Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cricket Tea, and the Joy of Cucumbers - Published in the South Shropshire Journal 26/7/13

Well, who would have thought it? Forget the ‘Jubilympics’ of soggy old 2012, this is what summertime is all about. At Wimbledon they lost not one day’s play to rain and then everyone’s favourite Briton (Andy is no longer just dour old Scottish) goes and wins it. And then the scorcher not only becomes more scorching, but England (not Britain) go and win the first test of the Ashes. Yes, this is how an English summer ought to be.

And of course, because it’s all getting a little bit too hot and we’re all getting a bit too jolly about it, everyone stars going, “It’s too ‘ot”. “I canner sleep”. “I dunner like it, my wife comes out in sweaty ‘ives.”

Do me a favour? Do you actually remember last so-called-summer?

Me, I’m jolly happy and have got three games of cricket under my belt in the last two weeks. This means three cricket teas, and when the sun is high and the livin’ is easy, there is no finer thing to eat than the cricket tea. You bat or you bowl, or you loiter around at fine leg or deep backward square making daisy chains, and you go in for tea. Any sport that is punctuated by food is pretty much tickety-boo in my book.

Cricket tea done well is a thing of splendour. Sandwiches, warmed gently in a musty pavilion that smells faintly of hymn book. Pork pies cut into dainty quarters, thick tea served in those funny green cups that smack of village hall, and weak orange squash. Cake too. Lots of. There must be a coffee one (made with Camp, if we’re being proper), and a Victoria sponge with so much icing sugar on top that it makes you sneeze even looking at it.

The great cricket tea sandwich, and probably the very best of all English sandwiches is The Cucumber. It is rarely seen these days, and even rarer made well, but I urge you – now while the mercury is still rising – to go and make one for yourself. A few non-negotiable rules: peel the cucumber, halve it horizontally, scrape the seeds out with a teaspoon, slice into half-moons no thicker than a pound coin, toss in a little salt and leave to drain in a sieve for twenty minutes. It’s worth it. The bread must be fresh from a proper bakers’ shop, and as soft and white as Boris Johnson. Take the crusts off, unsalted butter on both slices, a grind of pepper on the cucumber, and cut into the daintiest triangles.

To be fair, I’ve never encountered a really good cucumber sandwich at a cricket match, but I should like to. And this may just be that perfect summer when I do. 

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