarian alternatives such as Chymosin; genetically engineered micro-organisms specifically designed to exactly replicate the enzyme produced by the calf´s stomach. Nevertheless, Masterfoods made a decision which the Vegetarian Society condemned as “Incomprehensible”.

Production began in early May 2007, virtually simultaneous with the announcement and before it had attracted any attention. For four weeks the product was used with few people being aware. No large-scale announcements were made or notices placed on packaging. A conscious effort was made to keep the use of rennet as unnoticed as possible, hidden from loyal consumers and vegetarians. For four weeks many strict and devoted vegetarians (including myself) consumed the various products under the Mars umbrella, painfully unaware of its non-vegetarian contents.

After four weeks the news attracted more widespread attention and incurred the anger of the Vegetarian Society and the response to the decision was so overwhelming and the protest and fervent remonstration from the British Vegetarian Society so powerful that Masterfoods was forced to capitulate and backtrack their decision. An announcement was made that Mars would no longer use animal rennet in their chocolate. This was an righteous victory for vegetarians worldwide but meant that because Mars had used the ingredient in their chocolate for four weeks, there were products on shop shelves containing animal rennet and consumers had no way of determining which chocolate bars were safe to eat and which weren´t. Masterfoods did eventually come up with a system where if the use-by date on a product was prior to a certain date then it could “possibly” contain animal rennet and if it was after a certain date then it was safe.

In an official statement Paul Goalby, corporate affairs manager at Masterfoods announced; “If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate”. Coming from one of the world´s largest chocolate manufactures and indeed one of the most prominent global brand names, the decision left vegetarians wondering who to trust. That the decision was revoked however, although a triumph, left a bitter aftertaste because consumers were unsure which items on the shelves were safe.

Manufactures need to be clearer and more honest about the contents of their products. Vegetarians make a decision to live a specific lifestyle. At the moment of becoming vegetarian, at whatever stage in life, a vegetarian makes a profound and emotional agreement with themselves to abide by rules as a direct reflection of their beliefs. The action of making this decision and making a life-long commitment to abstain from meat and many other foods, which is a reflection of the strength of their feelings about the slaughter of animals and not necessarily that they don´t enjoy the taste, is something which is extremely difficult for many and can result in a continual struggle with one´s conscience. It takes great strength and power of will and determination to deny yourself items of food which the body naturally craves, but why bother committing yourself whole-heartedly and ardently to a cause which determines the very nature of your lifestyle in a society where it is impossible to be sure that even food purporting to be safe might actually not be? It is disconcerting to know that there is food on the shelves that as a vegetarian I risk inadvertently consuming on a daily basis, which appear to be safe but may contain animal products or ingredients which are deliberately concealed.

However, the concealment of ingredients is often supported by law. A clause in the 1984 Food Labelling Regulations (UK) excludes from the 1984 Food Act all drinks with an alcohol content exceeding 1.2% by volume (ABV), meaning that only very low or non-alcoholic beers, wines and ciders are required to list all ingredients. Subsequently, a large proportion of wine and beer is produced using isinglass and chitin, without it being declared on the label. Isinglass is derived from collagen contained in the swimbladders of fish, and Chitin from the shells of crabs and lobsters. This clause means that these ingredients, used in fining, are contained in many beers and wines with consumers unaware.

Vegetarianism is now increasingly accepted and understood by society. Being a vegetarian or vegan today is very different from ten years ago, when the automatic response to telling somebody you are a vegetarian was ´do you eat chicken?…. well do you eat fish?´. Like the Vegetarian Society I find it incomprehensible that in the year 2009 the deliberate and emotionally distressing deception of consumers by manufacturers is allowed to remain unchallenged. Every decision like the one made by Masterfoods is a step backwards and cancels out immeasurable valuable progress. Rather than advancing into the future, manufactures are sacrificing the well-being and satisfaction, the most basic moral and human rights of their customers in favour of profit.

There is incidentally no reason to opt for animal products when many other manufacturers have demonstrated the successful implementation of vegetarian alternatives. There is no excuse or reason to ignore the options available. There should nevertheless be more strictly regulated guidelines on how manufactures notify consumers of their products´ ingredients. Many manufacturers clearly display a ´V´ in a prominent position on the packaging and often the words ´suitable for vegetarians´ accompanying the list of contents but unless all manufacturers embrace this system honestly and openly we can never really be safe. For a company as large and globally significant as Mars to purvey products which display no list of ingredients on their wrapper is shocking, detrimental to vegetarian consumers and an action which I can only imagine must halve their market. If a filmmaker chooses to insert three swear words into a film and is subsequently forced to upgrade from a certificate 12 to a 15 as a result, they are drastically reducing their market by limiting the number of people able to see the film, with no discernable merit. Manufacturers are limiting the number of people able to consume their product and I fail to understand how this can be advantageous to them.

Any consumer, including vegetarian consumers, deserves the right to be fully aware of the complete contents of the food they consume. The idea that in the advanced world we live in people could be expected to eat food without access to information about every ingredient contained in it is unacceptable and unfathomably archaic. As human beings we have the right to expect not to be deceived by the people producing what goes into our bodies and as vegetarians we are every bit as entitled to the information and to know whether food is suitable to eat. Concealing ingredients for pecuniary and industrial advantage over human morality is outrageous, criminal and inhumanly immoral.

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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up ( with your thoughts.

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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Pete Doherty,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day

Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road

Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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