I first tasted a scone the second time I was in England to study. It was accompanied with jam and clotted cream. It was quite different from anything I had tasted before and it was love at first bite.
The table was covered with a checked red-and-white tablecloth that matched the counterpane, and upon it was set a blue dish full of apples, a yellow jug of milk, a purple plate upon which were piled buttered scones, two green plates and two mugs to match.
What I like about this description is that it is colorful: red, white, blue, yellow, purple and green. To the list, pretty soon another one is added: salmon-pink, the color of the geraniums (gerani) that crowd the room where Marmaduke Scarlet lives. Maria, the protagonist of the novel The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (1946), visits Marmaduke's quarters towards the end of the book. Up until that point, she has only seen him while presiding in the kitchen, in the company of Zachariah, the cat.
The novel is a bit too rich in colorful characters to attempt even a brief description here, and maybe you already know all about them from reading the novel when you were a child, or having it read to you. I can see how children would be fascinated by the story, the characters, the places, the events. Had I read the story as a little girl, would I have wished to be Maria? I obviously cannot answer this question. I can tell you, though, that my favorite character was Serena, the white hare (lepre) that Maria rescues from the Men from the Dark Woods.
Back to the scones baked by Marmaduke Scarlet for Maria, I baked mine for my husband. In looking for a recipe to replicate, I had as requirement that it used buttermilk (latticello), which narrowed the list of candidates. Out of those I found, I chose this one. The changes I made were: no topping, and fresh raspberries (lamponi) or blueberries (mirtilli) instead of dried cherries (ciliegie). Another feature of the recipe that recommended it to me is that it makes a small number of scones: they are so much better when freshly made and a small number is perfect for our small household.
I made the recipe three times. The first time, I used raspberries and shaped the dough (which was rather sticky, due to the broken-down fresh raspberries) into 8 rounds, while the second time (also with raspberries) I shaped the dough into a single round, then scored it into 8 slices, which I separated a few minutes before the end of baking time, then put back into the oven, to obtain crispy edges all around.The third time, I used blueberries and went back to the separate round shapes (see photo). I never measured the fruit. I estimate that I had about half a cup of raspberries and a cup of blueberries.
In the pages that follow the little scene that inspired me, Marmaduke outshines himself by preparing a banquet for 30 people, whose menu includes famous English dishes that I know (syllabub, plum cake) and a lot that I don't (Cornish pasty, Devonshire splits). In earlier chapters, he consistently provides delectable repasts for the inhabitants of Moonacre Manor.
One last note. In part 3 of Chapter 9 there is the Spring Song:
Praised be our Lord for our brother the sun...
Praised by our Lord for our sister the Moon...
St. Francis of Assisi (San Francesco d'Assisi, 1181/2-1226) wrote a beautiful poem in praise of brother sun (fratello sole), sister moon (sorella luna), mother earth (madre terra), etc. In Italian, the poem is called Cantico delle creature, while in English it is called Canticle of the Sun. I investigated possible links between Ms. Goudge and St. Francis and found that she wrote a book about his life, published in 1959.
This is my contribution to the third edition of Cook the Books, hosted by Rachel The Crispy Cook. You can find the guidelines for participating in the event here, and here is the announcement of the current edition.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the scone audio file [mp3].