Growing up, I never felt particularly patriotic. I didn’t weep when David Beckham got us kicked out of the World Cup in 1998, and at university in Scotland, I learned that having an English accent wasn’t a point of pride.
But since moving to New York, everything has changed. I am constantly telling Americans that they haven’t tasted real chocolate, I judge automatic cars and I find myself commenting sincerely on how well Kate fits in with the Royals.
It means that now St George’s Day – the English equivalent to St Patrick’s or St Andrew’s Day – is a serious holiday for me. It means that I feel genuine sadness that no other English person ever knows when it is (April 23). And it also means that I was so disappointed that there were no celebrations marking it yesterday.
In New York, the only nod to England’s patron saint (who defeated a dragon way back when) is an event on Staten Island this weekend. But that didn’t solve the problem of what to do on the actual date.
So back to Tea & Sympathy I went!I went to this little row of British businesses – a tea shop, a grocery store, a fish n chip counter – last year for St George’s Day, and this year I decided to introduce Ryan to the now annual tradition. As soon as we walked inside, he said he felt like he was back in my parents’ town in Sussex.
Last year, I opted for tea and scones, but this year, we went savory – rarebit (i.e. cheese on toast), baked beans and a lentil shepherd’s pie. Washed down with shandy (half beer, half Sprite).
It was comfort food, unhealthy and delicious. The rarebit used proper mature cheddar and the mashed potato on the lentils was so creamy. The shandy was a little flat, but over all, it was an authentic taste of home.
Sadly, even our British servers didn’t know it was St George’s Day. Perhaps I’m the only one looking for bits of home the longer I’m away from it?
Afterwards, we nipped next door to their shop so that I could introduce Ryan to Ribena and chocolate fingers. He was impressed with both – and I was once again in love with Tea & Sympathy.
Their prices are a bit high and I don’t like it how you can’t just pop in for a cuppa (you have to at least buy scones and tea for $12), but if you’re going for a hearty British meal, it’s a winner.
Over the next year, I really should start thinking of some St George’s Day traditions so that the date isn’t forgotten so easily. But if I never get around to it, I’m pretty happy to be a glutton at Tea & Sympathy again.
Happy St George’s Day!