A nice girl from the BBC called; did I have a view on Theresa May and the Scones Question? Eh? Thing was, she said, Theresa May has just given out her mother’s recipe for scones, and, oh horror, it prescribes butter or margarine. Margarine! Now, given that Theresa May famously doesn’t give Jamie Oliver’s book house room – makes two of us, Theresa – and really likes cooking from multi-cultural, Middle Eastern, gay dad Ottolenghi, does that make her a bit of a hypocrite?
Well, it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Plainly the margarine element of the recipe is a war thing; if your butter allowance was about an ounce a week, you were unlikely to squander it on scones. Needs must in these circumstances, and, a bit like powdered egg, which no normal person would touch in a non-rationing scenario, you made do with inferior fat. So, let’s not be quick to judge Mrs Brazier, or her daughter’s filial piety in giving her recipe as it stood. Indeed there’s something reassuring about her scone recipe. It’s very Women’s Institute, very much what you’d expect from the vicar’s daughter, and sergeant major’s granddaughter. So, that’s that bit of the Tory conference sorted.
But if you add in the fact that Mrs M has about a hundred cookbooks and really rates Ottolenghi, it goes to show that she covers pretty well all the ground on the culinary-political front. Ottolenghi brings to the table the sumac-pomegranate-molasses side of modern Britain – which has definitely crowded out the suet pudding end of the national diet – and if she’s channelling that, she’s pretty well got the Guardian readers covered (and if she throws in the other Israelis at Honey & Co, she’s completely sorted). I quite buy the notion that Mrs May is a multi-faceted cook, with middle-England home bakes one day, pomelo and wild grains the next. Lots of us are terrifically culinarily-fluid these days. The one upside to immigration is that you can get all the ingredients you need for your dried lime and yoghurt aubergine on your way home from work in London nowadays; getting fresh suet for a steak and kidney pudding is another matter altogether.