Wednesday afternoon’s High Tea at the Crowne Plaza may very well be the only festival session where the audience feels it has just as much to contribute in the way of expertise and advice as the panel does.
Hosted very ably by Lauraine Jacobs, and featuring Tui Flower, Julie Biuso and Julie Le Clerc, it was a wonderful session of foodie talk, childhood memories and discussion of the future of home baking in New Zealand, all presented over tables laden with scones, club sandwiches, savouries, and a delicious louise cake. Oh, and four different types of tea.
After the initial introductions, Tui was quick to set us straight – what we were enjoying was actually Afternoon Tea, and NOT High Tea, a completely different meal. Memories of old-fashioned social events were shared, as well as a request to think kindly of those amazing women of the past who produced delicious baking and treats for their families, often on coal ranges, with no modern appliances and nowhere near the range of ingredients available today.
Julie B recalled Baking Day (Tuesdays and Thursdays) as being the best days of the week. I thought she also said that Monday was Sheep Washing Day, but looking back at my notes, I now wonder if she may have actually said Sheet Washing, an entirely different activity. If anyone out there can clarify this, I would be eternally grateful!
Julie L talked about how baking and food are a fabulous way to build relationships, mentioning childhood neighbours from Croatia being taught English by her mother through the sharing of food and recipes. There was much talk of love, and warmth, and family, and how those who bake do it for the love of those they are baking for.
When talk turned to the future, mention was made of a new trend in the US for guests to arrive bearing boxed cookies instead of a bottle of wine; and Lauraine said she thought that playgroups and bookclubs were possibly the heirs to the ‘afternoon tea’ social scene of decades gone by. Scones were declared to be the new muffins, and tips given on how to inspire your children to learn to bake, with Tui commenting, “The only way to learn to bake is to bake”, and Julie B adding, “Yes, and you have to be able to say, To hell with the mess”.
When the floor was opened up to discussion, many of the audience waded in with their opinions on everything from pectin-sugar to sticky meringues, and as I rolled out the door, replete with cucumber and salmon sandwiches, fierce and animated (and warm) debate was still going on in every corner of the room.