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Title: Sums, Showers, and Scones
Theme: Set #1, Theme # 11, “Food”
Genre (s): General
Summary: The lads decide to make tea for Bilbo…
SUMS, SHOWERS, AND SCONES
The afternoon was quiet. In Merry’s last few years of visiting at Bag End, he too, had lessons when Frodo did. And since Pippin was there, he also was having them. This afternoon, Bilbo had given the lads their assignments, and then taken himself off down to the stationer’s, to pick up some bound volumes to write in, for the stationer had sent a note saying his order was ready.
Frodo was occupied with some translations from the Sindarin, of one of the Lays of Beleriand. Merry was writing a more mundane essay, on the last days of the Northern kingdoms. Pippin had sums to do.
Merry sighed. “I wish Sam could come in.” For the last few years, most days the young gardener had taken his own part in the lessons. But this year, the Gaffer’s health had deteriorated, especially after Sam’s mother Bell had died of a sudden apoplexy shortly after Yule. Sam was now responsible for the garden, and the Gaffer had decreed that the lessons were at an end.
Frodo sighed as well. “So do I, Merry. But it’s not practical right now. Sam can’t go against his father.”
Merry put the finishing touches on his essay, and his attention was caught by Pippin’s foot, starting to tap against the chair leg. He looked over and caught the increasing scowl on his younger cousin’s face, and just as Pippin started to bang the chalk down upon his slate in frustration, he reached his hand out and caught Pippin’s little fist in his own.
“What’s the matter, Pip?”
“I can’t get this last one! It’s too hard!”
Merry shook his head, and looked at the paper with the problems Bilbo had left. “Pippin, it is simple addition--it’s just that you have more than two places. You will have to carry over.”
“I *know* how to carry over! But it’s not coming out right!”
“Let me see, Pippin,” said Frodo gently. Pippin handed the slate over, and Frodo’s eyebrows rose. He smiled. “I see the difficulty, dearest. You just don’t have them lined up straight.” He rubbed the problem out and rewrote it more carefully, then handed it back.
Pippin looked at it doubtfully, and then grinned. “Oh thank you, Frodo! *Now* I can do it!” He calculated rapidly, and then showed his answer to his cousins.
“That’s perfect, Pip!” exclaimed Merry giving him a hug.
“Well,” said Frodo, “it looks as though all of us are finished now. Maybe we should see about a little snack?”
This proposal was greeted with enthusiasm, and they hurried to the kitchen, where Frodo found some cheese and crackers and apples, and poured out cups of cold buttermilk for them all. They were enjoying their little snack immensely, when there was an unexpected peal of thunder. Pippin jumped into Merry’s lap and hid his face. Frodo looked out at the sudden spring shower. “Oh dear!” he said.
There was a knock at the kitchen door. “Come in, Sam!” Frodo called.
The door opened. Even though the rain had barely begun, Sam was soaked. “I’m that sorry to be a bother, Mr. Frodo, but this rain wasn’t supposed to come so soon…” Sam had been sure the rain would hold off until after sunset.
“You are no bother whatsoever, Sam. Get out of that wet shirt. There’s a towel hanging behind the larder door.”
Sam toweled his head off, and Merry fetched one of his own shirts. “Mr. Merry! I can’t take one of your shirts! It’s not fitting!”
“It’s fitting if I say so, Sam,” responded Frodo. “Besides, it’s just until yours gets dry.”
“I suppose,” Sam said doubtfully. He didn’t guess he’d be mentioning *this* to his Gaffer. He was *sure* his father would not think it was proper.
“Anyway, Sam, you are right about one thing,” laughed Merry, “It’s *not* exactly fitting!” For though Merry was a stocky and sturdy lad, he was two years younger. The shirt was a good bit too short, and not really wide enough across the shoulders.
Pippin giggled. “You look funny, Sam.”
“Well,” he grinned, “I reckon I do.”
Frodo was looking out the window with concern. “Bilbo did not take his umbrella. And he’s going to have all that new paper, and the new volumes to carry, that we can’t really afford to get wet. He won’t be able to come back until the rain is over.”
Sam looked out the window. “It should let up in about an hour or so.”
“I have an idea,” said Frodo. “Why don’t we surprise him and make tea. That way it will be ready and waiting when he comes in!”
This idea was greeted with enthusiasm. “I’ll cut some sandwiches and devil some eggs,” said Frodo.
“Mr. Frodo--if you’ve still got some of those mushrooms from the Cottons in the larder, I could make some mushroom soup,” offered Sam.
“I’ll make some scones!” said Merry eagerly. This was something he had recently learned from one of the aunts at Brandy Hall, and he was glad of the chance to show off his new skill.
“What can *I* do?” asked Pippin. At home his mother and sisters rarely allowed him to help in the kitchen, but Bilbo was a good deal more indulgent, as was his Aunt Esmeralda when he visited Buckland.
Merry looked at Frodo. “He can help me?” This could be chancy, as he knew, for there was no guarantee of what might happen with Pippin in the kitchen.
Frodo nodded. Pippin could hardly make *too* much mess, with all of them there to supervise.
“Oh goody!” The little one clapped and jumped up and down. He did really *like* to help cook.
For a while, there was a good deal of silent industry, interspersed with the occasional question or instruction. ( “Sam, are you finished with the whisk?” “Mr. Frodo, is there any dried rosemary in the larder?” “Frodo, where is the baking soda?” “Pippin, keep your fingers out of the honey!” “Merry, can I eat the raisins that spilled?” )
As the delicious smells began to permeate the kitchen, Frodo glanced once more out the window. “Look! The Sun’s come out! See, she’s peeping out from the clouds and giving us a rainbow.”
They all crowded to the window to look. Frodo glanced down at Merry and Pippin. As usual when they baked together there was a good deal of flour on both of them. “Merry, I’ll take the scones out of the oven. You and Pip go get cleaned up, because Bilbo will be back very soon now it’s no longer raining.”
“Mr. Frodo, I guess I will go now,” said Sam diffidently.
“I wouldn’t hear of it, Sam! You helped make this food; you get to help eat it.”
Sam nodded. Truth to tell, he liked having tea at Bag End--and those scones did smell good.
“Bless me, lads!” exclaimed Bilbo, as he looked over the tea table, now bare of even the least crumb of food. “This was a wonderful tea, and a marvelous surprise! Thank you all, my dears!”
Pippin hopped into Bilbo’s lap and gave him an enthusiastic hug. “You’re welcome, Cousin Bilbo!”
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp. Baking soda
¼ tsp. Salt
6 TBSP. Cold butter, cut up into little pieces
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sour cream or 3 TBSP. Buttermilk
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
½ tsp. Vanilla
1 cup of raisins (or currants or other dried berries
1 egg white
1 tsp. Sugar
½ tsp. Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. When thoroughly mixed, cut in the butter until the mixture is like coarse crumbs.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the honey, sour cream or buttermilk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Add raisins (or other fruit).
Stir into the dry ingredients, mixing well. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly for about three or four turns, then pat out into about an 8” circle. With a sharp knife, cut into eight wedges.
With a fork, whip up the egg white until frothy, and brush on top of the scones. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle on top. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
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