In this blog, we explore and critically analyze the nature of pastry. If you have a potential pastry you would like examined, please email a photo of said alleged pastry and it will be considered. If you would like an answer key and the results of our study you may request it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


The scone raises a surprising question: would a pastry (or not pastry) still be a pastry (or not pastry) if it went by a different name? What, indeed, is in a name? Though Shakespeare asked his (or her) famous question about people and roses, it seems to me that it could be applied to pastries as well.

Extensive research has revealed that in Scotland, the ostensible birthplace of the scone, 99% of people pronounce it /skon/ to rhyme with "John". For the moment, please suspend your outrage at the Scots' evident disregard of the silent-e rule and let your analytical skills tackle the greater question: is a scone still a scone if it's a skon?

"Of course," you might say. "After all, they probably call 'apple turnovers' something different in Spanish, but it still conforms to the Platonic ideal of apple turnover!" But are you so willing to universalize your own personal experience to the people of the world? Do people in mountain villages in Peru experience the "pastriness" of apple turnover in the same way as people in mountain villages in North Carolina? Who are you to say that other cultures would not see an apple turnover and immediately group it into their Platonic categories of "bread" or "pie" or "poison"? We must be sure not to impose our Western views so tersely on the Other.

On the other hand, as we sink into the depths of relativism, the very category of pastry begins to fade and lose meaning.

The only solution is to dispatch a cadre of anthropologists to the far reaches of the globe in order to study natives' views of pastry. This, we intend to do. Please donate to our efforts.

Here is a 16th century ode to the scone, uncovered at one of our more recent archeology sites:

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;--
Thou art thyself, though not a pastry.
What's pastry? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a scone
By any other name would taste as swell;

So skon would, were he not skon call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title:--Skon, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Oh scone/skon! I do wish to take you! Though we are inconclusive about both its name and its pastriness, the mystery of the scone continues to ensnare wayward analysts. Its claim to pastry is perhaps more straightforward than its name: it is sweet, a breakfast food, sometimes filled with covert ingredients (raisins, nuts, orange zest, etc). It fits well on a breakfast plate and can come in striking shapes, like wedges. However, it does not flake (it crumbles) and it is often shoved in bread categories, like biscuits and toast. Though this may be some weird perversion of the British, we do not yet have significant evidence to discount it entirely.

I leave you with a clip from a horror movie about the very real possibility of pastries destroying humans, a warning to us all to keep The Other, and our (sometimes extravagant) notions of pastiness, firmly in check:

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