Simply food


Whether you pronounce this tasty baked offering ‘scone,’ rhyming with ‘tone’ or rhyming with ‘gone,’ your dialect will reveal exactly where you come from.

The former pronunciation is more popular in North America, Ireland, Scotland and the North of England, while the latter is more popular amongst us southerners.

The difference in pronunciation is explained in this delightful little ditty:

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone;
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.

IMG_1060 (2)

Where my speech patterns place me

If you take the recently published New York Times British Irish Dialect Quiz you can find out exactly where in the British Isles (including the Republic of Ireland) your pronunciation and use of slang words places you. With devastating accuracy, it puts me first in London, where I was born, second in Sussex where my late mother lived and from whence many of our paternal ancestors hail, and third in Cambridge, where I should have attended university if my gap year hadn’t extended into the rest of my life. Diane’s results came back with even greater accuracy, putting her into a few square miles of South Yorkshire between Leeds, just south of where she was schooled and Sheffield, where she was born and brought up. Our regional affectations have survived more than 50 years in North America.

My son says I have a “posh” accent. I believe he means that even after five decades of Canadian influence, I still speak with what used to be called The Queen’s English and is now called Received Pronunciation. I received my pronunciation at Oundle School, where regional accents were rigorously drummed out of us and where all the boys spoke the same way. Today, I suspect the new lady Head, Mrs. Sarah Kerr-Dineen, has a more egalitarian approach to accents.

Says the New York Times story:

The way that people speak is deeply tied to their sense of identity. And it’s not just about geography. Education, gender, age, ethnicity and other social variables influence speech patterns, too. These dialect markers are so ingrained into people’s sense of self that they tend to persist well after they move away from home. “Identity is what underlies most people’s retention of at least some of their local features,” said Clive Upton, professor emeritus of English language at the University of Leeds, “because ultimately what we say is who we are.” In Ireland and Britain, the local dialect can change wildly just 10 or 20 miles down the road. There’s a vast amount of variation over a small area, especially when compared with the (size of Canada and the U.S.)

Take the quiz, if you have British roots. You might be amazed at the results!

Scones 3

Cut the scone in half and slather with cream (1st) and strawberry jam (2nd)

Another big debate around scones, always served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and not butter, is whether you put the clotted cream on before the strawberry jam, as if it were butter, or after, as if it were a topping. In my 2013 story about my visit to Buckingham Palace I discovered how to eat my fresh warm scone in regal manner.

The Devonshire cream tea method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top. In neighbouring Cornwall, the split scone is first spread with strawberry jam and then topped with a spoonful of clotted cream. The debate goes on throughout England and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.  I adhere to the Devonshire style, but many prefer the Cornish method. Perhaps the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall have undue influence?

My grandma used to make scones for tea on Sundays, which was cook’s day off. They were tall and light, unlike the heavy doorstops I’ve tasted for most of the rest of my life. I’ve tried to replicate her recipe below. My maternal grandpa, whose family came from Kilmington, Wiltshire, which just before he was born was in Somerset, and is close to Devon, always put his jam on first, according to my uncle, who is now 99. In spite of the fact that Londoners apparently prefer their jam first, I have always done it the other way around. I’m told I was a contrary child.

The double cream I used in the photos comes from Wiltshire and the strawberry jam from Wilkin & Son, Tiptree, Essex. As the scones came out of the oven, they were cut in half, slathered with cream (1st) and strawberry jam (2nd) and taste tested by the household. They were pronounced “the best we’ve ever eaten!”

Whichever style you chose, please enjoy your cream tea. And for goodness sake, serve the tea steeped in boiling water in a warmed teapot and not with a tea bag hanging out of a cup of lukewarm water. In my silver tea pot I have Harrods Afternoon Tea, a delicious brew from Ceylon.

Scones 4

Featured image: A delicious English scone served on Royal Crown Derby Traditional Imari with Wikin & Son, Essex strawberry jam and Wiltshire double cream, Harrods Ceylon Afternoon Tea accompanies


Serves 8

Shopping list

  • 10 oz/260 g all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 215°C / 425°
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar and stir well with a whisk.
  3. Chop in the softened butter in small pieces, and mix in with a pastry tool until the mixture has a sandy texture.
  4. In a measuring jug, add the egg to the milk and whisk until well mixed. Save 2 TBSP for the egg wash, and pour the balance into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir to combine with a spatula, until a rough dough forms.
  6. Transfer to a lightly floured countertop and knead no more than half a dozen times until the dough comes together into a relatively smooth ball. If you knead the dough too much, you will release the gluten and make the dough tough.
  7. Roll the dough about an inch thick and use a 2 ½ in cutter to make about six circles. Re-roll the scraps and cut out another two.
  8. Place the scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved egg wash.
  9. Bake the scones for 13—15 minutes, until about tripled in height, and golden brown on the tops and bottoms. Eat at once while warm, or cool and freeze in a sealed bag for another day.

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2 replies »

  1. I found you today, via Devon Life I believe…You are a couple of years older than me and like you I also started life in Wimbledon. I have lived in Cornwall and finally Devon so found your comments on scones interesting. Not the pronunciation that’s immaterial. but the determination about the cream and jam. I knew many older people in Cornwall and heard and found that they put butter on first, followed by jam and then cream. This was also the custom in North Wales around Snowdonia, where my family was evacuated during the early days of WWll. These days life is not nearly so labour intensive and we are far more health & weigh conscious, consequently the butter has gone. In Cornwall I met a couple of older male China Clay Workers who would cut off a thick slice of homemade bread and the lather it with butter, jam and local clotted cream. Living in Devon now I follow the saying, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.


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