Sunday, September 30, 2012
My Great Aunt Mary Wilson (nee MacPherson) made scones for her husband every night. I don't remember my Great Uncle Bill but apparently he thought I was adorable and I quite liked him. I was just a baby but clearly I recognised excellent taste. The story that I have built in my head (which may bear no resemblance to reality) is that Auntie Mary made a batch of scones every night and Uncle Bill ate one set in the evening as a pre bed snack and the remainder in the morning. I like to imagine that Auntie Mary, who put her hair in pin curls every night and was always made up just so, made enough for his breakfast because her morning preparation time took so long that she didn't have time to cook her husband a proper first meal of the day.
Now I make Great Auntie Mary's scones as a Welcome to London snack for friends and family who arrive jet lagged and bedraggled from Heathrow. The MacPhersons, though throughly Canadian, are of Scottish descent. I like the idea of the scone recipe making its way from the Highlands of Scotland, across Canada to the interior of British Columbia and then back again to London.The recipe is simple, forgiving and slightly rustic, but it is quite lovely to welcome guests to England with something so very British as warm scones, clotted cream and jam.
It serves as a focus point, a calming moment in the excitement of arrivals. As people pile into the flat, luggage strewn, hugs and chatter, mini tours around our tiny flat, I show them the Gherkin from the balcony and ask them about how they managed the journey from the airport, the table is set and water poured (dehydrated plane travellers). I fuss everyone around the table and we all have a moment to sit and breathe. Preparing your scone, (clotted cream then jam, showing the foreigners how it is done)munching away, sipping tea, we have chance to catch up on the most pertinent family details and friendly gossip. An informal snack gives us all a chance to reacquaint, test the bonds if you like, with people who we see so rarely but who are integral parts of our circle, through blood or bond.
It has become a new household tradition, in my own household. I love that a recipe from my Great Aunt has found a new spot in our family history as the welcoming bite for her descendants, years after she has died, and far away from where she lived.