I always find this time of year- very late August, very early September- slightly wistful, if not poignant. Summer is probably over, but with any luck might just about survive for an extra week or so of golden heat- but with an added autumnal nip in the atmosphere.
F. Scott Fitzgerald captured this brilliantly in perhaps, my all-time favourite novel, The Great Gatsby: Gatsby decides to take a dip in his swimming pool for the first time (it's late Summer) and gets gunned down by George Wilson, the garage owner who thinks Gatsby has murdered his wife in a hit and run accident. Here is Fitzgerald describing the blood- red autumnal leaves floating on the swimming pool surface:
"with little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing like the leg of transit, a thin red circle in the water."
Now, I adore cucumber sandwiches- honestly, I think there is nothing better on a hot June afternoon than a near-scalding cup of Earl Grey tea, and a plate of properly made, slighty salty English cucumber sandwiches; and I suspect that early September is probaby the latest you can get away serving them.
Here's how I make them. I like traditional finger sandwiches (ie sandwiches cut lengthways) and look upon those triangular abominations with distaste. I hope you will follow suit.
First you need the proper bread. For traditional English sandwiches forget anything brown, healthy, hippy or wholemeal. No, you need a traditional pre-sliced white, refined sandwich loaf of bread. Easier said than done, as every time I go to the supermarket, I search in vain for the stuff. So, for the time being, medium cut pre-sliced white bread will have to do.
Spread the bread with softened unsalted butter. Next, get hold of some cucumbers, remove the skin and slice them up so that they are very thin. Pat them dry (a good tip that, as there is nothing worse than soggy sandwiches). Spread the thin cucumber slices over one side of the bread.
Sprinkle with sea salt and some pepper. Place another slice of bread on top, and remove the crusts. Slice the sandwiches lengthways to form fingers. You can then stack the sandwiches on a plate to form a neat square, and if you're that way inclined, decorate with a few sprigs of watercress.
That's how to make a proper English cucumber sandwich. Trust me.