I didn’t intend to stay away for this long, but sometimes that’s just how things end up working. I’m in Massachusetts for work, and have spent my days in the archive and my nights in an AirBnB room shared with one of those giants wooden giraffes we always see tourists walk around with on OR Tambo, and which my hostess did indeed bring back from South Africa. Seeing one of those curio giraffes in the wild is a slightly disarming sight.
Today is my mother’s birthday, and I am heartbroken. I don’t know what it says about me that I am almost 31 years old and miss my parents as much as I do, but I’ve been thinking about the day my paternal grandmother died, and how my mother picked me up from school, early, and took me home, and how my father came into my room, crying so bitterly he could not speak, and lay holding me on my bed for hours, just crying and crying, and how he was then the age I am now, and how then I thought, this must be the most awful thing that can happen to anyone, and how although I’ve added quite a litany to that list of awful things I still stick with my initial assessment.
This afternoon my mother baked lots of cake and the family had tea in the garden. They sent me a picture and I burst into tears when I opened it, walking the streets of Cambridge. I cry like my father.
The tea my mother prepared reminded me of a lovely conversation we had last week, about scones. I have discovered a most beautiful little shop in Toronto, named Kitten and the Bear. They sell only three things: freshly baked scones, small batches of jam, and just-brewed tea. They charge an exorbitant amount for all three these things, but it is a marvelous way to celebrate a special occasion. The scones are also the Platonic ideal of buttermilk scones, and although those who know me well know that I also inherited my father’s dramatic sense of hyperbole, I am not exaggerating when I say they are the best scones I have every had the joy of eating, and I have had my fair share of scones in 31 years. The conversation with my mother was centred around trying to figure out what it could be that made these scones as light and immensely flavourful as they are. Since eating them I have cycled through one after the other buttermilk scone recipe, hoping to recreate it, but none have brought the goods. My mother feels very fancy and expensive buttermilk and butter might do the trick, so that’s what I’ll try next. Our scones were served with three different types of jam – a strawberry, raspberry and cream jam, banana, bourbon and vanilla bean jam, and a spicy plum jam. We also had a citrus and whisky marmalade. I am warming to jam very late in life, and these were lovely. There was also – be still my beating heart – clotted cream.
Top tip: these scones are also sold to take-away, and they’re much cheaper that way. You can add your own cream and tea at home, and enjoy while sewing.
If anyone has an amazing buttermilk scone recipe to share, I’m currently auditioning candidates. I want to have this one down next time I’m home, to bake for my mother.