First, a note about best friends.
I have quite a few people I think of fondly as my "best friend". If you're reading here and you know you are my best friend, and I'm talking about another best friend, you're not being slighted in the least. I love you all so dearly, and am going to feel free to talk about best friends from now on!
I'm part of the Teacher Appreciation Committee at our small school. I show my appreciation through baking the few things I bake well. Even though I received a note that the teachers are trying to eat more healthily, I wanted to share one last luxurious treat before I start whipping up fruit smoothies or the like.
In Australia you can order Devonshire Tea at cafes and tea houses, and it consists of a pot of tea (with cream and sugar), hot scones, a bowl of whipped or clotted cream, and a bowl of jam. You slice open a steaming scone, heap each side with cream, then jam (or jam, then cream - it's controversial) and then eat it, each bite squishing delicious sweetness. You can order Devonshire Tea by yourself, and it will be enjoyable, but it is best eaten with a friend. You argue about what comes first, cream or jam, and how much of each, and in what ratio. It is a kind of communion, this sharing of a plate.
I can't remember now if my best friend N introduced me to my first scone or not. So many of my girlfriends in Sydney considered it a ritual to be shared whenever possible. When you think about scones you may think of dense goodies, tucked full of raisins or bits of chocolate. By contrast, my friend N's scones are little pillows of fluffy delight. They set the tongues of the church grannies wagging, they are risque scones. The jam is the heaviest thing on them.
When it came time for us to leave Australia, we hosted a play date at the park for all of our school friends to come and say goodbye. I am still amazed when I think of the turnout we received. You couldn't swing a cat without knocking out three kids in our school's uniform. They filled the sand pit, they ruled the swings, they climbed the spider's web, and they helped each other on the flying fox. People brought food, pictures were taken right and left, and we stayed until dusk, finally dragging ourselves away, arms round each other's shoulders until we climbed into our cars, wet, sandy, loved
In the midst of that wonderful crowd, I found N. She had a basket, lined with a pretty tea towel, filled with scones and a pot of jam. I can't remember now if there was cream or not, but I watched her circle the park, graciously offering this sacred food to all my people. From time to time, we'd smile at each other across the crowds in the silent way that a deep friendship makes room for others, and serves others.
This morning I arose in the dark, while all the house was sleeping, and I tied my apron over my pajamas.
With my recipe book before me, I followed N's Lemonade Scone recipe, as I have many times before. I sifted flour, and watched the lemonade bubble and foam before mixing the ingredients with a knife, just so, like N taught me. I pressed the cool, moist dough onto my floured benchtop, leaving the gentle shapes of my fingers on the surface. I cut the scones out using a pretty glass, and then watched them puff and rise in the oven, all while the house slept.
These rituals are home rituals, regardless of where I am. This food is love food, prepared with all the grace of good memories, and generosity of heart. When I thought of what I could do to show my children's new teachers that I appreciate the thoughtfulness and care they are extending my little dear ones, I knew right away what to do. Make them Devonshire Tea, just like N taught me.