23 September 2011
My life in scones and the ubiquity of Double Devon Cream
Oddly enough, when I had my first scone with cream and jam on my first trip to England in 1989 I didn't really like it. When I bought it, I assumed (wrongly) that the cream would be sweet like American whipped cream or the kind of cream you might find in a filled doughnut. So when I bit into it, I was somewhat startled and disappointed by the taste. (In retrospect I think this particular scone--bought in a cafeteria like cafe at the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham may have had too much cream on it, overwhelming the sweetness of the jam.) Not having enjoyed that scone experience, I didn't bother to try it again for the rest of my six weeks in England.
On the flight back to the U.S. they served a mass produced, cellophane-wrapped little scone already pre-jammed and creamed. Being someone who worries I am never going to get enough to eat on trans-Atlantic flights, I tend to eat everything I am given. So I popped that scone in my mouth despite my previous bad experience. Much to my surprise it was amazingly good. It was like the clouds parted from my palate and I finally understood what a scone with jam and cream was all about. As I looked around the cabin of the plane hoping someone might hand theirs over for me to eat, I began to think of the fact that I could have been eating scones everyday for six weeks. Oh the humanity! What a lost opportunity.
How exciting then to see jars of Devon Double Cream for sale in a grocery store in Minnesota a year or two later. It wasn't even a high-end, or speciality grocer. It was just your normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill grocery store. Being able to find the cream in the US meant that I didn't have to wait around for trips to England to satisfy my craving for a cream tea. Since that first siting I have noticed the inroads that The Devon Cream Company has made in the U.S. market as it began showing up in more and more places.
This summer I was astonished at the number of places I saw it for sale. I've tried to make sense of its apparent ubiquity. Here in DC, I reasoned, there are lots of foreign nationals from all reaches of the once vast British Empire. Perhaps they are the ones buying all the double cream. After all, an Anglophile baker like myself only buys it maybe twice a year. But then on our road trip up to Maine this summer, it seems like I saw it everywhere we went--even in rather small retail outlets that have a limited selection of products. I even found it on the island of Islesboro with its tiny (albeit somewhat gourmet) grocery store. (Even more interesting is the fact that I totally took it for granted that I would be able to find it while we were in Maine. Even though I measured out the dry ingredients for scones at home and took the mix along with me to Maine, I just assumed that I would be able to find double cream and that I didn't need to buy it in DC ahead of time.
As I rejoiced in being able to find the product so easily while travelling this summer, I couldn't help but wonder who in the US is buying this stuff other than me, and what are they using it for? Are there really that many Americans baking scones**? Or maybe it has a really long shelf-life*** and low turnover so its ubiquity doesn't necessarily mean that tons of units are being sold.
Perhaps I shouldn't even be asking why. I should just be thankful that it is.
* Clotted cream is 55% milk fat, whereas double cream is 48%. (Either one is gorgeous on a scone.)
** Americans baking scones frighten me a little. To me a scone is a rather plain affair. I usually make mine with dried currants (never raisins). They are meant to be tasty vehicles for jam and cream. They are not meant to be the star of the show. No giant triangles laden with blueberries or chocolate or other nonsense for me.
*** I just found out on The Devon Cream Company's website that the product does indeed have a long shelf-life of twelve months. UPDATE: It is specially vacuum-packed so its unopened shelf life is 12 months. Once opened the decay process begins like with any cream.
[9/24 Update: I just discovered a blog actually called My Life in Scones]