Jam and cream... or cream and jam?

Jam on top of the cream - Devonish. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAKE/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

Jam on top of the cream - Devonish. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAKE/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The world of genteel catering is this week reeling after sconegate...

... not fogetting the best china. Picture: ALISON HENLEY/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

... not fogetting the best china. Picture: ALISON HENLEY/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cornish people, apparently, have threatened to cancel their subscriptions to the National Trust after the stately home and countryside preservation organisation published a picture of a scone with jam on top of the clotted cream. For some this was clearly tantamount to the eighth deadly sin.

It all started when the National Trust’s Lanhydrock in Bodmin, Cornwall, posted online a picture of a scone in classic Devonshire guise - cream first with jam on top. When Cornishmen and women expressed their outrage, the Trust apologised for the “heinous mistake”, adding staff will wear #JamFirst badges to support “a proper cream tea”.

As an East Anglian, I do not share the necessary scone (mine rhyme with bone, by the way) heritage to prompt any outrage. I confess to being driven by the consistency of the jam and cream. If it is proper clotted cream, its density might be considered suitable for first spreading with less solid jam on top. A looser cream might need to go on top or risk being squidged off the scone by a weighty strawberry.

Nonetheless hundred of people complained on the post, with some claiming it was “horrifying” and “made them feel sick”. Campaigners said the matter of placing jam first was about identity

In time for Mothering Sunday, the Trust posted on Facebook: “We’d like to sincerely apologise for any offence caused by a recent scone-shot shown on the (Lanhydrock) page. The member of staff responsible has been reprimanded and marched back over the Tamar. We’d like to reassure our Cornish community that our catering team would never make such a heinous mistake and that our jam and cream are usually served in little pots so the order of their application is not subject to such appalling error. Rest assured, your mothers are safe here.”

As for the scone itself, “any fule nos” (as quoth Molesworth Jr in How to Be Topp) it should be plain - none of this sultana or cherry malarkey.

Most Read

There were many comments posted after the picture was published. An affronted Mark Perkin said: “Shame on you NT. This is cultural vandalism. Scone, then strawberry jam then clotted cream. Anything else is not the Cornish way. This message is not tongue in cheek! I hope you don’t serve Cornish Pasties with diced carrots and peas in them!”

Crumbs, are dicedcarrots not allowed in Cornish pasties?

Tanya Ryan was unimpressed by the maelstrom of disapproval: “Does it really make any difference which way U (sic) put UR (sic) cream on... some people have too much time on their hands!!!!”

And cream on their hands too, I imagine.

Meanwhile, Leo Morse is both a witty and a brave man: “Pst... I belong to an underground movement of people living in Cornwall who actually prefer cream first. If your member of staff needs safe passage out of the area, I can arrange this, as well as change of identity and a whole new life.”

The truth is, a proper English afternoon tea can be fraught with conflict. Take the cup of tea, for example. It should, naturally be an afternoon or fragrant blend of leaves – not served in a bag. The sight of a teapot with trailing bits of string and tags attached to bags – however posh the brand – is just not good enough. A tea strainer with its own little drip bowl is surely de rigueur in the very best tearooms. Then we have the knotty problem of pouring the tea. Milk first or last? I would go last because you have some control over the colour of the final cup of tea but others would maintain it should go first and that practice will make perfect.

Sandwiches - with or without crusts? Should cucumber be briefly soaked in vinegar before being sandwiched? Is a bridge roll too bulky? Should egg be mixed with mayonnaise or salad cream? These are all serious and often unresolved questions.

I like the look of a dainty afternoon tea... except for scones which should be warm and unstructured in shape and criminally laden with jam and cream or vice versa.

In East Anglia, I like to think you can visit a country tea room and not be asked to leave if you fail to observe the prevailing scone norms. I have a friend who says “scone” to rhyme with “gone” and when, as we occasionally do, we enjoy a cream tea, she orders a “scon” and I order a “scone” and no café or restaurant has ever muddled up our orders.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter