Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Isabel Sharpe: Romancing the Scone

My husband and I just returned from an idyllic trip to Ireland.  I expected the green fields and sheep, but was totally unprepared for the remarkable drama of the western coast and the welcoming charm of the people.  We fell utterly in love with the place—and with having a pint in a pub before dinner every night.

So many favorite moments, but one of the best was on a mid-morning drive (on the left!) on a twisty narrow road around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, roaring ocean on one side, mountains on the other.  We passed an ancient stone house with a sign, "Home Baking."  The day was damp and cold and we were hungry, so we stopped.  Inside, a low-ceilinged room with two tables and a couple of easy chairs in front of a lovely fire.  The owners, an elderly couple, served us excellent tea and just-baked scones.  We sat there, warm and cozy, feeling part of something foreign and very, very old.  And then, blaring from the kitchen, Neil Young's Southern Man.  A small world after all.

The sad truth is, after such an enchanting time . . . we had to come home.  Thirty-three degrees here in Wisconsin the day we landed, April 15.  We wanted nothing more than to climb back on the plane and return to the bed and breakfast that served scones, brown bread with butter and jam, fresh orange juice, assorted fruits, yoghurt, muesli, amazing cheeses and then an enormous hot breakfast.

Back home, in a somewhat crazed effort to keep the magic going, I scoured the Internet for brown bread recipes and made a worthy version.  I baked scones.  I made muesli, beef and Guinness stew and a dessert called Eton Mess (here I’d like to point out that as of this writing, we have been back for only four days.  I was obsessed).

However, by last night, inevitably, the trip’s magic had faded into all we had to do and catch up on and be responsible for here in our real lives.  Ewww!  So this morning I put down placemats, China and silver, and arranged the leftover scones, muesli, yoghurt and fruit onto and into elegant serving pieces.  I offered our orange juice from a small crystal pitcher and milk from a china one.  My tea and my husband’s coffee I poured out into proper tea cups.  With saucers.

And you know what?  In spite of seven thousand extra dishes to wash afterward (where was that B&B staff?), it was a really lovely escape back into fantasy.  We made a pact to remind ourselves that it only takes a little extra effort to transform the ordinary routine into something more special.  A good lesson learned.  Think how many more there must be!  Clearly we need to visit several more countries to search them out.

If anyone would like the recipe for scones and/or brown bread, please let me know!  And I would love to hear how you keep your lives from sinking too far into the ordinary.  My favorite response gets a copy of my April Harlequin Blaze, Nothing to Hide.

Cheers and happy travels, armchair or otherwise,


*** Isabel's winner is Renee! Please email with your mailing info.***


Mary Preston said...

I actually take a lesson from my Mother & don't just keep the good china, crockery, cutlery etc for some vague special future occasion. Buttered toast & a cup of tea, for example, taste so much better taken from that fine china plate or cup.

Truth to tell the finer the quality the less likely it is to break. You take more care & it is made to a much higher standard.

Lil said...

I would love the recipes for scones and brown bread. Truth is that food and meals in general help keep life special for me. My family and I are adventurous eaters and love cooking up meals with different countries as themes. My husband started us off on this many years ago and it is fun both to cook things up together and then sit down with our kids to eat dinner and chat through the day. Doesn't feel ordinary but like a welcomed, almost daily, kind of event. Husband goes on business trips and kids are teens so we are not as consistent as we once were. But it is such a lovely time.

Isabel Sharpe said...

I totally agree, Mary. My parents never used silver until their wedding set was stolen. They started using their second set (my Mom's Mom's) every day after that and enjoyed it.


Isabel Sharpe said...

Lil, I do the same! I traveled a lot as a girl with my family and it opened me up to eating a wide variety of cuisines and ingredients.

Anyone who wants the recipes, please send me your e-mail address.

Renee said...

Oh my! To read your article sent me right back to Ireland to their amazing landscape and the Irish Stew and brown bread we loved on our trip with my mother to Ireland when she turned 75. (They sang Danny Boy to her in a castle!) We fell in love not just with the food but also the people who were just as interested in American politics and loved a good debate. Not a pint drinker, I did enjoy the Irish Whiskey in my coffee after dinner and wine with dinner. The pubs are unlike anything here with their homemade entertainment and good conversation. We listened to fiddlers and story tellers who rival my favorite bard Shakespeare. Thank you for the trip down memory lane, and if you ever have a chance to go, it is well worth it!

Laurie G said...

I like to read several cooking magazines. I like to try out new recipes on my husband. If they're acceptable I will make them for friends and family. Since it's just my husband and myself it's easier to shop and plan out a dinner for two. Much easier than when all 4 of my children lived at home too.

I'm working on a cookbook of my children's favorite recipes and my M-I-L's wonderful German/ Hungarian recipes. I'd like to gift the cookbook to my children next Christmas.

Ireland sounded very peaceful, beautiful and friendly. I'd love to visit.

I'd like to try both the scone and the brown bread recipe.


Lauri e

johns lake at usa dot com

Isabel Sharpe said...

What great memories! Thanks for sharing. And yes, the people were a huge part of what we enjoyed about the country. So welcoming.



Isabel Sharpe said...

Your cookbook sounds like the perfect gift for your kids, what a labor of love!

I sent you the recipes, hope I got your e-mail correct!


Laurie G said...