Scones and Sensibility

23 Mar

I’ve never broken a bone, gotten stitches, suffered a black eye, or caught a bad case of chicken pox.  But when it comes to awkward injuries, I’m pretty well versed.  The first few weeks of fifth grade, I marched around school brimming with the confidence my fellow fifth-graders and I shared over being the graduating class and rulers of the playground.  In the midst of my arrogance, I decided to apply for class president.  Two weeks later, I got lice.  After a few failed attempts with store-bought lice medication, my mom moved on to more radical measures of bug termination.  First, mayonnaise.  But all that dousing of my hair in a tub of Heinz mayo accomplished was a head of gleaming locks, and though I looked like the women in shampoo commercials, I smelled unmistakably of macaroni salad.  When we checked my cole-slawed hair, the lice were still there.  So then we tried Vaseline.  Well, that did the trick—no living creature could withstand the suffocating effects of Vaseline (didn’t predict you’d get a little lice-advice in the midst of a baking blog, huh?).  And so, the lice were gone, but I was left with hair that resembled a plastic Kewpie doll for the next several months.  There’s something strangely Twilight Zone-esque about a pasta-salad plastic-headed pre-adolescent.  Needless to say, I pulled out of the running for class president, choosing instead to hide myself in the back of the classroom, close to the open window and away from any hungry fourth graders who may have been attracted by the smell of my well-seasoned hair, but turned off by its unnerving sheen.

Then there was my severe allergy to poison oak.  No one seems to quite comprehend the gravity of this situation, insisting that “everybody is allergic to poison oak.”  I know… everybody gets lice and everybody is allergic to poison oak, but what you obviously don’t quite realize is what accident-prone, awkward seven-year-old Eloise is capable of.

My allergy was first detected around the time we got our family pet.  Forget man’s best friend: Frizbee, the family cat, and I were inseparable.  I would drape him around my neck like a shawl, carrying him with me from room to room as I went about my business.  I have a picture in which I set up a card game, propping a fan of cards in his paws, and seated myself across from him as a worthy rival.  He would sleep in the crook of my arm every night, until I woke up one morning with a mysterious rash. Frizbee would run around the hill in our backyard, rubbing his long fur on bushes, branches, and yes, poison oak.

Like that lice on the playground, the poison oak spread like wildfire, and I woke up with a ghastly rash in the crook of my arm that proceeded to swell to the size of a football.  I didn’t let this stop me from keeping Frizbee perpetually strapped to my side, but it did make me wary of more obvious outdoorsy adventures—being sure to always suit up in knee-high socks, long sleeves, and leggings before setting off on family hikes.

But on one ill-fated trip to Sea Ranch, the ten-hour drive north up California’s coast to the secluded spot we picked as our annual family summer vacation, I got it bad.  My mother knew something was amiss when I slept through breakfast and lunch the day after a hike in Mendocino.  I never slept past nine, but there I was, curled in my bed at one o’clock in the afternoon.  Rolling me over, my mother gasped in horror as she saw that my entire face had swelled to three times its normal size.  I looked like the Bobble-Head, Cabbage Patch version of Eloise, which might have been humorous on my tiny eight-year-old frame, if I could have seen through my swollen eyeballs.  The pain was excruciating and even my intestines were itchy.  Needless to say, for the next two weeks I lived on Benadryl, cortisone, oatmeal baths, and aloe vera.  I refused to show my puffy face to the outside world, and so, for the rest of the vacation, while my parents and sister took bike rides and played tennis, I occupied myself reading hours upon hours of Harry Potter and enjoying our local café’s hand made scones, toasted, with a pat of butter and a touch of strawberry jam.  So it wasn’t all bad.  Sitting on the deck of our rented house, which overlooked the rocky California coastline, I contented myself with what my parents dubbed “Extreme Reading” and my newfound love of scones.  Some plain or filled with raisins, others dotted with ginger, the special few with chocolate chips, and others still containing the occasional cranberry—I couldn’t get enough.  As long as I was properly drugged to dull the terrible itch emanating from my face, I could enter into a fictitious world in which I pretended I was living in some Jane Austen novel, enjoying teatime in the brisk but sunny weather.

And so, if you are at all hungry after this slightly unpleasant tale, please do try to forget the balloon-face, and take the time to make yourself a batch of fresh scones, grab a book and a cup of tea, and enjoy.

Buttermilk Scones


1 egg
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
4 cups white flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup raisins or currants


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Beat together the egg and buttermilk.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a bowl.  Rub in the butter cubes into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Dump the flour mixture into a large bowl, add the egg mixture, and stir lightly with a fork until a soft dough forms.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Divide the dough into quarters and pat into 1/2-inch thick circles. Cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Place scones close together on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top with an eggwash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Serve with  jam, butter, or clotted cream, and enjoy with a good book and a cup of tea.


One Response to “Scones and Sensibility”

  1. Ruth Bonnet March 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Damn! You are a FABULOUS writer. No surprise: it’s in the genes. Since I am on 1200 calories a day and married to a Type 2 diabetic heart patient, I will not be following your recipes, but I will be reading the blog regularly. Does Ross know about it? I know he’d love it. It’s Pearl’s birthday tomorrow. Weird how I remember that, isn’t it? Frisbee? I thought it was Sockie? (I thought at the time that you’d named your cat after Japanese rice wine, but it was because he had socks…). I now live with a cat. She hates me and I’m allergic to her. But I am the only one who feeds her, brushes her, picks up her vomit. She made it to 11 with only the neighbors looking after her! Oy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: