Over this Whitsun Weekend, I’m off visiting my parents in Devon. Devon is a county in the Westcountry (the south-western peninsula) which remains rural and has an abundant and beautiful coastline. Because of the number of cows (everywhere) the Westcountry has a foodie reputation for dairy products (notably butter, cream, icecream, rice pudding and custard) which gave rise to the Ambrosia company’s advertising slogan “Devon knows how they make it so creamy!”.
For me, cream teas are strongly associated with garden tea rooms and are best eaten outside. Yesterday, we went to Coleton Fishacre (pronounced: coll-erton) which is a beautiful house of the arts and crafts/deco style with a stunning interior and gardens that extend forever down to a swimming cove and the rugged Devon coast. After having my breath taken away by the deco styling, and then by the walk up from the cove, it was time for an afternoon cream tea. And so we ordered (cream teas are a staple in the Westcountry) and sat just outside the house, overlooking the gardens, out to sea. My mum and I shared this cream tea:
Because cream teas are so ubiquitous in the south west, I never even considered that they don’t have the same status elsewhere. Sometimes I crave a cream tea and, living in the north as we currently do, I’ve found it nearly impossible to find a tea room that does one and it’s taken me 6 months to locate a shop that sells the one absolutely unchangeable element of a cream tea: CLOTTED CREAM. Oh, it sounds repulsive I’ll give you that. But it’s divine. I’m not quite sure how it’s made, but it has a firm buttery top and a thick liquid bottom.
I suppose this is the point where I address the burning issue of constructing the cream tea. I should warn you that, although I respect diversity, I am unwilling to compromise on this issue*. There are times when I’ve seen the jam being put on first, inevitably by a grockle (local term for a tourist) where it’s been hard to control the urge to turn over the tables and challenge such unorthodox behaviour. I have even witnessed someone eating a scone like a sandwich. I believe education is the only way to solve this problem, so let me state categorically that it is my belief that the scone is split, and each half is treated as a separate delicious entity (though favouring one half, as I do the top half, is unavoidable) and that the cream is spread on first, the jam dollops on top.
Wikipedia states that this is the Devonian way – which makes sense I suppose. Doing it this way provides what I think is the best textural combination. It also allows you to get the most cream on (with a knife) and the most jam on (with a spoon). Besides, spooning clotted cream is incredibly difficult. When it comes to the fruit scone/no fruit scone issue I am less dictatorial. Do as you please.
So I sat with my cream tea, with wonderful Devon all around me, until I came to my last morsel.