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Dark Puss

A tappit-hen is a pewter quart measure of ale or claret.

Thus a not uncommon pub name in Scotland too! Until recently there was one in London (Covent Garden) but it has closed now.

Mr Cornflower

Interesting reflection on changing customs and different local practices. Scots and northern English boys who were used to this delicious but rather filling food at some point in the late afternoon, found when they came south to university that they were uncomfortably full a mere two hours later when they sat down to roast beef and beer in hall. The rational thing of course would be to have high tea then something very light late in the evening.

Cornflower

The author notes that tea in England "seems to have been a much simpler affair. In the early nineteenth century, 'In the vera best houses,' writes Mrs. Pringle from London to her friend, Miss Nancy Eydent, in Ayrshire, 'what I principally notised was, that the tea and coffee is not made by the lady of the house, but out of the room, and brought in without sugar or milk or servers, everyone helping himself, and only plain, flimsy loaf bread and butter is served - no such thing as short-bread, seed-cake, bun, marmlet or jeely to be seen, which is an okonomical plan, and well worthy of adoption in ginteel families with narrow incomes, in Irvine or elsewhere.'"

Dancing Beastie

What delicious descriptions of my favourite meal of the day. Interesting to read your addenda too: I had never appreciated that a good tea was a particularly 'north British' tradition. I have very fond memories of tea at the home of an old lady whom we knew when I was a little girl: wee sandwiches, thickly buttered drop scones, ginger cake. It was always the same, carefully served in the drawing room. I adored going to visit her (not just for the tea) and the taste of sticky ginger cake still takes me back there.

Barbara

This lovely description sounds like a scene from an O Douglas novel. Her characters take tea very seriously.

B R Wombat

Well, I've learnt something. I always thought a tappit-hen was one of those china hens for keeping eggs in (which somehow suits the image of the big brown teapot) but I'm totally wrong and have been wrong all these years. Goodness me!

Cornflower

I have yet to read any O Douglas, but she sounds very appealing.

Cornflower

The china hen sounds entirely reasonable to me! It's a fascinating book because there's so much on traditions and 'lore' in it as well as recipes, so I'm learning a lot.

Cornflower

Lovely!

Dark Puss

Dear Wombat, while I think you are wrong in ascribing tappit-hen to a piece of china, the word does refer to a hen with a crest or top-knot as well as the pewter tankard measure. Now the question is why the second meaning? Is it a lidded tankard with an unusually large knob on the lid? Here I found an example of one, plus a quote from Scott. Here you can see, and buy, a modern example.

Mystica

Cosy, mouthwatering and so descriptive of everything nice.

B R Wombat

Dear Dark Puss, thank you for your researches. I particularly like the Walter Scott story. The strange thing is, I remember the Tappit Hen shop from the 60s - on trips to Edinburgh my mother and I would visit it, and presumably found no china hens yet I was convinced that that was what a tappit hen was and indeed longed to own one! The other strange thing is that we had an actual tappit hen in the house. We had a pewter tankard with a hinged lid which was only ever an ornament and never called by its correct name. As you can see, my world is spinning at the moment! I may have to lie down to get over it.

Margaret Powling

Afternoon tea or even high tea is my very favourite meal of the day! Whether under the shade of a tree in our garden with cucumber sandwiches, that very English of sandwiches, and lemon sponge with Earl Grey or home-made lemonade, or by the fireside with crupets, anchovy toast and rich fruit cake, it's one of life's culinary joys.

Barbara T

This past week has been very trying; when I opened Cornflower this morning, the excerpt you had posted helped to melt away the stress. And "tappit-hen" - I am an American who was married in Edinburgh eleven years ago. We had purchased a plain band before we departed, but my (future) husband spotted a ring with gaelic script in the window of the Tappit-Hen on High Street, and that became my wedding ring.

Darlene

Oh that is beautiful. Off for a cuppa...

Cornflower

Barbara, I'm glad we've been able to bring a little cheer to your day, and how lovely that Edinburgh has such associations for you!

Cornflower

You're making me hungry, Margaret ....

Colleen (Books in the City)

My Scottish grandmother and father (he was a baker in Scotland) make amazing Scottish shortbread. Such a simple biscuit but so indulgent. It (along with a good cup of tea) always brings back lovely memories for me!

Cornflower

You can't beat good shortbread!

Trudie

I was looking forward to summer real bad, but this makes me love the grey winter days... So right, a cup of tea with toast on a cold day. Lovely.

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.

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