There’s nothing like handing out Halloween candy to kids in your old neighborhood to make you feel like a grown-up. Home alone with a giant bowl of Kit Kats and a half-buffered stream of my favorite sitcom, it seemed I’d skipped my twenties and landed squarely in old age. So I threw in the towel and made scones.
And, to be honest, indulged in a little food philosophizing. I mentioned the idea of “good food” in my last post, and it turns out that’s a bit of a topic at the moment (at least if you are, as I am, a shameless slave to New York Times op-eds). But while food can taste good, it can’t be good. Food isn’t moral in that way, because then we’d be expecting it to fill hungers it can’t.
The truth is, you can’t grow a great tomato in a hothouse. The truth is also that genetically modified crops feed farmers and their families who would otherwise starve when ordinary seeds wither in droughts that worsen every year. But when we talk about what food can give us beyond mere nutrition (which is important – we’d die without it) we’re really talking about ritual. Yes, I love walking into my parent’s garden and eating warm figs straight off the tree every morning in summer. But I also loved Thursday nights at JJ’s Place and their suspiciously frothy fro-yo. I loved bottles of Lagunitas IPA on the farm, and driving with my college boyfriend’s mom to Chick-fil-A. I love my family’s flaming Christmas pudding every year on Christmas Eve, and a pot of Five Roses every three hours with my dad when we’re both working from home. It pains me to say it, but I might even be looking forward to gingerbread lattes.
It’s the ritual that gives meaning to the food, not the food that somehow gives us meaning. That’s why we eat those awful frosted, lettered cakes at birthdays and graduations, and that’s why we take communion. Food tastes wonderful and keeps us alive, but whether you’re a maize farmer in Tanzania or a silly food philosophizer like me, it’s the ritual associated with food that truly makes it meaningful.
Fruit and Nut Scones
I adapted the recipe for these scones and always encourage substitutions – I love almonds and dried apricots in everything from sweets to curries, but feel free to use whatever trail mix mix-ins your pantry offers.
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 stick of butter
3/4 cups roasted almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place raisins and apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 5-10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and oats. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into dry ingredients with your fingers (trust me – this step is key for that delicious flakiness). Stir in dried fruit, almonds and sunflower seeds, then add yogurt. Add the milk a little bit at a time (using more if necessary) until you have a dough that just holds together.
Place dough on a floured surface and shape into a square that’s one inch thick. Cut the dough into squares and then triangles (you can make them smaller if you’d like), then place scones on cookie sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes.