In the spring when I was ten, my father took the family to England for ten days on his business trip. It was my first trip overseas, and I was very excited. But even more excited was my mother, who had once studied and lived in the country for several years before I was born. She was determined to introduce me to as many interesting places and things as possible during our short stay.
Once day, the three of us made a visit to Oxford. My father had a work appointment, so my mother and I spent the day on our own exploring different places in this famous little town. We visited Christ Church, walked around the campus, and even saw the dining hall which later became famous in the Harry Potter movie series.
After lunch, we were walking down a street, when my mother found a teahouse and stopped.
“We haven’t yet tried a scone, have we?”
“A scone?” I repeated, puzzled by the sound of this unfamiliar term.
“Let’s go inside and I’ll introduce you to a scone!”
I had rarely seen my mother being so excited, and I eagerly followed her inside.
The teahouse had a classic ambience and it was bustling with chattering people. We were led to a corner seat. As soon as we sat down, my mother ordered tea and scones, one for each of us. After observing the decor of the room, I asked my mother again.
“So, what is a scone?”
“You will see. It’s really delicious.”
My mother’s comment made me even more curious to try this thing called scone. After what felt like a very long waiting period, our plates finally arrived. I followed the waitress’ hand as she transferred my plate from the tray onto the table. On it sat an enormous shiny pastry whose shape was an octagon. There was also a small pot of jam next to it.
“So, Mom, this is a scone, is it?”
When I looked up, I saw a surprise on my mother’s face.
“Yes, but this is a rather large scone!” she said. “It’s unusually large. I wonder if we can finish it.”
“Large is better than small!” I beamed and started eating the scone with jam. Being a foodie, I had no doubt that I could finish my scone in no time.
The taste of the scone was different from any other pastries or cakes that I had eaten in my life. I quite liked its thick texture. Across the table, my mother had a cloudy face.
“This scone isn’t of a good quality. I’m disappointed.”
She looked sad because she wanted to introduce me to a real scone as she knew it from her time in England. I told her that I liked my scone, hoping to cheer her up.
“This scone is very dry,” said my mother as she ate her scone. “A real scone is more moist.”
“More moist?” I repeated as I munched on my scone and imagined the texture being more moist, feeling softer against my mouth.
“Yes. And a real scone usually comes with cream as well, not just jam.”
“Cream and jam?” I looked at my plate and imagined a pot of cream next to the jam. That would have tasted even better, I thought. A scone ate with both cream and jam.
“And also,” my mother continued. “A real scone has a round shape, never an octagon.”
“I see,” I became thoughtful.
“Finally,” said my mother and put down her knife. “A real scone is a lot smaller. This one is tasteless and too big. I’m full now. I can’t finish it. You can also leave it if you’re full.”
I fiercely worked on my scone for some more time, but I soon reached a point where I didn’t want another bite. We both had about half of our scones left on our plates when we declared defeat and left the shop.
That was the only scone I ate during our trip. Shortly after our return to Japan, I had a chance to visit a European style teahouse with my mother in my hometown. We ordered scones, and my mother said that they were much closer to the real scones from England that I didn’t get to taste during the trip. Those octagonal scones we had in Oxford are since referred to as monster scones in my family, my unforgettable introduction to a scone.