Baked Goods: Usage and Abusage

Look, you guys, I love you all, but in the words of today’s generation: you’re doin’ it wrong.

By ‘you guys’, I mean Americans. The whole lot of you.

You might find this hard to take, but I’m writing this because I care about you.

You have some wonderful things like the Statue of Liberty, Brian Cranston, a mayor called “Nutter” and marshmallow fluff in a jar, but in other areas it’s not so good.

In amongst the splendid hospitality and much love that we found in the USA last year, we couldn’t help but notice that when it comes to baked goods to accompany tea, there was some serious deficiencies. Even in really good places.

Let’s start with terminology.

The word “cookie”. An excellent word- if you are under three years old.

Seriously, how childish is that word? The damn word is ‘biscuit ‘. As soon as one’s vocabulary reaches the level where “Johnny wanth bithcut. PLEATHE!” is possible, then ‘cookie’ should be extinguished from the tongue of a child. If the word ‘potty’ has ceased to be used then ‘cookie’ should go as well.

There is some argument that cookie is not a childish diminutive of “to cook” but in fact drawn from the Dutch word for little cakes. If so, here’s a tip: if you are tempted to take a loan word into your language, avoid Dutch. It is the singular most appalling language in the world.  A mangy fox with tuberculosis choking to death on a rabid hamster makes a more attractive sound that a Dutch person ordering a pizza. Netherlands has an incredibly high rate of English language proficiency, and it’s easy to see why: even they hate it. There is a special dispensation for the word ‘Speculaas’, but other than that, the Dutch language is dead to me.

Now as far as the biscuits themselves go, you guys do them well. Keep up the good work.

Now we move on to the mistake you guys make when instead of calling biscuits ‘biscuits’, you call something else ‘biscuits’. Something rather unpleasant that you try to hide with gravy at breakfast.

It’s important that every culture have at least one breakfast food that guarantees a stroke by fifty, and you guys excel yourselves at providing a whole raft thereof. In that context the “biscuits” are probably the least offensive thing on the plate.

So what are they? They are almost bread, almost damper (I mean the Australian campfire bread ‘damper’, not ‘more damp’) and basically a mildly edible spoon for gravy. I realise you do have to give them a name. I suggest you call them ‘OHaPoMS’, which is an acronym for “Overly Hard, Poorly Made Scones”.

And that brings us neatly to scones. Which rhymes with “upons” unless you are from certain parts of the UK where regional dialects and/or class alters this.

So, here’s the thing about scones. Look at this quick table and see how you are doing it wrong.

  • Correct: Light and Fluffy. Incorrect: Like chewing on a desiccated doorknob.
  • Correct: Round. Incorrect:Triangular.
  • Correct: Served with jam and whipped or clotted cream. Incorrect: Served with jam and ‘dairy wip’.
  • Correct: Size about the circumference of a teacup. Incorrect: Bigger than my head.

Most of what passes for scones in the bits of the USA we visited are not only offensive but virtually an offensive weapon. And this is true of ritzy 5 star places as well as Bohemian little tea shops.

Guy, you do tea pretty well- if one goes to the right places. But between making some baked treats poorly and giving daft names to others, it’s a bit of let down.

Let me help you out here.

I have a theory that part of the problem is that “lemonade” is a part of many scone recipes. And lemonade in the USA is, for some reason, not a fizzy drink like it is in the rest of the world. The fizziness is part of the rising process.

Here’s one of the simpler versions from Lady Devotea’s extensive list of scone recipes: Just mix together 6 cups of self raising flour, 2 cups of actual proper  cream, and 2 cups of ‘Sprite’ or other fizzy lemony soda. Add a pinch of salt, form into a sticky dough, rest for 5 minutes (the dough, not you), cut out with a floured glass and bake on a tray spread just far enough apart to almost touch when they rise. I have no idea what temperature to bake them at using that confounded Fahrenheit system, but they can be baked quickly at a medium temperature, or for a better result, slowly at a lower temperature. Take them out when they almost start to colour.

15 minutes and a teapot full of Lord Petersham later, you’re doing it right. You can spend some of that time whipping actual cream with some icing sugar and real vanilla extract.

There you have it, America. Think of this as an intervention. You can recover from this. But it will take time. And love. And quite a bit of baking and eating.

Luckily, I’m here to help.





7 thoughts on “Baked Goods: Usage and Abusage

  1. I will test Lady Devotea’s recipe in the very near future. I had no idea fizziness was so crucial. This will be fun! On the topic of cookies, I’m afraid this is a battle you will never win. It’s as fun to say as they are to eat. That’s why one of our most beloved children’s program has a character named Cookie Monster. It’s a part of who we are.

    1. Yes, The Cookie Monster. For CHILDREN.
      And Sesame Street is the reason many Australian children pronounce Z as “Zee” instead of “Zed”. It should have been dubbed for Australia.

  2. On language: I think it’s amusing that I’ve traded one location where people don’t speak properly (according to you) for possibly the only one worse. (At least I believe that you’ve written most cruelly about the New Zealand accent in the past. Couldn’t find where.)

    On scones: To be fair, though, and I’m sure you’ll grant the point, the scones are dependable here. Not many Devotea stockists, though.

    1. It is true, Erik, that no-one mangles the English language quite like the average Kiwi. And yes, I have been cruel, but I’ll stop if they stop.
      With regard to scones, I imagine they are good there, and the dairy products needed to produce and augment good scones is excellent in NZ. As to there being no Devotea stockists there, why, I imagine you’ll open up a tea room shortly and then we can solve that issue. We can bring true civilisation to NZ.

  3. I am not sure I giggled quite so much in a while, the cookie vs biscuit thing has been a point of contention around my people for most of my life. Problems of being have English, the various tea/food/language wars in my house. It was all fun and games until the dairy wip on scones…oh god, WHY!!!! Who does that? Blech!

    Also I am putting forth ‘sauce mops’ as a suitable term for American biscuits.

  4. Unfortunately ‘potty’ is not confined to babies. I have heard adults talking about ‘going potty’. In the UK this means going mad; not cross as in the US but insane. In the US ‘going potty’ means going to the ‘bathroom’. Don’t get me started.

    And I agree about the scones.

Comments are closed.