One of my favourite books of all time is the Number One Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith. Reading them is like returning to a favourite place. It is comforting, brings you back to yourself, restorative. There are a few things that readings these books makes me want to do, as I mentioned in a previous post, being in the African sunshine being one of them but also eating a fruit cake and drinking bush tea which is much easier to achieve!
In the books the Matron of the Orphanage Mma Potokwani always coerces people into helping her and the orphans by giving them fruit cake. The main character and chief detective, Mma Ramotswe, often goes to visit Mma Potokwani and has a slice of fruit cake, a cup of tea and a lengthy chat. In the books, and as I’ve experienced on my own visits to Africa, there is a lot of sitting on verandas, drinking tea and thinking about the world.
|The TV series of Number One Ladies Detective Agency|
As a tea drinking and cake baking nation, and the founders of afternoon tea, I like to think that we in England used to do this very well - but not so any more. There is so much rushing around and even social arrangement are scheduled into our diaries like appointments. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of the spontaneous visit but I’m always happy when someone pops round to my house and even more so when they settle in for a cup of tea, slice of cake and natter. I’d go so far as to say that work places would be much improved with the introduction of regular, sanctioned tea breaks. How much productivity is lost over little grievances bemoaned through lengthy email chains that could be sorted out through people getting to know each other over a cup of tea?
When I read the Number One books it reminds me of my desire to be someone who dwells over tea. Someone who has real conversations with people and nowhere to rush off to. The act of baking a fruit cake in itself causes you to slow down. The one I made on Monday was three hours in the baking and the cake itself is so rich and big that it will take many, many days of cups of tea and lengthy chats to get through. So my fruit cake, and the tales of Mma Ramotswe, are reminding me what I value most. The miraculous things that a good cake can do!
I made my cake using Kirstie Allsopp's recipe which you can find here.