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Taking the biscuit with something to digest

GIVEN my all-consuming interest in food and related matters, it may surprise you to learn that I'm not inclined to glue myself to the box when The Great British Bake Off is on the air.

I did catch it once and came instantly to the view that I would rather watch paint dry than dough rise, two quotidian phenomena that continue to take up inordinate swathes of the schedules.

My antipathy towards Bake Off, I must stress, has nothing to do with its presenters, especially Mary Berry, who makes the Queen sound common. Like a Dundee cake, Berry seems to get better with age, and even posher. Watching her lips curl as she samples the contestants' crumbling meringues or spongeless sponges is like being in the presence of a judge who prefers flogging and hanging to community service and electronic tags.

Offer her a flapjack that has flopped and you can expect what for. Clearly, she is not someone to whom you should serve a pancake with the consistency of a discus.

In an interview in the Radio Times prior to the latest series of Bake Off, Berry has taken other cookery programmes to task for their "dishonesty" and vowed never to bow to tokenism. In particular, she says she is against allowing a Scot to win simply because of their nationality.

Who would argue with that? It is possible, however, that, were one of us to win the new competition it could, in a flurry of floury euphoria, tip the scales towards a Yes vote. One can see the headline now: It Was The Scones Wot Won It.

My mother, like many of her gender and generation, was an avid baker and made scones that, plastered with butter and smothered in jam, melted in the mouth. The humble scone, as everyone then knew, was why many men were drawn to a certain kind of woman. If a woman could bake the perfect scone, so received wisdom had it, then what couldn't she do?

It was their versatility that made scones so desirable. My mother liked to make fruit ones but she was also a dab hand at treacle scones. Because we were poor, she never had the opportunity to try cheese scones, which are now my favourite. Back then, as Annette Hope, the doyenne of the scullery, observed, every Scotswoman had her own well-kept secret which made her scones better than her neighbour's, "be it the lightness of the hand, the coldness of the ingredients, the fineness of the flour, or the quantity and type of liquid used". Ms Hope was an aficionado of plain scones, and why not?

In my mind's eye, I see a packet of Bero flour, a custard-coloured mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, the only one we possessed and as cherished as any family heirloom. There were no gadgets in our kitchen, no electric whisks or food mixers. Everything was done with elbow grease and the ends of one's fingers which were used as tasting spoons.

What could be more evocative? As Ms Hope said, had Proust's aunt had scones instead of madeleines for tea, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu would have been a very different book.

Of course, scones are the mere tip of the Scottish baking iceberg, which is why I believe that, at this constitutionally contentious moment, it is time for us to break away from The Great British Bake Off and offer viewers north of Watford a vision of a very different kind of cake.

Yes, I am talking about The Great Scottish Bake Off, wherein those taking part would demonstrate their skills at bannocks and oatcakes, rowies and bran scones, not to mention the humble morning roll which, when wrapped round a sausage or a fried egg, is my idea of gastronomic heaven.

This, after all, is the land that produced the digestive biscuit whose inventor, John Montgomerie, deserves to be lauded alongside the likes of Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Baird.

It is yet another indication of how we forged the modern world. Indeed, there are some folk, invariably those with a sweet tooth, who insist that Montgomerie had a greater impact than either of those two geniuses.

Indeed, it could be argued that his digestive, which promised to provide "nourishing food for people of weak digestion", made us what we are today.

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