Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Let’s Have Another Cup O’ Coffee

Just around the corner,
There’s a rainbow in the sky.
So let’s have another cup o’coffee,
And let’s have another piece o’pie.

Irving Berlin 1932

A photograph of a Danish politician, Lisbet Hindsgaul (1890-1969), being served coffee from a silver pot, is the prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday. Presumably she is also having some Danish Pastries. The last time I was served coffee from such a well-polished pot was when my husband was in the RAF and after dinner coffee would be served to the officers and ladies by Mess Stewards. At less formal functions we helped ourselves from the side tables. This reminds me of the time my husband volunteered to get me a coffee after one such Mess 'Dining In'. I asked for cream, but what I got was mayonnaise! Well, it was a little dark in there and the cream and the mayo were in identical silver sauce boats. I took my coffee black for a long time after this traumatic event.
I recently relieved my parents of several 35mm transparencies, which we have been busy scanning for posterity. A few days ago I came upon this scene.

It was taken in the back garden of our old family home in approximately 1973. I am able to date it reasonably accurately due to the presence on the tray of my very own coffee pot, which was a 21st birthday present from a friend. It was actually a Russell Hobbs coffee percolator, and was still making perfectly acceptable coffee in recent times. I was always a coffee lover and I remember choosing this ’Sherwood Green’ colour because I thought it would go with any coffee service I eventually managed to own. The ceramics were by Wedgewood which probably accounts for its longevity.

That’s me with my back to the camera, wearing a lovely 70s dress, hand-knitted by my mother. She is seated on the grass giving the dog a tidbit. The other lady is a friend of my parents, known as ‘aunty’ Gretel who was one of two German platonic aunts whom I acquired. She was a lover of ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’, a tradition in Germany and Austria, which usually takes place around 4.00 o’clock in the afternoon, unlike the British tradition of ‘Elevenses’ which is a break during the morning routine. Mum had obviously baked at least two varieties of cake in honour of her visit. They look like slices of fruit loaf and possibly a cheesecake. The sugar is in a rather ornate glass bowl and the cream in a crystal glass jug. The little green tube was the artificial sweeteners - after all we don’t want to get fat do we? It’s a strange photograph, taken from an odd perspective (presumably by my Father) and I can’t find any other shots taken on the same day. I am grateful though for this one, because it re-awakens memories of that wonderful coffee percolator, which went on to make hundreds of cups of coffee on many happy social occasions over the next thirty-five years or so.

Sacher Torte, Vienna*
My family were early adopters of the Kaffee und Kuchen tradition, but only when the German aunts came to visit. I was therefore no stranger to it when I went to Austria on a month long exchange visit as a thirteen year-old. I was placed with a family who lived not far from Vienna. What a lucky girl I was! I revisited, along with my parents, three years later, and to this day one of my abiding memories of Vienna is the pervasive aroma of fresh coffee emanating from the many cafés for which the city is famed.

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
The famous Sacher Torte originated there in 1832. This is a chocolate cake, with two thin layers of apricot preserve between the biscuit base and the chocolate icing on the top and sides. As the age of thirteen this seemed like Heaven; these days I wouldn’t get beyond the first mouthful as I would find it far too sweet.

Many Germans live here in Lanzarote and so it is quite common to see ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ advertised on the blackboards propped up outside the cafés here. We flew to Madrid in March and, as in Vienna, there was no shortage of cakes to choose from. You could have them with ‘elevenses’ if you were British, as a ‘zwischenmahlzeit’ - a meal beween meals - if you were from Germany or Austria, or you could do what the Spanish do and have you coffee and cake any time you like.
A difficult choice, Le Moka

These days, when we want fresh coffee we use a whizzy, shiny machine where you pop in a little pod or capsule of your chosen blend and press a button.  For good service, like that in the prompt picture, we visit our favourite café, ‘Le Moka’. The coffee isn’t delivered in a silver pot, but it does come with a smile, and we’re greeted by name, not called ‘Ma’am', as Lisbet probably was by the maid brandishing the silver coffee pot. We nearly always meet someone we know and catch up with their news, or we'll have a joke or chat with the owners. It’s a bit like Sepia Saturday really!

Our favourite!

So, however you like your coffee and cake don’t forget to meet all the regular customers at the Sepia Saturday Café this week.

Our pastry chef, Alan, is away until July 14th, so I’ve been recruited to open up shop and make sure there’s plenty of variety on the menu. Now where’s my pinny?  

“Mmm! How sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine!” (Bach 'The Coffee Cantata’ 1732)

Dialogue between Nancy Astor and Sir Winston Churchill
Nancy Astor:"If I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee."
Sir Winston Churchill: "And if I were your husband, I would drink it.”

* Sacher Torte image courtesy David Monniaux through Wikimedia’s Share Alike Licence

Also linking to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish, which is open to anyone with a vaguely food-related story, review or anecdote to post. 


  1. I'm very happy to adopt a German tradition when it comes to coffee and cake, although it's good at any time of day. It's a shame we can't see more of your dress - it was obviously warm given the bare legs, so I hope it was a light knit!

