Saturday, 21 January 2012

Celebrating Diversity: Cream Tea for Two

I have spent the last few days making a 20 cm square for a Contemporary Quilt challenge on the topic of Celebrating Diversity.  The theme is Britishness/British culture.  There are a lot of stereotypes of Britishness as I well know from my time as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language forty years ago.  In those days the textbooks used to be illustrated with pictures of men wearing bowler hats, people carrying umbrellas and activities such as cricket matches.  Things have changed a great deal since then.  I started by trying to think of something that would reflect the multi-cultural nature of modern Britain but it was difficult to come up with something that I could (a) draw as a recognizable object and (b) then construct in fabric and thread.  I am not a figurative quilter so making 'real objects' is quite a challenge.

In the end I turned to British food and the diversity of regional cuisine.  From the number of food programmes on TV you would think that eating is the major preoccupation of most of the population but I was looking for something that was typical of the West Country and particularly of Cornwall.  That pointed to Cornish pasties, (boring shapes), crab (difficult to draw on a small scale) and fish, and cauliflowers.  Or cream teas which is what I settled on in the end.

Cream teas are a traditional part of West Country cooking although they vary between different counties.  The essential ingredient is clotted cream.  This is a particularly thick rich cream which has been made by farmers in Cornwall and Devon for hundreds of years.  My square depicts a Cornish cream tea.

You know this because the cream is on top of the jam.  In Devon the cream goes onto the scone first and then the jam.

Visitors to Cornwall always want to have a cream tea and a pasty as part of the holiday experience.  They often ask us locals if we can recommend a particular place but I have to confess that we gave up eating them years ago as we find them too rich!  Traditionally you were served two scones, homemade jam and cream along with tea.  Of course these days things are often commercialised.  In the season (Easter to September) you will find many farmers doing cream teas but sometimes the scones will have been bought from a shop or the jam is obviously factory made.  This is why people ask for recommendations.

One thing that doesn't change though and which I have tried to represent here, is the crockery.  Frequently it is made up of mismatching cups, saucers and plates in flowery and other traditional designs of the kind you would find in a charity shop or a car boot sale.  Another problem from August on can be having to share your tea with wasps especially if you are eating in someone's garden or at the beach.  I was going to put two wasps on the square but decided that it would look rather over-crowded so you will have to imagine them.  For those of you who are quilters the 'jam' is made from recycled suffolk puffs.  When I was putting away the Christmas decorations I found a sample of Suffolk puffs that I made as part of my City and Guilds course.  I decided that as they had been sitting in a box for nearly fifteen years they could have a new use.  As I had not sewn them to a backing it was quite a simple task to detach the smallest ones although looking at them now, I wonder how I ever managed to make such small ones.  The 'cream' is thick thread crunched up.

Now that I have finished this square I am going to start working on my Journal Quilts.  After a year off I decided I missed not having any goals and deadlines so I have enrolled for 2012.  I also plan to make them on my new Bernina 350PE which I have just bought, really as a second machine that I can keep in the house and because my Artista is now twelve years old and very heavy.  More on this later.