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||Dear Nicey and the Wife,|
I haven't been on the site for a while as I have changed jobs and my new employers aren't so keen on casual surfing in the workplace. I also struggle to get on t'internet at home as by the time I've managed to fight the kids off, I've forgotten why I wanted to use it in the first place.
Anyway, to stave off NCOTAASD withdrawal, I have been re-reading your book which I bought last Christmas.
This has done the trick as I had forgotten how good it was. I took it in to work today and left it on my desk so that my colleagues could start to appreciate the importance of tea during a sit down (the local preferance is for capucino from the coffee shop, or 'single shot Americano' which is a poncey name for black coffee).
Anyway, I just thought I'd mention an omission in your chapter concerning work based kitchens, this being the strategies employed to avoid conversation when you are trapped in the kitchen with someone you don't know or like particularly well.
My personal strategies are
- Pretend to be reading the notice board.
- Pick up a magazine from the table (if there are any). If you're lucky, there may be some cheap books for sale from a book club (fill out an order form and pay the girl on reception, that kind of thing).
- Walk out assertively as if you have something important to do and will be back when the kettle has boiled.
- Avoid making eye contact until the kettle has boiled and hope that someone else arrives in the meantime.
Perhaps you could post a survey?
|Nicey replies: Hello Keith,
Yet another excellent idea for a poll.
As a techie sort of bloke we could always pretend to be talking about something really dull by actually talking about something really dull, but obviously this requires you to go to the kettle in pairs.
Failing that a short rant about the lack of teaspoons / lack of mugs / unpleasant milk bottle etiquette / kettle etiquette etc will either drive off the interloper or engage them in conversation about an important topic. I say engage, but as you'll be ranting they'll not really get a word in, plus they may also give you a wide birth from there on in avoiding a reoccurrence of the problem.
||My Northern partner thought she didn't like custard - "disgusting custard" in a W Yorks accent - and sure enough, when I had apple pie and custard in Harrogate, it was a pale, watery concoction.|
She was converted by southern custard, Bird's, made from powder, but now, we're hooked on the stuff in cardboard bricks (Ambrosia) which cuts out the faffing around factor, and tastes not bad really.
Could there be a regional divide in custard, similar to the regional differences over "buns"?
|Nicey replies: That's a slice of my homemade Apple Pie and Custard of course. As for Ambrosia their parent company Premier foods according to press reports acquired the Birds custard brand from Kraft at the end of 2004 and promised to invest literally millions in the brand reviving it. However, last year there were stories about the brand being in crisis. On top of this the Custard Powder I bought in Asda only two weeks ago was still branded Kraft and is good till 2007. So all fairly mysterious as we look deeply into custard.|
Apparently classically trained French chefs refuse to acknowledge the existence of custard, and when pressed, tend to fall back on using the euphemism “crème anglais”. Maybe this is what Queenie calls it.
I once saw custard defined in a gastronomical dictionary as “a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook”.
Off to Romania next week to check out the tea and biscuits topology – do you have any recommendations for that part of the world?
Keep up the good work!
|Nicey replies: Nick,
We are largely clueless about Romania, so consider yourself on a bold journey of discovery. We had some Russian biscuits last year which were not ever so massed produced and sold loose in little plastic trays. They were the sort of thing that needed to eaten very fresh sort of like a semi sweet Viennese finger. Perhaps you'll find something like that?
||Dear Nicey and Wifey,|
Allow me first to congratulate you on your excellent book and indeed this entertaining and informative website. The subject of a nice cup of tea and the associated matter of a sit down have been long overdue for such careful consideration. However, such a national icon as tea drinking can hardly be mentioned without courting controversy, and it is with regard to the matter of tea-making that I right. Don't worry though - I am writing not in seethign indignation, but rather my e-mail is intended to promote scientific debate.
You mention in your splendid tome that it is is better to use pre-boiled water to make tea, rather than re-boiling already boiled water (a process which drives out dissolved oxygen). Now I had always understood that it was essential for the water to be at boiling point in order to activate the flaveroids, or whatever they are called, in the tea, thus ensuring a good tastey cuppa. My question to Nicey therefore (knowing you to be of a scientific bent) is which of these factors (boiling vs. dissolved oxygen) ahs the greater influence on the tastiness of the brew? I must confess that I tend towards the boiling water persuasion - after all, oxygen dissolves in water only with some difficulty, and how much will be present in the water after the first boil?
By the way, I never succeeded in making a good brew when I lived in Cumbria - the water was all wrong.
Keep up the good work!
C. Whiteley, E. Yorks.
|Nicey replies: Well I would switch quickly from a footing of raked together semi-scientific gossip to pure speculation, and say that the state of the water being boiled and re-boiled affects its taste, and therefore that of the tea.
I just checked with the tea council's website (which seems to have had a recent facelift) and they too go on about the oxygen being important, but don't say how it works.
||The Queen has never had Custard...|
My Dad (sadly, departed and much missed) was a master chef and cooked for the Queen (gawd bless 'er), Heads of State and the odd American President... His cookery books which are THE final word on cuisine have come into my hands. I've just checked - no custard. Well, except Baked Custard which is just the same as the classic baked custard tart but without the pastry case. There are variations on Creme and Creams which have the basis of classical custard (such as milk, eggs, sugar) but not one recipe for custard as we know it (a la mode de Messr. Bird, which is to say side dish to a pie, tart or some such).
All of which leads me to suggest, that the Queen (gawd bless 'er) has probably never known the gastronomic delights of Swiss roll and custard, Arctic Roll and Custard (a 70s thing I admit) and my favourite, ice cream and custard. I really think after a hard day's reigning her Majesty should have the culinary delights my Dad bestowed on his kids!!! Actually most of Queenie's pudding recipes are milky, eggy and cholesterol enhancing... In case you were wondering - one recognizable recipe for biscuits - the good old ginger nut (its an ethnic English food apparently, the next entry along is aniseed cake which is an ethnic Israeli biscuit by all accounts). All other biscuity recipes are petit fours and more like baked edible trays to carry buttercream and fruit/nut combos into the Royal gob.
|Nicey replies: Of course there is the possibility that the Queen demands lashings of proper Custard over all her puddings as a matter of course, and given that the instructions are on the side of the tin your Dad never felt the need to write them down.|