If I wanted to stir up debate, I’d say this was a traditional Irish scone.
Proper scones are so traditional to Ireland that they were chosen to represent the country at Cafe Europe in 2006. Scones may even get their name from the Gaelic word “sgonn,” meaning “lump.” But applying the word “traditional” to a particular recipe always sparks controversy among aficionados.
Of course, recipes can be traditional without being uniform. These scones, however, break the mold completely. They don’t come close to “authentic,” but they are delicious. Plus, they highlight the wonderful flavor and texture of oats—one of Ireland’s oldest and greatest crops.
My great-grandmother was married to a miner. What a woman. She washed the coal dust from her husband’s blackened jeans with her own hands, and she could cook to keep pace with a miner’s appetite. Grandma says her daddy ate apples by the bushel, and he took several biscuit sandwiches to work every day.
Copper miners in Michigan were hungry too, but they typically carried pasties (pass-tees) for lunch. Their wives baked meat and vegetables in pastry dough, then wrapped the small pies in cloth or paper to keep them warm. After Cornish immigrants brought the dish to Michigan in the 1800s, pasties became an icon of the Upper Peninsula.
Meat and potatoes—the classic foundation of a hearty meal—sound like perfect fuel for physical labor. But pastry dough is fragile (there’s a reason people usually serve pie on plates).
In my mind, these ladies should have brushed up on their sandwich-making abilities (generally considered an essential part of the domestic female’s skill set). My great-grandma was a sandwich innovator—her husband didn’t like sliced bread, but he loved biscuits. Again, what a woman!
Still, pasties have the charm of tradition. My mom grew up in Michigan, and she loves these—for reasons that have nothing to do with portability.
Just for a moment, I’m going to try to think of a food more German than Spaetzle.
I didn’t come up with anything.
(If you can think of anything more distinctly German, leave a comment! But for now, I’ll move on.)
What sets Spaetzle apart in my mind is the difficulty of explaining what it is. (It means “little sparrow,” and you say it “SHPAY-tsul.”) You can compare it to more familiar foods—noodles, dumplings… but it’s not. It’s Spaetzle.