Friday, June 12, 2009

A scone, a goat and the Conor Pass

Food has memory. Each mouthful transfers those memories directly to the sense centres in the brain, allowing the entire body to engage with the taste. As an expat I started to build these memories of Turkish food later in life, and initially looked on in amazement as my friends went wild for a dish that may not be appetizing to look at or eat. It happens in the opposite direction too.

Now there should be a picture of a scone here, but it being a hectic week I didn't have time to make any. So use your imagination and picture a golden brown bun studded with raisins, the firm crust masks a butter-yellow, springy inside. It smells of warmth and tastes of comfort. The mouths of anyone from Ireland or the British Isles should be watering.

Handing a plate of these to a Turk, smiling proudly at how close they resemble my mother's scones, there is a moment of anticipation before they take one. It's obviously not like baklava, the layers of buttered filo pastry and nuts, so soaked in syrup it melts in the mouth. It's not like simit, the teatime standard, a ring of twisted bread covered in sesame seeds. Perhaps it's a little more like poğaca, soft pastry enclosing cheese or olives. The closest would be kuru pasta; sweet or salty bite-size pastries. So they bite the dry scone and nod faint approval, though it's hard to know do they approve of the scone or the fact that I baked them myself.

I cut my scone in two, lather on butter generously, spread strawberry jam and then, to amazed stares, I top it all with a dollop of sugary whipped cream. As the butter melts I bite and am eleven or twelve years old again. We are in a hotel, sitting down to afternoon tea by a large bay window overlooking Dingle Bay in the southwest of Ireland.

We have been driving past corry lakes and green cliffs on a steep mountain road. In spite of the remoteness of the area there is traffic, slowed further by the narrowness of the road. We have made our way from Tralee, I think, past Castlegregory and Mount Brandon to climb over the Conor Pass. We stopped cautiously at the top of the pass looking south towards Dingle Bay and north to Mount Brandon. Our caution had nothing to do with the many cars and caravans constantly pulling over without regard for pedestrians. It was to do with goats. Years before we stopped here just as a herd of goats was roaming by. My mother decided to take a photo of myself and my sister beside one of the goats. We posed, two skinny-legged kids in shorts. And as the camera shutter clicked our goat friend turned and butted my little sister squarely on her hip. The scene is re-enacted with my little brother as the goat, much to my sister's disgust.

And finally my father asks are we hungry. He has been talking about these scones all day; it will be a big treat, the hotel is famous for them. And in spite of our pre-teen skepticism, he is right: they are the most delicious scones, served at just the right temperature with homemade strawberry jam and magnificent whipped cream. We devour the lot and possibly even order more.

I look up to find my Turkish guests with quizzical looks on their faces. I choose not to tell them my recollections, let them make their own memory of scones - eaten with cream by the foreigner with a wistful grin.


Here's Corinne, the next post in the World Blog Surf Day list. And the WBSD link list, just in case.

Thanks to Sher for arranging World Blog Surf Day and to Anastasia as offical Twitterer for WBSD. Anastasia Ashman (Thandelike) is an American cultural producer based in Instanbul, and is a creator of Expat Harem, the anthology by foreign women about modern Turkey. Her Tweetstream focuses on women, travel and history, and she shares resources for writers/travelers, expats, Turkophiles and culturati of all stripes.
Twitter Home Page: Thandelike


  1. Hi Yazar,
    I could smell and taste those scones--it was if I was at the next table watching the scene you described!

    And I understand the reactions of Turkish friends. I have the same thing here--people aren't sure what to make of some of the American dishes I make to share! But one hit has been brownies!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  2. That's agreat angle to talk about food, how do the locals react to your home cooked food.

    Had some interesting reactions in Thailand, one thing I found out is that 99% of the Thais don't like cheese!

  3. What a memory! You are right though about the link. Every time I eat Czech food, it does bring memories from my childhood :o)

  4. Lol, reminds me of the day when I proudly presented 'milk rice' to my friends in Spain as a 'typical German dish' only to discover later that it was also a very common dessert in Spain! SY
    PS we will have scones tomorrow at our church fundraiser, very much looking forward to it!

  5. Beautiful post, I love how you painted a picture with words there.

    Goats have a wicked sense of humour. I adore them, even though one of them once ate my belt and part of my summer dress when I was a child.

    I think I will go get myself a scone and eat it in your honour :)


  6. I wish you had posted a recipe for scones. I keep trying to bake them, but everyone seems to have their own recipe. Yours sound delightful.

  7. When Turkish friends come over, I torture them with food from Indonesia, which is fun since it's so out of line how they serve Turkish food...and more spciy as well...(made if more spicy for it's hot, burning hot.)

  8. Thanks for all the comments!

    I have to say the first time I tried to bake scones they turned out like rocks, so my husband was a little wary after that.

    Boiled potatos are another thing Turks don't think much of (I don't blame them much though!). They chop a tomato, green onion, add some red pepper flakes and salt, then smother it all in olive oil and serve it as a salad.

  9. My daughter makes a great blueberry scone, and in just about six hours, we're heading to the airport to pick her up. I guess her first mission will be to make me some scones...mmmmm. Thanks!

  10. I was in Turkey last Easter and could relate to many of some of the foods that you wrote. We were feasted by some Turkish ladies in their abode for breakfast, it was a new experience - simit, peynik, and ate without individual plates - only fork and straight into the mouth.

  11. You opened a window from your past and when I looked in I also saw my own. That is one of the special things about reminiscing... and especially when those joining you have something in common.

    As a girl, I certainly didn't miss my brother's "attentions", but I sure do miss them now.

  12. Hehe scones! The nearest equivalent in the US is "bisquits" which are quite salty and served with gravy (!!) in the South. The lads I worked with thought I was nuts trying one with jam.

    I loved the memories, I could just imagine it myself. I remember stopping for tea and scones in Connemara before, they were heaven. Although I don't quite do the cream part.

    I think every country has slightly strange food habits - almost every Belgian restaurant serves Spagetti Bolognese (??) and everything comes with Belgian Fries (frites) served with mayo. They don't understand the Irish things like taking milk in your tea, salt and vinegar with chips and going to the British shop to get Cadbury's chocolate, crisps, sausages, proper milk ;)

    Hope you are having a great day!

  13. Wow from a woman who lives in the Philippines, where "scones" is not a popular word (I have yet to find the equivalent term, if there is), I can say that this is really mouth watering! I can almost smell and tastes the scones as you described it to be!

    Very interesting :)

  14. Corinne I hope you're enjoying them (and your daughter didn't mind being forced into the kitchen before recovering from the flight!)

    Nurinkhairi the communal table is quite common at breakfast. Beats cornflakes though!

    Romancing Italy these days my brother would deny he ever did anything so uncool as play with his older sisters!

    Claire milk in your tea is treated as an abomination here. Turkish tea, properly brewed, is too good to be ruined with milk, I use teabags if I'm really homesick for a cup! Cadbury's can be found, I give the kid's Cadbury's Finger's as a special treat (they're about three times the price of every other biscuit in the store!)

    Czaroma glad you got the sense of scones from my post! Translating food is a tricky business