‘To this day I can’t eat a scone without tasting the bitter pang of betrayal’

The Irish Times: We Love Food – Rosemary Mac Cabe, fashion journalist

1990, the Year of the Scone: Rosemary Mac Cabe serves breakfast  from her A La Carte Kitchen to her father, Philip Mac Cabe

1990, the Year of the Scone: Rosemary Mac Cabe serves breakfast from her A La Carte Kitchen to her father, Philip Mac Cabe


I received my A La Carte Kitchen – a bright, primary-coloured toy kitchenette – for Christmas 1989. I was four, almost five, and I had decided that it was high time I learned to cook. Bluebird’s plastic box on wheels, complete with frying pans, utensils and plastic temperature dials, was my tool of choice.

So I began my foray into adulthood, whipping up Michelin-grade meals in my mobile kitchen with which to delight and tantalise my family. It was to be, for reasons that will soon become apparent, an obsession of almost two years in duration; here I am in the November of 1990, serving my father a gourmet meal of Corn Flakes and orange juice from my culinary wonder-box.

One day Mum was baking scones (it’s fair to say that several parts of my childhood were rather idyllic, at least if you don’t mention the cats) and I decided to join her, wheeling in my kitchen in and setting up beside her. My sister Beatrice, 11 at the time and therefore far too mature to be involved in my childish soufflé-making endeavours, suggested to Mum that they swap my scones, multi-coloured and made of play dough, with mother’s very real ones.

Well, you can imagine their mirth. But there is no way you can accurately picture my delight at discovering that, not only was my A La Carte Kitchen a bona fide cooking machine, but I myself was, in fact, a dab hand at baking. These scones, which just a few minutes ago had seemed salty, a bit grubby and doomed to failure, were crunchy and delicious, and looked a bit like heaven. I was overjoyed.

The hilarity of the moment was short-lived; the next day, I recommenced making scones. It had been so easy – and delicious – the last time. Why not make it a daily occurrence? Mum took one look at my little face, full of the joy of anticipation and, more than that, confidence that everything was going to work out wonderfully, and realised her mistake; now she would be forced to make scones at my whim. I was to be the benevolent dictator of her kitchen sanctuary, tearing her from her jam-making or bread baking to commence making scones whenever I decided.

In the Mac Cabe family annals, 1990 is the year of the scone – or, depending on who tells the story, the Great Distractions. If we weren’t baking, it was because I had been torn from my A La Carte Kitchen with promises of something else better – something that required my utmost attention, and for which the Kitchen could not be present.

I remember quite distinctly the moment it all became clear; there are only so many batches of scones a mother can make before she chooses her sanity over her child’s imaginings. I didn’t cry about the scones, or the lies, or the obvious satisfaction my sister took in this grotesque trickery – but I did cry about my A La Carte Kitchen, which had failed me utterly. It wasn’t long after the great scone reveal that the Kitchen fell out of favour, and to this day I can’t eat a scone without tasting the bitter pang of betrayal.

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