A Love Letter to the Scone
Ode to the Controversial Culinary Staple
Ah the scone…warm, buttery, crumbly, and quintessentially everything that is good about this country. The scone has long lined bakery windows and grandma’s cupboards much to our salivating faces; the walk past Northpoint’s tray of scones certainly leaves us with eyes bigger than our bellies. Nothing is more comforting than a cup of tea paired with a scone slathered with jam and clotted cream or clotted cream and jam — I’ll dare not give my verdict on that matter just yet. But alas, dear reader, bear with me as I speak of scones, scones and only scones.
I should start by addressing the elephant in the room which is the pronunciation, it is scone like gone, and I will say nothing more on that matter, though you may pronounce as you please. The word is said to have derived from the Dutch “shcoonbrot”, I mean I really am a Sconnoisseur on these matters. The culinary delight which is sort of a cake-biscuit hybrid (I mean really what is it?) consisting of flour, butter, sugar, milk and often the cheeky sultana, has been a part of British culture for centuries. The scone is thought to have dated back to around the 1500s in Scotland, originally being made with oats and cut into triangular wedges. In place of an oven they were baked on a griddle or girdle as we Scots might call it; fair to say, I am glad that scones have evolved since then.
Scones became a household staple following the beloved practice we know as afternoon tea, which was introduced by the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840. The story states that the duchess would grow hungry at about four o'clock given the fashionable lateness of dinner and so requested tea and cakes be brought to her. The Duchess’ little treat before dinner became something of a phenomenon and thus the afternoon tea was born. Now I will admit afternoon tea can be quite la-di-da, but it is undoubtedly a treat especially with our little friend placed there in the middle tier, alongside dinky pots of jam and cream away to go into battle.
I find it endearing that scones have remained a culinary tradition through generations. There is just something so charming about heading into an old tearoom and having a cream tea perched upon a doily. If you think scones are boring and dry, you have clearly not been having good ones because if anything makes my academic stress melt away, it is the taste of a scone.
Now the moment you have all been waiting for: my verdict on the fiercely fought war between the counties of Devon and Cornwall. I would not normally comment on military matters but one feels propelled to do so given that it pains me to know that some of you assemble your scone so unbelievably different to mine. Over the years, there has been much tension between the counties on what goes on the scone first: the cream or the jam…seriously it is no laughing matter. Devon protests that it is cream then jam, while the Cornish are adamant that the jam that goes on first and then the cream. As I shield myself from a barrage of anger, I vehemently declare that my support goes to Cornwall. I cannot justify putting the cream on first in any circumstance. As a motion of peace, I concede that both ways are delicious (not that I would assemble any differently) no matter anyone’s position or shall we say some people’s ‘strong feelings’ on the matter…
Whether its cheese, cherry, fruit or whatever delightful flavours Northpoint have, the scone is a sumptuous and sophisticated staple of this great country, and I would hate to think any of you disagree. Going forward reader, fill your lives with copious cups of tea and boatloads of scones.
Illustration: Helen Lipsky