English Speaking Topics: Eton Mess
Summary: English Speaking Topics
We British love a good pudding! I’m sure this is the same for all the ‘sweet toothed’ readers. So today we talk about one of the most British of puddings, “Eton Mess”.
Eton is a town in Britain which has a very famous (and expensive) boarding school, where many of the UK’s rich and elite send their children.
So in today’s lesson we will learn about princes, prime ministers and puddings, while we improve our spoken English. Have fun and enjoy!
Audio Transcript: English Speaking Topics: Eton Mess
Anyway, it’s summer time here in the UK, so how about we do something today about food? How about a nice summery recipe – and something very English? It will be good practice to use some cooking terms – and to give you an idea for something nice to eat, if you want to try it. What about we make some Eton Mess?
Vocabulary of ‘Eton Mess’
Let’s tackle the vocabulary first of all. Eton, E-T-O-N is a place, a town in the south of England, in the county of Berkshire. Eton is a town, of course, but it’s most famous for its boys school. It’s a private school and it’s where people like David Cameron and Boris Johnson went. Prince William and Prince Harry went there too – as well as famous actors like Hugh Laurie and Damian Lewis. If you’ve watched the series House or the series Homeland, you’ll know these actors. Anyway, Eton is a very expensive posh school and this dish, Eton Mess, originates from Eton School.
And the word ‘mess’, M-E-S-S? Well, a mess is something which is untidy, which is the opposite of ‘neat and tidy’. My 17 year old daughter currently has a bedroom which is very messy, full of mess. ‘Messy’ is the adjective. It means that there are clothes on the floor and dishes on the desk and it’s very much a mess in her bedroom. You might also use the word ‘mess’ in the context of ‘making a mess’. If you eat your lunch, and you have crusty bread and you drop crumbs all over the floor, you might say ‘Oh, I’ve made a mess’. But a mess isn’t restricted to food – it could be anything that makes a mess. Things out of place, in the wrong place, untidy. And if you say ‘Oh, I’ve made a mess of things’, it means that you’ve made mistakes, you could have done better. So ‘mess’ can be used in the literal sense, a physical mess of items or it can be used more in the abstract.
One of the things I like about the recipe for Eton Mess – it’s very simple! And because it’s a mess anyway, you don’t have to worry too much about how you serve it! And a recipe, R-E-C-I-P-E, that’s the word for instructions on how to cook something, how to make a dish, how to make a type of food.
Recipe for Eton Mess
OK, so for your Eton Mess, you’ll need the following ingredients. Ingredients in a recipe are the food items that you’ll need. So this serves 6 people.
2 large egg whites
120g caster sugar
450ml double cream and a
1 tbsp (A table spoon is a large spoon) icing sugar
So vocabulary here. Egg whites are eggs, where you’ve taken out the yolk. The yolk, Y-O-L-K is the yellow part. So no yolks, just the clear part of the egg.
Caster sugar is fine sugar. Smaller pieces of sugar than you would put in your coffee, say.
Strawberries – you probably know what they are – but red fruits that grow near the ground in summer. You can use other fruit if you like.
Double cream – means cream, like milk from a cow, but much, much thicker.
And icing sugar – is really fine, powdery sugar, which you use on the top of a cake.
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Method for Eton Mess
So first of all, you make meringue – that’s M-E-R-I-N-G-U-E with the caster sugar and the egg whites. There are plenty of places online you can find out how to make good meringue. Meringue is white, and sugary and crunchy and it’s used in Pavlova, as well. But basically you whisk the egg whites and the caster sugar. That means you mix it really fast, usually with an electric mixer, until the mixture becomes stiff. So stiff in fact, that you can hold the bowl over your head, upside down and the mixture doesn’t fall out! Then you scoop up the meringue, put it on some paper on a tray and bake it very slowly in the oven, on a low temperature – 120C for perhaps an hour. Then allow the meringue to cool.
Meanwhile, take about one third of the strawberries, so that’s 33% of the strawberries and squish them, make them into a liquid, so that you’re making strawberry sauce. Cut up the rest of the strawberries into pieces. Then use the whisk, the same electric mixing machine to whip up the double cream with the icing sugar, so that it’s sweet. Again the cream should be stiff, just like the meringue mixture was before it went into the oven. The lovely thing then is that you just break the meringue into pieces and mix everything together.
Basically it looks a mess, but quite a pretty mess and that’s the point! It’s easy to make and tastes delicious and is really nice on a summer day, a nice summer pudding. And actually, if you buy your meringue, rather than making it – the whole thing can be ready in about 10 minutes!
If you’re interested in improving your English language with recordings about food, then if you buy our Course One, Activate Your Listening, there’s a whole section on food and food vocabulary. All about what we like to eat in the UK, British food and what we call food that comes from other places in the world. If you would like more recipes in the podcasts, let us know! Bon Appetit!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Eton Is Often Used To Describe Privilege In The UK
Often, on UK TV or online media, people get criticised of “Coming from Eton” and this is often a reference to the person having an advantage of privilege over people who haven't been to Eton school.
We associate Eton with the rich. Of the 260 school children given places in Eton every year, Eton reserves 70 school children places for gifted students. Eton makes provision for gifted children and supports them with financial help to pay for their stay.
So yes, the rich dominate Eton, but there is a significant number who are not rich. So why people insist that attending Eton is a big advantage in life?
It’s mostly the connections. The people who you meet and create friendships with in Eton are potentially the future CEO’s of companies, the future princes of countries and the politicians of the future. That’s why Eton is so hated by some. It’s seen as an unfair advantage in life for a privileged few.
In 1440 King Henry VI created Eton as “Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore” to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, which he founded 1441. With over 1,000 applications for the 260 places (every year!) Eton is likely to be very successful for another 600 years.