Scones and Sympathy

Most of us associate some foods with where we are in life when we’ve eaten them.  Scones remind me of a sad time in my life, and of the value of sympathetic friends.  Thirty years ago when I was struggling with my first marriage and trying to find the courage and resolve to do something about my life, I would meet my friend Ellen Wallach, a WWN writer, for breakfast at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaurant called – rather ironically - Pentimento.  Wasn’t I, after all, trying to scrape off the top layers of my life and get to who I was underneath the suburban wife and mother, and the professional woman in transition?

When I knew we were to meet after my first three early morning newscasts, I began thinking about what kind of scone I’d order about an hour ahead of time.  Maybe one with nuts, or that special chocolate chip scone.  I’d speed from my Alston-Brighton TV studio, hoping desperately for a parking place (A rare thing in Cambridge any time of day or night) so I’d be on time.  Ellen was always on time and we made a deal of ordering and getting settled so we could talk.

As I poured out my woes to her, I can remember pushing bites of scone past the lump in my throat that was helping me hold back the tears.  Ellen was the perfect listening friend.  She was great on the “but what about . . .?” questions. There was a long period that I felt my answers weren’t very focused or clear. Sometimes the lump exploded and I’d cry.  Tear-touched scones and good conversation gave way to good decisions and changes in both Ellen’s life and mine.

We are still fine friends and we’re both happily remarried  – and I still love scones.  Here – deep in the Connecticut countryside – I’m afraid to even speculate on how far away I am from the nearest good scone, so I make my own. Just as in life when we try things that don’t work and make changes to try to get it right, I’ve made a raft of so-so scones in my time but recently I found a recipe at that is fail-safe.  Give it a try and don’t be afraid to add a little orange zest, nutmeg or whatever appeals to you to give them a small kick:


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

1/2 cup raisins (or dried currants)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in raisins.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Now, when I make scones in my peaceful kitchen, in a life that makes perfect sense to me I always think, with gratitude, of Ellen and the Pentimento years.


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