Dallas Does Cream Tea? Bad Mistake, Dallas.

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Kiernan Maletsky
Look at that. It is FILTHY.
Cream Tea. It's very important to British people. That's why I capitalized each of the two delightful words that make it up. It's also extremely straightforward. Upon possession of English Breakfast Tea (which we just call "tea") and acquisition of a scone (I'm not sure what level I need to be describing this to you, really, but it's like a sweeter "biscuit"), one opens one's scone, and applies FIRST strawberry jam (or "preserve" or "jelly," if you really must), THEN clotted cream.

I've managed to cover this entire concept in one sentence. Admittedly, the sentence contained an unnecessary amount of brackets, but those brackets were for the benefit of an American audience. A cream tea doesn't need explaining to British people. It's just what happens. Also, they get pretty upset when it's not right, as the four pages of comments on this article will attest.

It would appear that some places in Dallas offer special cream teas, for which one must book in advance, allowing the eatery to drum up the required amount of posh. Obviously, this being Texas for goodness' sakes, they are bound to get all manner of things wildly incorrect, and so here we are. It's the opposite of my usual barbecue gig. I am going to go around Dallas and express my outrage at egregious breaches of social norms perpetrated via the medium of self-creamed pastries and leaf-infused water. My quest is as noble as the proud British scone. I will be accompanied by my wife, who, when I asked her for comment on how dearly she holds the cream tea, said

"We welcome diversity in our communities; our schools and our cities and our cuisine are far richer for it, but if anyone should try to 'modernize' the cream tea, we will fucking break their legs."

She's a darling. Our first brave contestant is Maudee's on Lover's Lane. First appearances are very positive. A big wooden door, somewhat out of place among the strip malls of Lover's, gives way to a very quiet, very cultured dining room with scenic paintings and china teapots strewn around. Perfect. I was fearing some sort of relatively bare dining room with ghastly music, populated with either oiks or rapscallions. One cannot consume a cream tea surrounded by excessive noise or post-1900s décor. You might as well ask me to speak a second language. Obviously, our token American is late to join us, failing to understand the importance of punctuality. The server sees that we only have three of four people, and, in a pleasingly British manner, refuses to serve us until said American joins us. We all feign good humor while dying a little inside.

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Gavin Cleaver
English Breakfast Tea, or just "tea".

When Token American Kiernan finally does arrive, our server simply assumes we all want English Breakfast Tea, among all the bizarre and frankly illogical choices available to us, and brings that. This is a good move on his part. He is doing well. The tea is not perfect, but it is better than not having tea, I suppose. Then, the obligatory tower of cakes, and two glaring mistakes become clear. First, above the acceptable-quality scones, there appears to be a layer of muffins. Muffins have about as much to do with cream teas as I do with the ideals of the Insane Clown Posse. Second, and far worse, next to the expected containers of strawberry preserve and clotted cream, some rogue element appears to have placed lemon curd. Lemon curd? What is this absolute insanity? What aspect of my cream tea necessitates the presence of lemon curd? Are you seriously suggesting I put it on my scone? With what? Cream? This is an outrage.

Once we have all calmed down, except Kiernan, who is confused at our horror, we continue (on the proviso that no one touches, acknowledges, or looks at the lemon curd) and, after the blessed ritual of applying the jam to the scone and the cream to the jam-scone, it is apparent that really, this cream tea isn't bad at all. It's a pretty good effort. We have the holy trinity of tea, cream and jam (obviously there is a scone, but if anyone manages to fuck that up then really, I give up), our surroundings are pleasant, our service polite and unfussy, the conversation brisk but not over-familiar. Wonderful.

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Gavin Cleaver
Eee, this were right posh, this were.

There is still time for it to all go tits up, though (you're welcome to that phrase, it's magnificent). Upon requesting the teapot is refilled, we are brought a pot that contains what appears to be raspberry tea. Raspberry tea. I have never even considered such a thing might exist. Fury building within me, it takes me several attempts to politely attract the attention of the server, before our American on the scene strides into the back with the teapot, as we have all spent the last few minutes spluttering and threatening to phone the Queen. He is useful for something.

