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Living in the UK: You Say Skaun, I Say Skown

By Michael Harling

Cigna International Health Insurance

Summary: What's happened to the traditional scone? Why does everyone want to add raisins or cheese? Expat Mike Harling, an American in the UK, shares his thoughts.

Living in the UK - Scones, Scones, Scones

One of the many unexpected perks I discovered after my arrival in Britain was the ready availability of scones. There is nothing like a warm, fresh scone with a nice cup of tea and I had my favorite locations for obtaining them and enjoying a relaxing half hour or so in their company. Unfortunately, like derby hats and bucket-and-spade holidays, this is becoming a thing of the past.

There used to be two nice tea shops in my little town. Now there is just one, and it is no longer nice. We can get a Grande Moca-chinno Latte in any random establishment, but we can only use it to wash down a Double Chocoholic Muffin or a croissant.

There are, naturally, places where scones are served, but these days they always seem to be of the sultana (raisin) or cheese varieties. What is with that? Why take a perfectly good scone and dress it up with fruit or dairy products? That's what strawberry jam and clotted cream are for!

Even my old standby, The National Trust, has fallen victim to scone perversion. Time was, a trip a National Trust property was not complete without a visit to the café for a buttered scone and a cup of tea. The scones they served were generous and warm and practically melted in your mouth. So good were they, that I was going to devote a whole chapter to them in the book I was planning on writing one of these days called, "Scones I have Known."

Obviously, I was counting on an American audience to buy this book, where the rhyme would make sense. Over here, they often pronounce 'Scone' -- rhymes with 'Bone' -- as 'Skaun' -- rhymes with 'Gone' -- so there would have been a few marketing difficulties to overcome.

Despite this apparent deal-breaker, I doggedly continued my research, savouring scones in Cumbria, Wales, Scotland, Yorkshire and even Surrey. Occasionally I would chance upon some raisin or cheese infused concoction masquerading as a scone, but I wasn't fooled, and there were always plenty of real scones nearby.

Gradually, however, the ratio of scones to fruit and cheese pastries shifted until I found myself, this past weekend, actually making scones, just so I could have one without raisins in it. Unfortunately for you, I have been here long enough to master British cooking implements, so I came away with no amusing anecdotes about my misadventures in the kitchen. (I made scones. They were good. End of story. Did you laugh?)

What can I say; maybe next time I'll take on something more challenging -- like hunting down a real scone in the wild. Baking is all well and good, but going out to a tea shop and sitting down to a scone you don't have to wash up after has a higher satisfaction to drudgery ratio. Plus I can't feature my own scones in the book, how would that look?

Right now, my hopes are pinned on the posh afternoon tea we're soon to attend. At the last Barn Dance we went to (don't bother checking over my old posts to see if you missed it; I don't write about everything, you know) we won the grand prize, which was afternoon tea at the Ghyll Manor Hotel. Frankly, the name means just as much to me as it does to you but I am assured this is a swanky joint and that they put on a splendid tea. It would really be a disappointment if we got there and I had to embarrass my wife by picking out the raisins while being quietly tsk-tsked by a roomful of posh octogenarians.

I suppose I could rename my book, "Scone With the Wind" and market it to a UK audience. In it, I could reminisce about the defunct Sussex Tea Shoppe and The Merrythought before it went downhill. I could recapture the halcyon days of the National Trust Café, when they served those wonderful, non-raisin, no-cheese scones in a Britain where it was always sunny and men wore hats and families spent their weekends at the seaside.

On second thought, that might sell better in America; the British know better.

About the Author

I am originally from Upstate New York and moved to Sussex, UK in 2002. I have recently published a book titled, "Postcards From Acoss the Pond," a humorous look at life in the UK through the eyes of an accidental expat.

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First Published: Mar 01, 2009

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