Monday, September 22, 2014

Biscuits and Butter Knife Etiquette

For last week's Art Appreciation Tea Party (which now has it's own tag!) I had several things I wanted to teach the boys. I also was really hoping to try watercress, but alas, it was not to be. At least my other plans worked out.

My intention has been to cycle through various different types of art forms, music, visual art forms, and poetry. This week was poetry, and I chose The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll. I have actually read this poem to the boys before, it that was some time ago, and I don't think they remembered. This is a silly poem, great for kids, and it has the built in lesson of "don't go on walks with strangers!" Though the boys were more into oysters should not trust walruses because they already knew that walruses love to eat oysters. I also wanted them to be exposed to this poem because the stanza:

"The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'"

has become a common saying and is referenced literature and other forms of media since it was written. I also printed out a picture from here so the boys would have something to look at while they were listening.

Also as part of their cultural education, for our tea I purchased and made an example of both American biscuits and English biscuits (what we call cookies.) I chose a shortbread and fruit cookie/biscuit that looked similar to what The Doctor used to fake a TARDIS self destruct button because I remembered that he called them Jammie Dodgers. (Google says that's a specific brand, like Oreo; oops.) I thought the kids would think that was a fun thing to say, so I told them that's what they were called. They thought it was funny that one word meant two different things in different countries. They wanted to know what the British word for American biscuits are. I had no idea, but looking it up online it seems that they don't really eat American biscuits across the pond, so they have no need for a word to describe it.

Since we were having American biscuits that required butter, I thought that this would be a good time to teach butter knife etiquette to the boys. I do not actually own a butter knife (why is it every tea party has shown me to be missing a necessary piece of culinary equipment?) but I do own a butter dish, and a separate table knife sufficed. Butter knife etiquette is something my Granny taught me, and I enjoyed passing that on knowledge. I'm not sure if it's actually a common thing, so I'm going to explain what I mean by "butter knife etiquette" and hope you will not think I am assuming my readers are ignoramuses.

As my Granny taught it, there should be a separate knife with the butter dish. You use this knife only to take a slice of butter and transfer it to your plate (NOT to your bread.) You then take your own knife and take the butter from your plate and spread it on your bread. This prevents any crumbs (or germs) from getting on the communal butter knife and being spread around.

Since it was our first co-op day, and I was very tired, and I was a little sick of Bisquick, I used Pillsbury refrigerated biscuit dough (so no recipe.) They did not turn out like the country biscuits I was expecting, but they did the trick of teaching the boys what American biscuits are.

Our tea sandwich this week was liverwurst. I was conflicted about this choice. On one hand, I have wanted to try liverwurst ever since reading The Cricket in Times Square. On the other hand, I have hated liver ever since I was a kid, and have refused to eat it as an adult. I figured, worst case scenario, we all tried it, hated it, but at least we could say we tried it; and it was only a few dollars. So I only made a few, small tea sandwiches. One for each with liverwurst, ranch, and chives, and one for each with liverwurst, chives, and Grey Poupon; all on white potato bread. To my surprise and delight, I loved it, and so did Builder Boy! Early Bird did not, but he did try it, which I was very proud of. (Principal Daddy when he tried it later that day did not care for it either.) Since that day Builder Boy and I have enjoyed various other combinations with liverwurst in sandwiches, and have declared liverwurst to be culinary gold.

A few thoughts on cutting tea sandwiches into circular shapes: I used plastic cookie cutters to make a bumpy circular shape. The sizes of cookie cutters that I had, only one circle could be made from a slice of bread. There was enough left over for the smaller cutter, so I got one medium and one small out of each slice of bread. But there was still enough leftover that if you don't use it to make stuffing (which I don't) or breadcrumbs, then it feels wasteful. (I was raised by a Great Depression survivor.) Also, with regular cookie cutters, you can only cut shapes out of the bread one slice of bread at a time. Which means you have to put everything on the bread after it has already been cut, and you don't get as nice an edge look as you do when you cut it into triangles. Perhaps if I had used a cardboard circle as a stencil and an knife to cut it out it would have looked nicer? Maybe I'll try that next week.

(Please forgive the lack of pictures. I lost my SD card! But as soon as I find it, I will update with the pictures I took.)

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