I've just returned from my big sporting adventure of the summer, namely a weekend away in beautiful Worcestershire, playing cricket. Barring a possible guest appearance for Wroxeter CC up in Shropshire (Jamie, August 21st, 2pm, I know...), I have now completed my rigorous schedule for the summer. Cricket must be the only sport where you can end up weighing more at the end of the game than you did at the start (apart from perhaps the sport of competitive eating, but at least you're likely to vomit it all up at the end of the session with CE). On both of the days I played, I had breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I still managed to sandwich (excuse me) the most important of all cricket rituals into the day: the cricket tea. I could write a league table of Independent Schools based on their cricket teas, using my own School days as a reference (incidentally, St Edward's Oxford and Hailebury always came out at the top), and the tea is as integral a part of the day as either of the innings, and often informs as much of the conversation in the pub afterwards. Here's a quick run-down of the essentials:
1. Sandwiches/buns: simplicity is the key here, with ham and mustard and cheese and pickle being staples. Brie and cranberry is at the other end of the spectrum, and should be avoided at all costs (not due to calorific content, you understand).
2. Cake: ideally home-made by a rotund wife of one of the team stalwarts. Ideally one slice should be big enough perhaps not to sink a battleship, but at least to make sure that everyone's fighting to field at first slip for the second innings. Victoria sandwich and good old chocolate cake set the standard. Nothing with coffee please.
3. Waggon wheels/penguin biscuits/jaffa cakes: WW should be there to ensure that everyone can discuss whether they've got smaller over the years (actually it's more likely that your adult hands are bigger than your child hands). Penguin biscuits for the jokes (and because they're actually lovely), and jaffa cakes so that the team bore can attempt to start a conversation about whether they're biscuits or cakes. Tiresome.
4. Tea and orange squash: there should be a rule against drinking anything else. The orange squash should either be so dilute as to resemble a homeopathic remedy, or so concentrated that you can only remove it from your teeth with a toothbrush. Tea is the staple of the elder members of the team, though it makes us all feel manly.
5. Something that no-one eats: this may be the white chocolate biscuits, or the punnet of fruit, but there's always something that need to remain untouched, possibly to be given as a sacrifice to the cricketing Gods, much as the miners used to leave some of their pasty in the mines, or something...
Here are some things you should never serve:
1. Anything 'foreign': I found this out as I attempted to serve quesadillas to the good men of Wem last year. I was regarded with the suspicion that Texans reserve for homosexuals and thin people. Stick simple, cricket caterers.
2. Salad: even if this is served as part of a 'proper' lunch, with ham and new potatoes, the chances are that no-one will eat it. If you serve it, you will be regarded with the same level of suspicion as in point 1.
3. Gatorade/other sports drinks: playing in Shropshire division 6 (or likewise) is great fun, but you don't want to look like you're trying to raise the level of your game by that 1-2% that'll tip you over the 45mph mark on the speedometer. Best to look as though you're taking the game only a bit seriously.
4. 'Branded' crisps: for some reason, monster munch or wotsits just look wrong on the cricket tea table, unless of course you're playing for the under 9s, in which case they'll be lapped up before anything else.
5. Alcohol: there's always one peasant who feels the need to neck 3 cans of strongbow during the tea interval. This will not impress anyone, save the 2 straggley sunburned chavettes who've turned up in bikini tops and jeggings, and you probably had a pretty good chance with them back in 'Velvet' anyway, didn't you?
But what about the cricket, I hear you ask? We won one, we lost one, and it didn't rain.