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The British Guy Samples the Tea at the Renaissance Faire

$20 of food, even in 1533
$20 of food, even in 1533
Gavin Cleaver

Regular readers may remember that I found it amusing to review cream teas and high teas around Dallas, comparing them to their British counterparts. While many of you didn't agree that this was in fact amusing, that's never stopped me before. For the third in a highly infrequent series, I am for some reason visiting Scarborough Renaissance Faire (fayre? Fair?) in Waxahachie, surely the least appropriately named place to ever host an approximation of 16th-century Britain. See also: Dallas Does Cream Tea? Bad Mistake, Dallas.

At this salubrious location, nestled into a field by Ye Olde I-35, I am promised tea with the Queen. The actual Queen, you guys. As someone who grew up singing about her being saved, this is a pretty big deal for me. I take my wife, because even though she is Welsh and thus views the Queen as an instrument of oppression of her people, she loves tea and stuff, and there's no way Tea with the Queen at a Renaissance Fair could ever go wrong, right? Right?!

The first step inside results in us having our picture taken by a man dressed as a jester who quite clearly has a modern day Kodak EasyShare Camera inside some sort of clown's face on a pole. Apologies for the advert, but if I can read the brand of a camera as my first introduction to 1533 Britain then, well, something's not right. Is this jester some sort of snap-happy time traveler, simply trying to fit in in 1533? If so, he requires a more elaborate backstory than the Faire is providing him with.

As we progress further into the "authentic" wooden buildings advertising such natural circa-1533 dishes as "jalapeƱo poppers" and "nachos", it becomes clear that everyone here has a British accent that, much like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, they apparently went to Australia to learn.

Mother's Day let's-all-pretend-it's-1533-and-I'm-the-Queen tea is the sort of endless torture I will subject my wife to from now until one of us dies. Upon spying the pavilion and noting that there is every kind of British flag there apart from a Welsh one, I know I've made a mistake. Her face is ashen, her demeanor unapproachably sad. The pavilion is wooden and open-sided, and at one end a lady in a corset plays something that looks like a xylophone with strings (I Googled "like a xylophone with strings" in an attempt to deter snark, but it ain't happening guys. It could even be a period-specific instrument, which would be a first).

After we are all seated at a common picnic bench cunningly disguised as a common picnic bench with a flower in the middle, the royal parade enters. The Queen enters, and I remain unsure whether it's Catherine of Aragon, who in 1533 participated in the world's first divorce, or Anne Boleyn, 1533's new model Queen, entirely unaware that she'll be executed. I missed the announcement, all right? It's a Queen of sorts. There are a few mentions of Scotland. Maybe she's some sort of Scottish queen? There's definitely a religious guy with a suitably impressive hat, who definitely isn't the Archbishop of Canterbury for some reason. Was Scotland in charge of this pavilion? Dear reader, I cannot say. But what I can tell you is that in 1533 food was really shit.

First there is the tea, which upon hearing that a man with a kilt was asking a nearby table whether they would prefer their tea "warm or cool", causes my wife to let out a howl of anguish. She barely says another word after this. The be-kilted man, doing a better Scottish accent than Sean Connery has ever managed despite being Scottish, pours us the warm version (obviously, because cold tea is an invention of the devil) and we are presented with a tray of two scone-cake things, two haphazardly cut half-sandwiches, and some fruit. My wife declares that one of the sandwiches, which appears to be filled with the color yellow very thinly spread (yellow is expensive these days) and an herb of some sort, tastes like "piss and onions" while the other sandwich, which is a chicken-and-grape number, is possibly too experimental even for the adventurous palate of 1533. What's worse is that these sandwiches have clearly been left out all day, as their tops are stale. This is why we invented refrigerators, I guess, so the Queen wouldn't get stale sandwiches.

There is a strawberry, but alas that appears to be a genuine 16th-century strawberry left to stew for 600 years, such is the lack of moisture and taste. There are two small scone-cakes, one of which contains white chocolate, a confusing proposition for 1533. Both are largely inedible due to their gone-off nature. I know the fridge wasn't invented, guys, but how about some kind of airtight container? Is that entirely beyond your wits? I would have made a fucking killing in the 16th century. I would have been the Bill Gates of food storage. The tea, of course, is Lipton tea, something that still won't be served in Britain come 2033 or indeed the apocalypse. There is no cream, a query met with confusion. It must be difficult to provide waiter service and remain in character, but this was $20 a head, dammit, and all I've got is some stale food and six cents of tea.

Eventually, everyone gets together for a sing-song ("Flower of Scotland," in case you were wondering) and the Queen comes to sit down at our table. It turns out the Queen and I have a lot in common, both being born in London, albeit I was born 450 years later than her. She looks good for her age. Still in shock at paying $20 a head for this (I'm not sure what inflation will be like for the next 475 years, but I'm pretty sure I just made every single worker a millionaire), we stumble out to receive our single flower from the same man in a kilt who served us "tea". Thanks guys.


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