Most local restaurants serving an Irish breakfast tomorrow will be offering soda bread or toast instead of scones, although the Irish like their scones as well, and some people insist that soda bread and scones, both being quick breads, have a lot in common.
Although local coffeehouses have been offering scones for some time -- ranging from crumbly, cementlike creations to soft, buttery pastries -- the traditional scone never really made the transition into America's culinary culture. Or did they? One local scone expert argues that the classic Southern biscuit is the American version of the scone.
In Britain, says Keith Buchanan, the New Zealand-born proprietor of
Westport's Teahouse and Coffeepot, a scone isn't eaten the way they are in American coffeehouses, that is, by themselves. "English people use a scone as a vehicle for Devonshire cream and jam. It's not eaten by itself."
In the American South, which also has a tradition of afternoon tea, says Buchanan, the hot biscuits is also a vehicle: for butter and jam or in the mornings for cream gravy, or even for sopping up the meat juices from a dinner plate. Biscuits, he insists, are the American scone.
But if a biscuit is a scone in the United States, a biscuit in England is what Americans recognize as a cookie. Yes, it's all very confusing. Starting with the very pronunciation of the word scone: Some American dictionaries -- and the Food Lover's Companion,
no less -- suggest that the word rhymes with stone. But Buchanan insists that the correct pronunciation of
the word is SKOHN ... like turned on.
Buchanan will teach a Communiversity class on the history and art of baking scones. It will take place at his tea shop -- located at 4309 Pennsylvania -- on Tuesday, May 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The two-hour class will offer step-by-step instruction on baking a basic scone recipe (which can be used for either savory or sweet scones) and will include freshly baked scones and tea. The class fee is $9 with an additional $15 materials charge that includes the scones and tea. To register, click here.