Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Scone Conspiracy

Yeah, I'm back with the scones.

The thing is, I don't think of this as a frivolous issue. When a nation that has made tea and scones practically compulsory suddenly removes the option of plain scones—without consulting or even warning the public—something more than casual chance is involved. This smacks of governmental interference at the highest level, a serious breech of trust, an attack on our civil liberties and a disturbing turn toward totalitarianism.

Everywhere I go, I keep an eye out for plain scones (really, I do; it drives my wife crazy) and the results have been depressing bordering on panic. Our local market no longer carries them, I can't find any at the baker's and they stopped serving them in the National Trust Tea Shoppes (and if that doesn't prove it's a government conspiracy, I don't know what does).

Take a look at this photo:

The book is Alexander McCall's latest in his 44 Scotland Avenue series, "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones," (that's a scone in the upper left corner of the book, with raisins), and the card is from a popular novelty-card range and both serve to demonstrate how the anti-plain scone lobby is insinuating itself into the very fibre of our daily lives.

Lately, it appears the tide is turning, or perhaps the conspiracy is deepening. You decide:

Alert reader Rebecca Daly wrote to tell me plain scones are available in the bakery section of Fortnum and Mason. Unfortunately, their store is in London and I don't meet the "Net Worth" requirement for shopping there (though they tolerated my nosing around when I and my companions wandered in one evening while waiting for the concert to begin). F&M ( is a great place to pick up a Caviar Quartet (£450) and jar of white truffles (£300) along with some champagne (£145) to wash it down with (you can also pick up a bottle of 32-year old single malt for £360, but that's not really a bad price). Scones there, plain or otherwise, are likely to go for £57.44 a dozen, so in reality, this isn't making plain scones available at all; it's just another cynical ploy to create the illusion of choice when, the fact is, most of us are too poor to afford them.

Nope, no plain scones here.

Likewise, I have recently discovered plain scones at our local Marks & Spencer (quick primer for the US crowd: M&S is primarily a clothing store but years ago they added a supermarket section catering to people who think Waitrose isn't posh enough). They don't stock plain scones at the Waitrose we shop at, and I have never seen them at Sainsburys or Tesco, either. Granted, that's mostly because I don't shop at Sainsburys or Tesco, but that doesn't mean it isn't so, which supports my theory that the government is holding back all the plain scones, keeping them in reserve for the wealthy and the titled. This is class war at its ugliest, and it is so painfully obvious I sometimes wonder why The Daily Mail hasn't picked up on it yet.

Then at other times, when the lithium kicks in, I'll think maybe it's just a swing in the pendulum, and I'll treat myself to some clotted cream, strawberry jam and a package of M&S plain scones.


  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Hmm, you could be right about a government conspiracy. Have you also noticed the insidious advance of cheese scones. Now the other day I came across some blueberry scones on a market stall. Can't quite recall where but I think it was a stall in the Carfax. The vexed question of bogus assylum seekers comes to mind. Clearly this whole subject needs propor investigation. Have you written to Francis Maude on this matter?

    Leon (Horsham)

  2. I have a fantastic solution for you. Make your own! I have made my own scones and I like them better than store bought. They are so easy to make, if you have ever used Bisquick to make biscuits, finding a good scone recipe and making your own isn't too much different.

  3. When you're ready to create a "Save the Plain Scone" online petition, let me know. I'm there.

  4. I am with Lisa... Make your own. They are so easy and even a mere man could tackle the method.......

    plain flour, for dusting
    3 cups self-raising flour
    80g butter, cubed
    1 to 1 1/4 cups milk
    jam and whipped cream, to serve
    Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly dust a flat baking tray with plain flour. Sift self-raising flour into a large bowl.
    Using your fingertips, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    Make a well in the centre. Add 1 cup of milk. Mix with a flat-bladed knife until mixture forms a soft dough, adding more milk if required. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until smooth (don't knead dough too much or scones will be tough).
    Pat dough into a 2cm-thick round. Using a 5cm (diameter) round cutter, cut out 12 rounds. Press dough together and cut out remaining 4 rounds. Place scones onto prepared baking tray, 1cm apart. Sprinkle tops with a little plain flour. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and well risen. Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm with jam and cream.

    You'll soon be an expert, practice will make perfect.
    Have fun
    Love Granny

  5. Anonymous10:32 AM

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with fruit scones though, obviously, we ought to be given a choice.
    Your article does raise another issue I am deeply concerned by - the final picture. You appear to have put the clotted cream on first then the jam on top thus producing a Devonshire cream tea whereas a true Cornish cream tea will have the jam on first (possibly preceded by butter) and the cream last.
    Surely we need to consider the proper way to use a scone not just it's construction?

    I'm with Granny - make your own then they're warm as well.


  6. Anonymous3:00 PM

    Just to let everybody know- occasinally when he's driven totally crazy - I relent and bake Scone - very good plain ones - My mother would be proud- Her in doors

  7. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Well the conspiracy theory sounds fine, it probably came from one of those secret government think tanks! However, we did find plain scones at M&S Hedge End, in their cafe. Sadly the young assistant had mixed up the labels so the plain ones were cheese and vice versa. Possibly if you wanted a cream tea, jam and cream on a cheese scone? I think not!

    Respectfully yours

    Anon Bognor Regis

  8. Hmmm, I posted a reply this morning but it seems to have disappeared. I'll try again:

    Leon: Francis Maude? Heck no, I'm going right to the top of this bakery conspiracy--Nigella Lawson.

    Others: Thanks for the scone recipes but, as noted above by "her indoors," my wife makes the best scones going and when I go on about the conspiracy too much, she bakes me a batch of PLAIN. Sometimes we even get clotted cream.

    Speaking of, thanks for the pointing out my faux pas, Chip2nd; I'm terribly chagrined and it won't happen again! ;)

    Bognor: Jam and clotted cream on a cheese scone? I think not! Glad to hear you found the plain variety.

  9. Did your nose twitch? Your ears ring? In between bites of PLAIN scones with clotted cream and prune jam (sorry for that one) I managed to think of you since I promised to do so – but those freshly baked scones were so devilishly delicious, it was hard to think of something else. Maybe you have to leave England once in a while and visit the tea store in Switzerland where they have a wonderful old-fashioned tearoom upstairs with all those goodies that go along with a freshly brewed cuppa :)
    Länggass-Tee Familie Lange AG Länggassstrasse 47 3012 Bern Switzerland

  10. Fida: Thanks for thinking of me, while you're eating PLAIN scones in Bern! ;) I guess the way to get a good, old fashioned cream tea with plain scones is to leave England.