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Etiquette of the Scone

Since the beginning of time, mankind has asked one question! Cream before jam or jam before cream? This has been debated across the British Isles and in fact the world as to what is the correct way to do this. If you ask someone in Cornwall, you will get the answer: it is always jam then cream, however ask someone in the north east of England, it would be the cream followed by jam.

Before we discover my way of enjoying a scone with the cream and jam, let's find out where the humble scone came from. Well, what actually is a scone? Quite simply it is single serving cake or quick bread. Normally they are made from wheat, barley or even oatmeal, with of course baking powder to help raise it and they are baked on sheet pans. They are also occasionally glazed with egg wash.

According to the English Oxford dictionary, the first mention of the word was in around 1513. The origin of the word scone is not at all clear and have many different sources. The classic Scottish scone according to Sheila MacNiven Cameron in The "Highlander's Cookbook", started life as a bannock cut into pieces. The Dutch schoonbrood (spoonbread) which was similar to a drop scone and possibly other similarly named quick breads, may have made their way onto the British tea table, where their names merged into one.

It may also derive from the Scots Gaelic term sgonn which translates to "a shapeless mass or large mouthful".  Sheila MacNiven also stated that the word may also be based on the town of Scone in Scotland, the once ancient capital of Scotland, where Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned.

The pronunciation of the word within the English-speaking world varies. According to one academic study, two-thirds of the British population pronounce it "skɒn" with the preference rising to 99% in the Scottish population. Others pronounce the word as "skoʊn" ˈskɒn" and according to British dictionaries are the preferred pronunciation. Interestingly enough, the Oxford Dictionary also explains that there are regional and class differences in England connected with the different pronunciations.

I have to agree with Shelia MacNiven Cameron that I believe the word originates from Scone in Scotland and this is also to blame why people refer to this variation as the correct pronunciation.

When we discuss the etiquette of the scone let's get rid of one serious myth! You can indeed cut a scone as you can with a sandwich! Over the last few years experts have been claiming this is not the done thing. Well, I can assure you it is very much the done thing and it is a ritual even carried out by Royals.

So now you may ask what is the correct way to apply the jam and cream? Whenever I enjoy an afternoon tea with my clients they always wait with bated breath to see exactly what is the correct way to do this. Firstly, I would cut the scone unless it has been baked in a way you can easily break it with your hands. Now the question is this, would you apply butter on top of jam? No. Exactly! Why then would you put cream on top? Now we have cleared this up and upset the whole of Cornwall we then apply the jam on top of the cream. We can now enjoy this delicate meal with our afternoon tea.

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