Whilst this post will be about English Teacakes, my mind is pondering my Malayness. My brother, his wife and their two adult children have just returned from their second trip to London in under five days, the first trip saw them underestimating just how long Oxford Street is and despite its cult status, how tricky it is to find the right design of *Prada handbag (my sister-in-law has arrived here armed with a wad of cash and printouts of the desired handbags for visual aid).
So this next trip was supposed to be for them to do the London Eye (which was on the agenda for the first trip), do a little bit of shopping, hop on the London Open Top Tour Bus for a wee bit of rest & sandwiches while experiencing some essential sightseeing of London town, and then a little bit more sightseeing before catching a reasonably late train home.
They arrived home at around 21:15, tired and laden with shopping. Five hours worth of shopping. Dictated by the whims of their children. No sightseeing done. A crestfallen older brother who possibly will never see England again in his lifetime. Needless to say, I feel suitably pissed for him and the words spoilt, lil’ brats come to mind but in all honesty, this really isn’t my battle to fight.
We spent a reasonable amount of time highlighting the areas they really ought to visit in London – the London Eye, the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the myriad of free galleries and Museum. You would have thought, being a family of well educated individuals (scientist, teacher, architect and accountant) these would be of interest to them.
And it upsets me that this upsets me, if you see what I mean. Maybe I am just not Malay enough and maybe many, many Malaysians associate visiting England with endless shopping trips to Oxford Street and that noone back home really is interested in photos of sceneries but prefer to scour numerous photos of the inside of Clarks shoe shops and Nikewear outlets.
I’ve often felt apologetic of my lack of Malayness. Subconsciously, I’ve allowed myself to feel that I am a lesser parent for having failed to raise children who are religiously good enough, or can speak my Mother tongue, etc and so on and the self flagellation carries on. However, what this recent visit from my distant family has taught me is that I have mistaken decorum and upholding the status quo as being polite. In fact, I think my visiting family are probably nearer to understanding the inequity in practising (or in our case, not), a religion in different countries. Where in Malaysia the five prayer times for Muslims remain pretty much the same, in England currently, the Dawn prayer comes in at 3:30am and the last one of the day can only be performed after 22:30. Come the fasting month, practising Muslims in England will be commencing their fast at around 4am and only able to break it at about 10pm. Compare this to in Malaysia where the breaking of the fast would be at around 7pm pretty much the whole month long. I remember a dear friend commenting that it is easier to practise the religion in Malaysia than it is in England, and I couldn’t at that time help but wonder about a religion that varies in its ease of application depending on the geographical location of its followers.
And I keep coming to this point in blogsphere where there are things I want to say about (forever) raising children vs. raising individuals who adapts to their changing roles and personal needs, but I don’t and I end up saying something else instead, because I struggle to formulate what I think into words that will not offend or appear to be culturally intolerant.
Plus I do not ever want to come across as preaching or trying to advocate one way of parenting, with full knowledge that some might consider what I say having more clout because I have seven children, parenting for 15 years and have been home educating for 8 years. Which is not true as I am often clueless and ashamed to admit, desperate.
And this is when talking about making English Teacakes and the plight for reviving traditional English baking come in handy. I need not share with you that I enjoy baking and whilst I revel in embarking on baking projects which involve numerous processes and precision, nothing beats making soul-nurturing yeasty buns. This English teacakes recipe is from Dan Lepard’s Guardian collection and I have to say, it is a pretty foolproof recipe. It is rather heavy on the mixed peel but I really do love mixed peel. You might find that the mixed peel reminds you too much of hot cross buns and for this reason only perhaps the mixed peel should be omitted. Instead of glazing the teacakes with egg, opted to warm up some bog standard apricot jam with some boiling water and brushed it lavishly on the Teacakes after they were finished baking.
These were undeniably delicious. Discerning in its flavours and doesn’t pussyfoot round in trying to blend in as any ordinary buns. They toasted beautifully.
*Addendum: I curtailed the writing of this post for long enough to catch up with my brother and his family after they had finished their supper. After a long trek to Bond Street, they found the mythical Prada handbag, only to be enlightened that it was actually made by Louis Vitton.