No afternoon tea in England is ever without little cucumber sandwiches. Does this support the charge that the English are artless in the kitchen? Not at all. At teatime, only an oaf would demand veal Metternich or anything more substantial than a slice of cake. In the canonical tea menu, cucumber sandwiches have won pride of place with reason, as the gentle and genteel canape that suits the restrained and unpretentious tenor of the meal.