Posted on April 16th, 2011
I’ve heard that other people have soft sensory memories of childhood–the warm embrace of a parent. The pleasing shape of a favorite toy. The mad lights of an amusement park, spangling the interior space of the file drawer marked ‘Age 10’ in the basement recesses of the brain. I chiefly remember what I ate and what I read.
I don’t know what season it was when I found my dad’s copy of The Hobbit and decided to read it. In the white room of my now-adult recollection, the light is indistinct and mineral. The pages of the book are yellowed and have my dad’s fat looped writing, of which my own is partially an echo, on the inside flap: Gary Kanabay 1972. It smells like the library, and is sized to sit snugly in the back pocket of a pair of jeans. I might be too young to read it, but, I’m going to read it (there was a basement bookcase in my parents’ house, filled by volumes whose contents I ached to understand but was largely confused by, starting with B. Kliban and continuing on into things like Jorge Amado). And it begins. And for the next week, I am lost within it. It is the first time that I recall falling wholly into a book, into a world, and feeling bereft somehow when it ended, and all the more eager for the story to continue. I know that when I finally did finish the entirety of Tolkien’s series, I cried–though, without the angry late-night parade into my parents’ bedroom to accuse them of not warning me about the ending, as I had when Beth perished in Little Women, most unexpectedly.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had given me vacation and respite from the tribulations of being a chubby, be-spectacled sixth grade girl with hair that refused to cooperate into straightness (my efforts to coax it into the favored smooth helmet of shine chiefly resulted in me getting neck cramps in my efforts to not move my head, believing motion to be the beginning of all frizz). It gave me the means to teach myself Elvish, so that I could keep my classroom-required journal in another language (yeah, I was that kid). And, it clued me into the very important concept of elevenses.
As a food-loving girl weirdly obsessed with British culture, who privately longed for the confines of boarding school where everyone dressed the same, and no one cared whose pants came from where, I was already predisposed to love a culture that celebrated something like ‘clotted cream’. But here, in my shadowy literary otherworld after school, or under my desk during algebra, was a universe that believed in something more magical still: entire meals that existed in between other meals. Liz Lemon had yet to say it, but, eleven year old me knew it: I wanted to go to there. They had pie before lunch! Possibly twice! I had mid-digital toe hair! These were my people!
Years later, they are my people still: I reside in Portland, an entire city firmly dedicated to second (or third) breakfast, cozy sips of things, bacon, fragrant pipe smoke, cultivating friendship with bearded people, strong coffee, and buttery bits. Sixth grade me could’ve envisioned no finer fate than to land here at last, surrounded by other Hobbit-minded folk, with the time and the means to celebrate the meals between meals. Our hope for this column as it continues, is to enable others to re-connect with that first brush of literary gluttony–to recall the pleasure of losing oneself in a meal of words, much as a Hobbit might be lost in a sea of cream scones. And to, you know, get to the bottom of Lembas bread (anyone?). As you begin your weekend, we hope that at least part of it will include a break for elevenses, and the simple pleasures of a second breakfast, blanketed by the pages of a truly good book. You might want to make these to have on hand, just in case. You never know when a small horde of dwarves is going to pop by.
Mr. Frodo’s Scones (by way of Mel Baggins)
2 1/2 c. all purposed flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cold butter
1 c. any kind of fruit yogurt(I like strawberry)
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until crumbly and butter is in pea-sized bits. Add yogurt and mix until just combined. (don’t overmix!)
Dump onto floured board and knead 8-10 times, until just smooth. (the dough may still be a little shaggy–that’s okay! don’t overwork it!)
With your hand, gently shape into a round, and pat down to 1 inch thickness. Divide dough evenly into triangles, using a knife, or, a bench scraper.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 min.( or until light brown) on an ungreased baking sheet.
Excellent with jam, clotted cream, honey, butter, bacon, and, of course, tea.