Nevertheless, this is a break with protocol so grave that, if this were Britain, the gallows would be too good. Our server, who is very sorry, tries to make it up to us with pink fairy cakes, a garish gesture that simply compounds the error in a shade of bright pink so at odds with the rest of the dining room, we may as well have been served a flaming torch draped in a bright American flag.

Maudee's -- seven raised pinkies out of 10. Atmosphere very good, cream tea itself very good, but some frankly outrageous breaches of common decency, and a couple of baffling accompanying choices. Some tweaks would make it perfect.

Apparently next week, someone is going to try to serve me mascarpone instead of clotted cream. May God have mercy on all of our souls.

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56 comments
joeomahoney
joeomahoney

this is brilliant. I'm Cornish so I'm perfectly happy with the cream - jam arrangement,  but am surprised you take so against the Devonshire method. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I've got to imagine trying to find a proper Cream Tea in Dallas is akin to trying to find a properly smoked brisket in Blackpool.

J_A_
J_A_

This is so confusing and my juvenile mind can't stop thinking this entire article is super perverted.

beda50
beda50

I want to go with you on your next tea time!!

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

I have a wonderful memory of us having "Cream Tea" in the countryside of Devon one lovely summer's day many years ago.

Ahhh, it was so delightful and relaxing, my blood pressure actually returned to normal.

Then, back to London and, $%@*((#*!!! Grr. 

Mervis
Mervis

OK, the cream is in the scone and not in the tea. Why is it called cream tea?

JaimesonPaul
JaimesonPaul

Gavin has been trying to describe this to me for like a month and even with this article I still have no idea what the hell is going on.


I'll stick with my three T's Tequila, Tecate and Tacos

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Gavin, speaking of accents.  Onslow, on Keeping Up Appearances.  What is his accent?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

how about an Englishman in mexican food? this just doesnt seem to be as funny as your bbq bit.  Maybe its not supposed to be, and if that is the case, well fuck me

ooberla
ooberla

I always put the cream on first. And I have Earl Grey. With milk. I'M SO SORRY.

rachael.elward
rachael.elward

I LOVE cream tea! 

Dear Americans: Please don't drink English Breakfast tea from Liptons or from Tazo teas! They're awful. You can get PG tips, Tetley British Blend or Typhoo in lots of supermarkets - get those instead. Have it with milk (not cream and certainly not 'creamer') and sugar, if you like, to taste. <3 

I would disagree that you need to be in "post-1900s décor", you can get a perfectly good cream tea in TESCO cafe, all you really need is a reasonable quality strawberry jam, clotted cream, fresh scones and some decent English Breakfast tea served from a pot. You do, however, have to be sitting at a table. One cannot have a Cream Tea at a drive thu. 

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@TheCredibleHulk I would definitely read a blog about that, though. Imagine BBQ Snob in Blackpool. The title of the blog would be "NO."

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@Mervis I think, in this sense, tea means "lunch", which happens sometimes in the UK.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Classic Brummie (Birmingham) accent. Second biggest city in England, very nearby to Leamington Spa, "rich" history of industrialism.

Daniel
Daniel

@ScottsMerkin 

It was funny. I actually laughed audibly when he nearly phoned the Queen. He would pretty much have to, in order to register his complaint; to Yankee ears, Brits expressing displeasure or even outrage sound like they're merely mildly enjoining one to read between some kind of lines that aren't exactly clear, at all. What lines, man? Give me a clue here. 

