You’ll notice that I talk about food a lot, even though I’m not really a big eater. I think about cakes, analyze pastries and mentally masticate all manner of edible arts and crafts — which is how I really see food. I always feel a bit embarrassed at being classified a “foodie” though–cringe! That word scratches me the wrong way like a rusty fork. I guess it’s because I think it gives the impression that I just want food in mah belly; or that it seems gluttonous when there are starving children in the world and, besides, more “important” concerns. Like politics and money; or art and philosophy.
So let’s talk art and philosophy here. Making food — or really, crafting it — is something that’s important to me, because it’s creative, it makes me think and learn about other cultures, from British pies and roasts to Southeast Asian spices. It’s also important to me because it makes other people happy.
Food plays a huge role in life which, in every culture, is charted by rituals — from the basics of breakfast-lunch-dinner, to holiday feasts which have their own traditional commandments — turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, goose/ham and Christmas pudding for Christmas, lamb and chocolate easter eggs or a marzipan-cloaked simnel cake for Easter.
One of my favourite rituals — which I know we’ll ALL agree on here! — is obviously a regal, so quintessentially English, Afternoon High Tea.
At my office we’ve started doing cream scone Fridays to celebrate our survival of yet another grinding week at the Press Office. At 4pm — just when our last nerve start to frizzle out — the kettle flips on and the scones come out, along with the ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE clotted cream and Bon Maman jam. Three times of the last four scone Fridays we had homemade made-that-morning scones by Leyla and me (last Friday they came from Selfridges, huge and slightly dry but soft and buttery).
I woke up at 6:30am without the alarm even going off — my basest instincts roused me. It was time to whip up some fresh scones to cheer up my colleagues after another long week. I made chocolate scones. Yes, that would be scones, but CHOCOLATE. The recipe, published on the Financial Times Style section two weekends ago (click here!) was by Rose Carrarini of the famed and fab Rose Bakery, whose original scone recipe is the ne-plus-ultra. This was no more difficult than a plain one — all it took was a good scoopful of Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder (the only brand I use now — it really makes all the difference). Fa-boom: an absolutely luxurious treat, fluffy and cocoa-kissed. With a soft mount of clotted cream and raspberry jam, the scones were bites of heaven that lifted everyone’s moods immediately.
I think about how stressed my colleague had been — many little things that conjoined and conspired, successfully, to foul her mood the past two weeks (and which has gotten me down, too, with the negative vibes it spreads in the small office space). But the scone ritual is also a little thing that makes a huge difference in a positive way. I’m also reminded of my friend Hattie’s humble scone ritual — she studies at Oxford University, where a sweet little tea room called (coincidentally) the Rose serves warm, oven-fresh scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Every Friday after her last class of the week, she walks to the Rose for a moment of calm and scones.
Start your own ritual.
Make something and enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be food; maybe a trip to the newsagent’s to pick up the latest fashion or design magazine and a quiet place to read it.
But I definitely recommend a freshly made scone.
Try it — they are so much easier and faster to make than you’d think!