The very first day I spent in England, I threw my suitcase onto the stained mattress of the YMCA bed where I would lay my head for the next few months and looked around for a place to eat.
At a local pub, I ordered a ‘vegetarian fry up’ and was served a very tasty buttery egg, beans, and a strange, wrinkled stewed tomato. I opened up the Sunday edition of the Independent, which I had bought to entertain myself while I read.
On the front of the newspaper's magazine section there was a picture of a scantily-clad redhead in a pale white undershirt and boy shorts. I thought little of it until I skimmed the article within: it was about Charlie Dimmock, a British woman who had a gardening show and had a huge following because of the fact she knew so much about plants and wore no bra while stomping about mulching roses.
The idea that the British could find soil fertilization and composting ‘hawt’ was a rude awakening about how much I needed to learn to culturally acclimate to the nation.
Although I still find the naughty garden show idea too foreign to fully comprehend, I did develop a fondness for many other British institutions, including good curry, cheap classical theater and flapjacks.
Another British passion that continued to elude me, however, was tea. Even as a child, I would have play tea parties with cocoa and Ovaltine, rather than the nasty stuff that came in Lipton bags. I began drinking real coffee at fourteen. I couldn’t fathom how, despite the penetration of Starbucks into the English Midlands, my British friends would have cupboards full of different sorts of tea and a tiny little container of Nescafe for friends who wanted ‘coffee.’
Anyway, although I haven’t developed an appreciation even for good tea, despite the admitted beauty of teacups and a love of Alice in Wonderland, I have to say that this version of the British oat cookie known as the flapjack is one of my favorites, and it uses all of the classic flavors of tea with great panache—ginger, lemon, and sugar. It would be lovely to serve at a tea party or a garden party, now that the weather is breaking in the Northeast, and spring is on the horizon. But sorry Charlie, I’m keeping my darling buds of May (to quote the Bard) carefully fenced in.
2 cups of quick rolled oats
1 /4 cup diced candied ginger
1 /2 cup golden raisins
1 pinch salt
1 stick (1/ 2 cup) of Earth Balance (or butter, for a non-vegan version)
1 /2 cup brown sugar
The juice of one lemon
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 round or square pan with parchment
- Sift the oats, raisins, ginger and salt in a bowl
- Melt the butter, syrup, sugar, and lemon juice together. Stir in the oat mixture. Remove from the heat.
- Pour and smooth into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes until just bubbling. Remove from the oven. Cool for approximately one half hour. When the mixture is still warm, score into 8-12 servings. Cut when hardened.