by guest blogger Maya Rodale
Scandalbroth, according to Obsolete Word of the Day, is an old name for tea. But it’s also a “reference to tea as the beverage of choice while the woman-folk sat around and gossiped” (that is, before cosmopolitans became popular). As an author of historical romance novels set in the Regency period (England, about 1810-1820), it was only a matter of time before I encountered this weird word.
I love it. In one word, it’s a beverage, an activity, and a stereotype about women (“sat around and gossiped and drank tea!!!”). Women of the Regency era—
the characters themselves, or we women who “visit” the era as readers and writers of romance—know gossip often means scandal, and scandal is often delightfully interesting.
But here’s the other thing about gossip and scandal: It’s not just wagging of tongues or malicious talk. According to a rather fascinating article in Psychology Today, gossip is a way humans bond, learn the “in group” from the “out group,” learn about the world, and learn about and reinforce social values. In the Regency era, had an unmarried woman been discovered with a man not of her relation, it would have been scandalbroth fodder for a week! Today it might merit a passing mention, but probably not.
I happen to have written a book, A Tale of Two Lovers, in which the characters are engaged in a battle of wit, wills, and scandal-mongering. In a nutshell:
He is Notorious.
She is Scandalous.
The longer version is that she is a gossip columnist for a newspaper, and he’s a rake who must wed or be penniless. Hijinks ensue. True love triumphs. Read more about it on my blog at MayaRodale.com.
Much like a delicious dinner with family and friends, scandalbroth is all about bringing people together to share food and conversation. Here’s the recipe:
Pot of tea.
A mug and a teabag will do, but for the full experience, a china cup and teapot will add a bit more magic. Seriously.
Whatever you fancy—sugar, honey, tea, milk. Authors often mention what characters take in their tea, as if it reveals something about them, which it probably does. My mother does not add anything ever. I only add sugar or honey if I’m taking black tea.
Friends and friendly gossip.
There’s no need to be mean-spirited with the gossip; this isn’t mudslinging (not with the nice china out!!). An issue of People magazine will suffice as well. Or A Tale of Two Lovers.
Extra credit: Scones or other baked goods. If you’re up for bringing this, by all means do so! And then invite me over. Like my mother, I can cook, but baking is quite another thing entirely. (Last week while baking I made the unfortunate discovery that you can, indeed, use too much butter.)
If you want to make this authentic, make sure your ingredients are whole and organic. Think about it: The era of scandalbroth was pre-aspartme, pre-chemicals-on-food. It was not pre-global, though. Sugar and tea weren’t being grown in England, but were transported in from halfway around the world, and in the process, influencing fortunes and the fates of nations. But that’s a blog post for another day. Or something to discuss over tea.
A pot of tea and a plate of orange chocolate chip scones set the stage when my sisters and I get together. Anything and everything is discussed, although our Mother is the “mother-of-all” topics (she doesn’t take anything in her tea either. Ever.)
It is comforting to know that as time passes people don’t change all that much. Then it was tea, today it may be tea, or cosmos or even Starbucks Lattes but the conversations stay the same.
Agreed! There is something comforting about these traditions. Love that “Mother is the ‘mother-of-all’ topics” !
Another great read, Maya. Actually, I finished this book last week. I’ve read all your books while drinking tea in china cups. While adding to the “atmosphere” it also reminds me of your book publishing tea party at the Rodale Room/Symphony Hall with all the glorious tea and treats. Keep going and continued success!
So just what does it say about me that I don’t take anything in my tea. Ever. Huh Maya? 🙂
I have officially added a new word to my vocabulary repertoir–love it. And loved your latest book. Laughed out loud way more than once!
(Oh, and it is cream with my black tea, nothing in my herbal tea, and simple syrup in my sun tea, thank you.)
Thanks y’all. It’s always good to learn new words and how others take their tea!