This morning Twitter has been chattering about class, thanks to the BBC’s Great British Class Survey. I wasn’t that interested until I saw this tweet, RT’d by @Louiestowell: @saramegan: Someone once told me that the marker of the middle class is the ramekin.
Well. That took me right back. We were definitely working class growing up. I don’t think I even knew what “middle class” was. I certainly didn’t know what a ramekin was. But then, when I was 18, I moved to London – or rather, Kew – to work as a Mother’s Help.
The mother I was helping used ramekins to make what I thought she called “Strawberry cranberry lay” but turned out to be strawberry crème brûlée, of course. I’d never tasted it before, but it was delicious. I rang my aunt, who was a school cook, and described it to her. She had no idea what it was.
Later, my sister came to stay and the woman I worked for served smoked salmon sandwiches. My sister grabbed one, her only experience of salmon being tinned salmon (and that rarely) and, horrified by the texture, spat it straight out into the bin.
I remember the man of the house (this was a v traditional house) eating something and describing it as “more-ish”. I’d never heard that before, in fact, I thought he was saying “Moorish” (we mostly used to go on holiday to Spain) and thought it was the most pretentious thing I’d ever heard.
The little girl I looked after one day mentioned going to the “toilet” and the mum was horrified. “We say ‘loo,’ darling, not ‘toilet.'” I was baffled. I remember talking to my mum and saying, “Surely ‘toilet’ is more polite than ‘loo’?” She thought so too.
I was even more baffled when Charlie, the little boy I looked after, had what looked like blood in his poo. The mum got out a medical encyclopaedia thing and told me to look up ‘stool.’ I had absolutely no idea what a three legged wooden chair thing had to do with bloody poo, but I soon found out. (It wasn’t blood. He’d had beetroot.)
I’ve since heard that there are certain words you should be careful of if you don’t want to show yourself up. Napkin v serviette. Sofa v settee. I can never remember which is which and I couldn’t care less. I’ve always remembered ‘stool’ though. And, thankfully, crème brûlée.