I have a very definite fixed idea that the truly civilized life consists of engaging in scholarly activities all day, punctuated by walks outdoors and little snacks accompanied by nice things to drink. Unfortunately, I do not manage to make this happen nearly often enough, even though it would actually not be very difficult at all. (As I once said here on a related subject, "this fantasy is so much like what my life could easily be, if only I were a better person, that it is kind of depressing." But no matter.)
In any case, I have no doubt that my notion of the proper morning version of this fantasy comes from a passage in Noel Streatfield's fine children's book, Ballet Shoes:
At nine they began lessons. Posy did two hours' reading, writing, and kindergarten work with Sylvia, and Pauline and Petrova did three hours with Doctor Jakes and Doctor Smith. They were very interesting lessons, but terribly hard work; for if Doctor Smith was teaching Pauline, Doctor Jakes taught Petrova, and the other way on, and as both doctors had spent their lives coaching people for terribly stiff examinations - though of course they taught quite easy things to the children - they never got the idea out of their minds that a stiff examination was a thing everybody had to pass some day. There was a little break of ten minutes in the middle of the morning when milk and biscuits were brought in; but after a day or two they were never eaten or drunk. Both doctors had lovely ideas about the sort of things to have in the middle of lessons - a meal they called a beaver. They took turns to get it ready. Sometimes it was chocolate with cream on it, and sometimes Doctor Jakes' ginger drink, and once it was ice-cream soda; and the things to eat were never the same: queer biscuits, little ones from Japan with delicate flowers painted on them in sugar, cakes from Vienna, and specialties of different kinds from all over England. They had their beavers sitting round the fire in either of the doctors' rooms, and they had discussions which had nothing to do with lessons.
Now, doesn't that just sound ideal? Why do I not sit around a little table in someone's office and have this kind of thing every day at eleven? Apparently I used to be better about it, but I seem to have lapsed lately. If I were going to manage to have a midmorning meal tomorrow, it would consist of the tea pictured above and one of these olive oil pastry things, both of which I have right on hand in my treat drawer at home.
The tea, as you see, is from France, part of the big shipment I got a while ago. I certainly do have a weakness for these high-end teas with bits of stuff in them, and this one is excellent. The delicious snacks are from Spain, by way of Whole Foods, and are very nice flat round crispy flaky Tortas de Aceite, each wrapped in its own piece of waxy paper. They are a little bit sweet and a little bit anise-flavored, and very nice indeed.
Wikipedia tells me that the Torta de Aceite is "a light, crispy and flaky Sevillian biscuit," and "a Spanish creation with more than 100 years of tradition behind it." They are undeniably a bit expensive, at something like five or six dollars for a packet of just six tortas (though who can put a price on a hundred years of tradition?). If you decide you want to try to make some for yourself, be warned: it seems that all the recipes available on the internet are wrong, wrong, wrong. I'm lazy and can also make a package last for a good couple of weeks, so I think I'll go on paying through the nose -- but if you feel like experimenting, let me know how it goes!