Under the Reign of Terror, as Mrs. Appleyard had come to regard Annie's last days with her, tea had become a function involving cups of warmish water containing bags full of a dark substance, which may have been tea as Annie alleged but on the other hand may have been shredded wheat ingeniously treated with tannic acid. With it Annie served sandwiches of Marvel Bread. This is a baked product so named because, according to Mrs. Appleyard, it's a marvel anyone thinks it's bread. Two slices of it put together are guaranteed to stifle the flavor of anything spread between them, so Mrs. Appleyard never really knew what it was. Perhaps she is mistaken in thinking it was pureed Grippit. It may have been parsnips -- only that was before Eunice.
At Mrs. Clinton's Annie had stepped back into the Old Regime. She had on a uniform of gray moire and an apron suitable for a marquise who had recently taken up serving tea as a pastime. Everything on the enormous silver tray she carried shone and twinkled and glistened. The tray must have been heavy but Annie neither panted nor uttered as she used to do at Mrs. Appleyard's when transporting anything heavier than a paper napkin. She paced into the room with a stately tread, set the tray down in the exact center of the gleaming tea table, lighted the alcohol lamp under the kettle, and made minute adjustments of the repousse teapot and cream pitcher.
Then she retreated and returned with a muffin stand. What is more, there were English muffins on it, toasted a golden brown and dripping with butter. There was marmalade made of tangerines. There were paper-thin watercress sandwiches. (Bread had been used in constructing them.) There were oatmeal lace cookies When Mrs. Appleyward last suggested that Annie should make them, she had lost the [recipe].
Mrs. Clinton betrayed no pleasure at this bounty.She merely remarked in a wistful tone, 'I thought you were going to make angel cake. I'm afraid Mr. Mayhew was counting on it.'
'I'm sorry, madam, they didn't get here in time with the eggs.' Annie's tone was all sweet humility.
'You must speak to them,' Mrs. Clinton said.
Annie agreed to do so. Mrs Appleyard felt that this was a promise that would be kept. They -- otherwise Bragg's market -- were undoubtedly in for a dose of thunder and lightning.
Jane Lyle came in to make the tea under rather less than the usual amount of side-line coaching from her employer. We often wonder on the Green what Mrs. Clinton would do if Jane didn't have malaria.
March 13, 2016
from '...With Kitchen Privileges' by Louise Andrews Kent
Noted under: Fiction