There’s no one more excited about the recent birth of a son to Prince William and Princess Kate than members of the local British Wives Club.
The prince of Cambridge, George Alexander Louis, was born on July 22, but this local group already had been celebrating for weeks.
“I’m excited my dream came true,” says Shanette Crume, a member of the group. “Although I was rooting for a girl, I also had a dream the night before our baby shower that she had a boy.”
Her organization, which began in the 1960s as a companion/support group for women whose husbands were stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, has been looking forward to the special event for months and hosted a baby shower on July 6 to celebrate the birth.
“We were delighted to donate all the gifts and provide a cash donation to the Good Neighbor House in Dayton for their layette program,” said Crume, a spokesperson for the group. “We also sent a card and a letter to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to let them know about the event.”
Crume says the food table at the shower looked wonderful with a silver tea service and a small Baby Shower cake greeting the royal prince or princess. The menu for the festive day included Cucumber and Cream Cheese sandwiches, Jam Sandwiches, Marmite Sandwiches, Chopped Ham Open Face Sandwiches, Stuffed Fresh Tomatoes with a Creamed Cheddar Cheese and Rosemary filling, English biscuits, Spotted Dick pudding, Fruit Salad and Trifle.
We chatted with Crume about her organization and the ways in which they bond through their English cooking.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the British Wives Club?
A: The women in the group had married airmen who were American. Presently the group consists of about 19 women, including three daughters who grew up in the group. We meet on a monthly basis.
Over the years, the group has planned events and getaways together with visits to Las Vegas and Chicago. Now we stay closer to home and take day trips from Dayton.
Q: What part does food play in your get-togethers?
A: Food is a central part of our group since having “a cuppa” is a commonality amongst British people. When we gather at each other’s houses, we usually offer a variety of British traditional dishes as well as occasional variations from our American assimilated heritage.
We always have cups of English tea — brewed and steeped correctly — although we generally use tea bags instead of the loose tea that we grew up with. Cucumber sandwiches, Trifle, Fairy cakes, Biscuits, and Crusty Cheese or Ham Rolls are some of the favorites.
Q: Why is food a way to preserve cultural traditions and heritage and why is it important?
A: Over tea we may reminisce our childhood memories, discuss upcoming trips back to England or Scotland and impressions of how things are now there compared to “when.” We also discuss whatever is relevant in our lives, typical of any other companion group. Occasionally we have themes such as games, hats or charity auctions.
Q: What kinds of foods are typically English?
A: English/Scottish food is no longer the overcooked versions that it developed a reputation for. However, on reflection, there are many items that have high carbohydrates. I think that is because the weather is so typically rainy and chilly, even in summer that we eat “warming foods” to keep out the chill. Sandwiches come in all varieties and are probably one of the most popular foods: Jam, Marmite, Ham, Cheese, Cucumber, Beetroot, Crabmeat, Tinned Corned Beef, Spam, Banana.
Many of these sandwiches are spread with butter before the main ingredient. Today this is one of the main ingredients I no longer include, except for Jam and Marmite. Biscuits are typically offered with a cup of tea, usually a plain type like Rich Tea, Digestive or Ginger Snap.
Baked Beans on Toast is a common favorite of English folk. In fact I remember a lot of things that would go on toast, including tomatoes, kidneys, kippers and Welsh Rarebit!. The toast is always buttered before the cooked beans are placed on top. Beans have no ham. This meal is eaten at any time of the day.
Q: What about holiday cooking?
A: At Christmas the tradition is to make a steamed, very fruity pudding with raisins, sultanas, dried fruit mixture, golden syrup, treacle, sugar, flour and fat and rum or brandy. This acts as a preservative. This is Christmas Pudding. (Not the custard type Americans are familiar with).
At the table, a little extra brandy or rum is poured on the pudding and then a match lights it up for an extra touch. Children will search for “silver sixpences” in their pudding as they eat it, with hot runny vanilla custard, made from scratch. I think today those pieces might be silver 10 pieces or more.
Christmas cake is also baked along these same lines with lots of treacle and extra fruit. A thick layer of marzipan covers all of the cake and then white decorative, hard icing is placed over the marzipan. The cake was frequently begun in October, with brandy added to preserve it. A week or so later, marzipan would be added. Icing after that. It would be packaged up until the big day.
Q: What kinds of foods do you cook at home and how does your menu differ from a typical American menu?
A: I cook a variety of vegetarian versions of American food along with some traditional English meals. I also make a few favorites from my childhood since I was raised a vegetarian that are now considered part of our family heritage.
Q: What else do you love about cooking?
A: I love experimenting with food and enjoy having people get together. Americans are good for using any excuse for a party and I love that idea.
English people get together over a “nice cup of tea,” which is frequently more intimate and relaxed. Combining food and friendship. What better way to enjoy each other?
SPOTLIGHTING GOOD COOKS THROUGHOUT OUR REGION
In this new weekly food feature, Life reporter Meredith Moss chats with folks throughout Southwest Ohio who have a passion for cooking. These heartwarming stories focus on food, family and advice and/or recipes to share with cooks everywhere.
If you know of a terrific cook who we could feature — either amateur or professional — please send your suggestion to Meredith Moss: MMoss@coxohio.com and include a daytime phone number.
BRITISH COOKING TIPS
“I hope these secrets will help ensure many more will enjoy being British for a day!” said Shanette Crume of the British Wives Club. Here’s Shanett’s advice for making two English staples: tea and cucumber sandwiches.
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD CUP OF TEA
- First, start with a good quality English tea like PG Tips or Typhoo. They can be found in the British section of grocery stores, or general aisles.
- Use cold fresh water, preferably unchlorinated and boil until it is bubbling. Use a kettle, or an electric kettle if you have one.
- Pour boiling hot water over a tea bag, or into a tea pot that has been warmed with boiling water first. Generally if using a pot, use one tea bag for each cup and one for the pot.
- I find three tea bags are enough, but you have to find your preference. Let the teapot “steep” for about three minutes. Any longer and it becomes bitter.
- You can pour a small 2 ounces of milk into cups first, or wait until you have poured the tea to add the milk according to your preference. Traditionally one adds milk to the cups before adding tea. Milk with some fat in it, such as 1 percent is best.
- Cut off the crusts of soft bread, white or wheat.
- Cut an English cucumber into thin slices (wash it and keep the skin on), and pour 3-4 capfuls of cider or malt vinegar and let marinate for half an hour.
- Spread soft cream cheese on each piece of bread.
- Drain off the vinegar and arrange the cucumber on one piece of bread. Cover with the second piece and cut in a triangle.
- If you are making these sandwiches ahead of time be careful to limit the vinegar so the sandwiches don’t become soggy.