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Scone Appetit

Well, I'm back.

Not 'back with a vengeance', perhaps -- the vengeance I bought on Amazon hasn't been delivered yet; probably held up in customs or something -- but I'm back. And when that vengeance shows up -- well, whoo, geez. Look out. Mercy.

In the meantime, here's this:

One of the more... unusual Christmas presents the missus and I received this year was a kit, of sorts, for making scones. I'm not often genuinely surprised by a gift -- much less openly perplexed -- but this was a bit of an eyebrow-lifter.

Mind you, I'm not saying it was a bad gift. And certainly not unappreciated. I'm just saying... well. All I know about scones is that they're what prim, upper-crust old British ladies like to eat with their tea. I fail to qualify on a number of key points in that description. I can manage the 'old' -- and on a good day, maybe the 'crust' part. That's about it.

"When your husband starts doing crazy shit like whipping out mixing bowls and preheating ovens, anything could be happening. Raging paranoia is a perfectly reasonable reaction."

Still, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When life hands you a scone kit with miniature jars of spreadable lemon curd, you make the scones and spread the curd and try not to think too hard about whether your pinky is sticking out when you're washing it down with milk straight from the carton.

(Another reason I'd never make it in proper society. Why dirty all those glasses, just for a quick sip of early morning moo juice? It's not like I have the mouth cooties.

Upper-crusters make things so damned complicated.)

Anyway, this past Sunday I woke up hungry and desperate and with no properly pre-processed food in the house. So I followed the directions (more or less), and made the scones. In the oven. All by myself.

My wife was gobsmacked. And understandably so.

For you see, though I'm a fair fan of several Food Network shows -- Iron Chef, Dinner: Impossible, and Good Eats (obviously) -- my own culinary skillz are sadly lacking. As in non-existent. As in, the only time I would normally step foot into the kitchen is to retrieve the pizza takeout menu.

So I wasn't offended when the missus refused to try a scone until I'd eaten a couple myself. I don't know whether she figured they were physically inedible, or thought I was trying to deliberately poison her. When your husband starts doing crazy shit like whipping out mixing bowls and preheating ovens, anything could be happening. Raging paranoia is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

Eventually, though, she tried a bite. Evidently, she'd never encountered scones, either, because she said:

"Hey, these aren't bad. Scones are sort of like biscuits, huh?"

Oh, dear. That's where my Food Network quasi-knowledge kicked in. I gave my wife a kindly smile and a pat on the head, and proceeded to lay out for her the real culinary genealogy of scones.

Biscuits, I explained in my most professorly tone, are prepared using something called "the biscuit method". But there's also -- as all well-traveled bakers know -- a little procedure called "the muffin method". I gave her a moment to digest these fairly self-evident facts before moving on.

(And also to make sure I hadn't mixed them up in the explanation. Before that morning, remember, my personal breakfast food preparation experience had been limited to "the Pop-Tart method" and "the leftover pasta reheating procedure".)

I went on to assure her, based on the events of the morning, that the preparation of scones clearly bears a far greater resemblence to the latter than the former.

Then she said what I was really hoping she wouldn't: "Okay... why?"

Shit. It's not like I know what the hell the muffin and biscuit methods are -- only that they exist. I was kind of hoping that would be enough for her. But no. She actually can cook, so she was interested in the gory details. Damn my pedantic streak. Now I had to come clean.

"Well... er, hrm. You see, the 'biscuit method', as I learned it years ago, involves, uh, breaking open the can in the fridge and pulling out the raw biscuits to bake. On a baking sheet.

And the 'muffin method' is completely different. There, you... well, you take the bag of muffin mix out of the box, and mix in water and those little blueberry-flavored rabbit turd-looking things, and spoon it into muffin cups. That's the classical 'muffin method'. As taught by Julia Child, I believe. Or maybe Betty Crocker."

She wasn't buying a word, obviously. This was turning into that history essay test I thought I could fake my way through by knowing there was such a thing as the Industrial Revolution. The devil, I discovered, is apparently in the details.

But why quit when I'm behind? I could still back up the original nonsense I pulled out of my ass.

"As you may have noticed, the scones kit consisted chiefly of a bag of scone mix -- to which I added water, and spooned into a pan to bake. Clearly, given the steps in the preparation, the method for making scones is more similar to muffins than biscuits."

I gave her the 'clearly' shrug, to drive home whatever nonsensical point I may have just made. She shook her head sadly and frowned. I shrugged again.

"I mean, clearly."

Nothing. She's a hard woman, that wife of mine. I conceded defeat, as gracefully and nobly as I could.

"Oh, just eat your damned scone, smartypants."

So in the grand scheme of things, I still don't know how the hell to make real scones -- or biscuits, or muffins, or anything else, for that matter. But I did prepare my own Sunday breakfast, and it didn't kill me, and I haven't horked it back up yet. I'd call that a win.

Plus, now the wife is worried I might actually spend time in the kitchen again soon. One more bout of baking 'n' bullshitting, and she'll have the pizza delivery joint on speed dial daily, just to shut me up. I call that little plan my "scone method". Look for it in a cookbook near you.

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