  2. I see the comment, so delicious coming to mind here! One of my most favorite things when I was visiting my grandparents as a child (in Berlin) was my searching for the perfect tea time treat! I think I will join you in a cup of that coffee! Not sure what I'm going to do since coffee has been pretty much covered in a few of my posts lately....and the weekend is stocked with none blogging commitments! Your coffee post was so entertaining ....and adore the sitting down and gathering for some real good conversation too! Pour me a cup too!

  3. Hello Marilyn:
    We are certainly with you on the coffee and cake.Café society is certainly alive and well here in Hungary. Being English in Budapest, we partake of this deliciously delightful routine each day at 11am, 4pm and 8pm. The evening session we regard as being very continental!

    The orange knitted dress and Russell Hobbs percolator were indeed icons of the age. We do recall owning a similar percolator ourselves but, sadly, not an identical dress. Oh so seventies, wonderful!!

  4. I can think of nothing more satisfying than coffee and cake, enjoyed (preferably) outdoors. I know a few blogers who would snatch that orange dress from your hands in an instant .
    Even with photographic clues, your memory astounds me. You appear to recall even the smallest details about your past. Wonderful.

    I'd love to share ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ with you one day.

  5. That chocolate torte looks heavenly.
    Loved all your sweet memories.

  6. Elevenses and Kaffee und Kuchen sound like wonderful traditions. I think America passed them by and went straight to Happy Hour.

  7. That photo from an odd angle is much more interesting than the kind with everyone staring at the camera. I wore some odd things in the 1970s, but I wouldn't have worn an orange hand knit dress.

    And what is a "pinny?" I will have to look that up.

  8. What a post, Little Nell. I love the first picture, and wish that I could see the front of your dress. I wonder if your father was focusing on your mother giving the doggy a treat, but the composition of the whole thing is wonderful. I was laughing out loud about the mayo in your coffee, yucky. Thank you, I know that you put a lot of time into this, and thank you for all the time you will be putting into Sepia Saturday over the next month or so.

    Kathy M.

  9. What a nice photo and lots of good coffee drinking information. I guess I will have to serve coffee during some of our gatherings so that I can get a few good photographs for any future coffee themes.

  10. Now I have to try this 4 PM tradition. Maybe with decaf coffee.

  11. The post is a satisfying meal in itself - it has everything, a great old image, the usual Little Nell fine writing, some fascinating information and even a delightful quote to finish off the meal in the best traditions. Good luck with the next few weeks - I am sure you won't need any luck at all. As you know, the entire Sepia Community is a delightful one. I will be watching and reading from afar. The Pastry Chef.

  12. Mmm Sachertorte, I remember eating it while visiting Schönbrunn.

  13. Great post. There is just one omission - no mention of 'coffee kisses.' I have one memory of when milk bars were all the rage and sitting down to have a coffee with a girl who, I didn't know then, was to be my future wife. I had my hands laced together behind the cup but made the mistake of moving them as they were. Result - very hot coffee in a very painful place.
    Danish pastries are still a love of mine but they are strictly rationed by that girl.

  14. That knitted dress certainly brought back some seventies dress memories, do I remember we were mad for crochet too. The kaffe und kochen reminded me of the time someone I worked with was taken to Germany to meet his finances aunts and relations and their array of cakes, he arrived back the following week having gained half a stone in weight.

  15. I love the idea of 4:00 tea (or coffee), especially with a pastry but I can just hear my mother saying-"you're going to spoil your dinner." Not that it would stop me. Your mother must have been quite a knitter. That dress looks like a masterpiece! At least from what I can see of it.
    Thanks for taking on the Sepia Saturday duties.

  16. What a lovely post; thanks for sharing your family memories. It brings me back to family gatherings we had with our cousins and aunts and uncles.

  17. I love old photos! That torte looks yummy, I'd love to have some right now!

    My mother was great at sewing, knitting, crocheting etc. She loved making me clothes and I loved wearing them!

  18. Lovely post, great photo and memories. Afternoon coffee and cake sounds like a wonderful tradition :).

  19. Nice post. Have a great week.

  20. Oh gosh. I should try to track down some of my 70s photos. Or maybe not. LOL. Sacher Torte is a favorite of mine.

  21. I do not knit but have made several crochet dresses and other accessories in the past. That is some feat. I love that first photo and also thanks for filling in for Alan. We lived with my maternal grandmother and she was British and we had tea every afternoon. My brother at age 64 still drinks only tea. Great post.

  22. Ack, mayonnaise in your coffee!!! I do so love coffee myself.

  23. hand knitted dress!! that's amazing!! love the photo!

  24. A mouth-watering post, for sure! Let me add my voice to the chorus in praise of the sacher torte. Yum!

  25. that brought back memories...

  26. Love the picture. Reminds me of some of my own similar shots from the 70's :) The Sacher torte looks delicious!

  27. What a splendid post! I did enjoy.

  28. A delightful post!
    My uncle G. had a pot like yours,
    once he settled in the big city in the late 60s.
    Nice idea to blend various traditions to ensure
    the availability of sweets all day long.
    My kind of living!!

  29. IN the next town, we used to visit a wonderful German coffee shop called Cafe Mozart. Theey made the best tasting coffee and the cakes were the stuff of dreams. unfortunately people retire.