Must be because they drink tea instead of coffee, or possibly because they don't say telltale phrases like "I didn't order this garbage, take it back," "Now you listen here and you listen good God damn it," "Total tea-time fail: you prick," "Go get your boss, numb-nuts," etc. Instead they say something circumspect like, [frostily] "I'd like to make it known that we're not [slightly pregnant pause] happy. [longer pause; shift to slightly more amiable tone] Tea time is precious to all Englishmen; a kind of social glue, a collective nostalgia and an altogether civilized repast. I should say it would be a shame were that sullied. Understood, are we then?" Um, no. Not really. Are you trying to say I'm some kind of numb-nuts or something?   

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

@ScottsMerkin I see what you're saying. Apples and oranges though - comedy about something I don't know about but the audience does and comedy about something I know about and the audience doesn't are bound to be different. BBQ will continue apace, anyway, and no doubt other classic American stapleswill be added as we see fit

rachael.elward
rachael.elward

@ooberla This is, apparently, the Devonian method, rather than the Cornish method. The Cornish method has two advantages in my eyes
1. Spooning cream onto jam is easier than trying to get a good coating of jam onto the cream. When spreading jam over cream it can get mixed together and is less appealing. It is possible to put a spoonful of jam on the middle of the clotted cream, but then it won't be evenly spread around the scone. 
2. I like to put a mountain of cream onto the scone, applying the cream last makes sure that physics are the limiting factor. I spread a base of jam first, and then pile cream on until the scone can't take any more. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Lemon in tea is one thing that's always mystified me.  Even in iced tea.

beda50
beda50

@cleaver.gavin @beda50 I'm 85% finished with William Manchester's third volume on Winston Churchill.  Does that score me any points?

Mervis
Mervis

OK, makes sense.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Love it.  Can I tax you for one more?  Mrs. Slocombe used to jump from one accent (posh) to another (sounded a bit Yorky).

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@rachael.elward Further to my post way above, when we were in Devon enjoying our cream tea, I distinctly remember putting the (home made) strawberry jam on the (home made) scone first and then, (liberally), applying the clotted cream. 

That sort of disputes the difference between the Cornish/Devon methods of what to apply  first on the scone. 

I guarantee you can't go wrong either way. Your tummy will smile at you 


ooberla
ooberla

@cleaver.gavin It's like a sort of butter substitute, because clotted cream is so thick. Apparently it differs depending on whether you're having a Cornish Cream tea or a Devonshire Cream Tea. To be fair I haven't had one in years and now I want EITHER ONE IMMEDIATELY.

rachael.elward
rachael.elward

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I've never even tried it and I don't know any British people that do, although presumably some exist. The Captain in the movie 'Titanic' took his tea with lemon, but I think that was just symbolism. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

She's fabulous.  The Yorky always came out when she was ticked off.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Strangely enough, she sounded a lot like my grandmother, who was a miner's daughter in Yorkshire and loved a cream tea and in general a good posh fuss. Some people try to alter their accents to BBC-style Received Pronunciation (RP) but vestiges of their regional accents remain.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Well, I think if you met me in the flesh you'd absolutely adore me.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

You're just parroting the DO editor.  I never said I hate it here or that I'm miserable here.  I have strong opinions about everything, some good, some bad, which makes for a lively comment board.  You Texans are so thin-skinned, you wouldn't last a week in New York!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz nope, your comments are sometimes funny, sometime ridiculous and sometimes asinine, and you know, you could still comment from NY here.  just dont understand whats keeps people in general in a place they so obviously hate or are disgusted by

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Born and raised.  Park Slope.  But now I live (sigh) in Dallas.

rachael.elward
rachael.elward

@Twinwillow yes, I think that there's a lot of people in Devon and Cornwall who dispute this distinction in methods. People mostly just do it however they like,. If you ask me, both methods are great, but the Cornish one is more sensible. 

Mervis
Mervis

Boopa's in North Ft. Worth for best bagel around here.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I, personally, am in desperate need of a real bagel.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@rachael.elward @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz While growing up, I was always abhorred by the thought of adding milk to tea. However, after spending much time in England and being asked, "lemon or milk" when ordering tea, I decided to try my tea with milk and much to my surprise, I actually preferred having milk in my tea rather than lemon.

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