Saturday, 4 May 2013

For George Orwell (1903 - 1950),

"A thing which I regret, and which I will try to remedy some time, is that I have never in my life planted a walnut. Nobody does plant them nowadays–when you see a walnut it is almost invariably an old tree. If you plant a walnut you are planting it for your grandchildren, and who cares a damn for his grandchildren?"
   --  "A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray"

George Orwell was a bit nuts (pun absolutely intended) for planting trees. Although he hadn't planted a walnut tree, he planted all sorts of other fruit trees and flowering bushes, and this whole essay of his is about how even the most evil of tyrants can leave a positive mark on the world if they plant a tree or two. In fact, he suggests a sort of arborial karmic realignment: "it might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground."

I quite like this idea. Especially since Orwell's version of 'planting' seems pleasingly lazy. Paid a bill late? Push an acorn into the ground. Been rude to your mum? Drop an apple core into the garden. Done a bit of littering? Litter the earth with walnuts. 

Of course, when George Orwell wrote his essay, people actually had patches of earth to plant things in. In the few decades that have passed, though, planting has become a bit harder. For example, I live in an inner city apartment. The things I could plant here include: my feet, ideas, evidence, a mean left hook. Things I could not plant here include: actual, living trees.*

But although I can't plant things in my own (nonexistent) backyard, I figure I can achieve the same results by just going outside and eating messily. If I'm slobbily eating a walnut scone in a park, for instance, I'm wrapping the antisocial act and its arborial remedy into one glorious display of frenzied public crumb-shedding, and can emerge afterwards in a state of total karmic neutrality. Sign me up! 

To add to the sense of twenty-first century urban yuppery, I can choose a scone that is like a warm, home-baked version of Starbucks maple-walnut scones, to which I may or may not be addicted. (Speaking of addictive: the world of copycat recipes is amazing! Pick any food or drink from any chain restaurant or cafe pretty much anywhere, google it with the phrase 'copycat recipe,' and voila! Your favourite treats at home, without the massive expense of eating out.)

So here you go, George Orwell. You wanted me to plant trees? Well, by the magic of questionable logic, I've made Starbucks-style scones instead. You're welcome.

*Of course, I blame apartment life, but realistically I've never kept a plant alive longer than a week in any type of dwelling.

Maple-Walnut Scones

3C high grade flour
1 tbsp baking powder 
1 tsp salt
170g cold butter
1/2C brown sugar
1C walnut pieces
1/4C cream
1/4C milk
4 tbsp maple syrup
1/2C icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180C. Toast the walnut pieces - either in the oven or in a dry pan - and set aside to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub them into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the whole mixture resembles tropical island sand. (This takes a little while. Maybe 5 minutes if you're efficient. 20 minutes if you're a butter-lump-hating perfectionist. If you're me, you pass the 20 minute mark and the buttery sand starts conspiring against you by reclumping from the warmth of your fingers. Don't let the butter win, people. Don't let the butter win.)

Stir the dough with a fork from now on to preserve the sandy texture. Add the brown sugar and the cooled toasted walnut pieces. In a separate bowl, mix the cream, milk, and 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup. Stir the liquids into the dry mix until it all comes together. Use a little less of the liquid if you need to, or add more milk, to get a dryish but coagulating mixture.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and shape it into a rectangle about 3cm high. Cut the rectangle into three fat strips, and then cut each strip into three triangles to get nine Starbucks-sized superscones. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment, leaving a little bit of space in between as they'll expand a bit. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes, checking regularly from the 17 minute mark. Pull the scones out when they are starting to turn golden at the edges.

Glaze the scones with a sauce of 2tbsp maple syrup and 1/2C icing sugar, mixed until lumps disappear. Eat warm with plenty of coffee. These are giant, so bring an appetite.


  1. Love your writing style. Orwell is my favourite author and you've done him justice here. Well done :)

  2. Thanks Mike! I would have liked to have used 1984 for a George Orwell entry, as a fellow big fan, but the prospect of cooking gruel, slop, or imitation coffee wasn't that appealing.