Heinz Baked Beans on toasted Hovis bread spread with butter, topped with grated Cheddar cheese. It was a Sunday tea of contentment, a Sunday tea that might have been eaten at any time in the past fifty years.
Baked beans were once frowned upon (perhaps they still are), but it seems that they can now be counted as one of the five portions of vegetables that we are expected to eat during the course of the day. Had I known they were so healthy, Heinz might have received much more business over the intervening years.
Sunday teatime was always an odd time, it could be a feast or a famine.
A friend once told me of going to tea on a Sunday with a friend who was daughter of the local clergyman. It was the 1950s and the fare at the rectory was very frugal. The girls sat down at the table with the rector and his wife and two other daughters. There was bread and butter to eat and tea to drink. The only exception was the clergyman himself, who was served a boiled egg as he had to go out to take the evening service.
A scant amount of food on the table seemed a common experience among clergy families. Another friend told me of her mother keeping a careful account of the household expenditure in a book in the kitchen. Frequently, the letters “SPG” appeared in the columns. Years later, the friend asked her mother why they had been so generous to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel when there was so little to eat. Her mother was baffled and when reminded of the letters said that often she couldn’t remember where the shillings had gone so wrote SPG for, “something, probably grub.”
In our house, Sunday teatime tended to be a time for more rather than less. The “grazing” that now seems commonplace would never have been allowed, tea would have been eaten at the table. There would often be sandwiches made with the cold meat from the Sunday dinner. More often than not, it was chicken, but repetition never detracted from the flavour. Sunday was also the day when there might be cake at teatime. There were slabs of fruit cake, dense filled with dried fruits and cherries, sometimes with almonds on top. Such luxury could not have been afforded every day, but Sunday teatime was different.