The Long Dark Teacake of the Soul

The Long Dark Teacake of the Soul

Well. Here I was buffing my nails on my shoulder and blowing on them in gloating conviction that I knew what a teacake was. [And as an aside, does anyone know where that gesture of buffing the nails and blowing on them in gloating came from? OR have I got it all wrong, and am I supposed to be buffing my knuckles or something? Have I been giving myself a manicure all this time when instead I’m supposed to be dusting off my knuckles in some macho just-won-a-fight gesture? And if I HAVE been buffing my nails all these years, does that by any chance make me a teacake?]


So, here I was all convinced I knew what a teacake was. And the REASON for this was, when I was a Girl Scout we made teacakes. I can’t remember whether we were supposed to be exploring the Russian culture or the British, but making teacakes for a taste of authentic target culture food was involved. And they were something like a cross between shortcake and a sugar cookie.

THEN, of course, all these commenters have to go and do RESEARCH and look at Wikipedia and make me stop buffing my nails and start chewing on them instead. And some of them even have the gall to live in Scotland and eat authentic target culture teacakes ON THE SPOT.

And now I learn that a teacake can be all kinds of things–yeast, marshmallow, hard…it just runs the gamut.

BUT Wikipedia specifically says, “In the southeast of the United States” (that would be what is called the South by everyone but geographers), “a tea cake is a traditional cookie, similar to a sugar cookie.”

Now. I am here to tell you that before we made teacakes, not a single Girl Scout or her mother knew what one was. Teacakes, to the best of my knowledge, are not a Southern tradition. Neither is tea, in the way some people might think. Iced tea, yes. Even someone I knew–who was married to a millionaire and therefore a lady of leisure and all she did was throw champagne breakfasts and afternoon teas–did not, in fact, drink tea at them but mimosas, and she definitely did not have teacakes.

(And what happened to this lady was, one day she and her husband decided that she could not have a Dalmatian because they chewed too much and would ruin her furniture, and so she decided to have a baby instead. And. I believe she has not had an afternoon of mimosas since. This is a true story.)

So this is my question: Did that Girl Scout troop single-handedly spread a notion of teacakes throughout the South as we grew older, so that today Wikipedia identifies OUR notion of teacake as the one prevalent “in the southeast”?

If so, then I probably am obliged to be a teacake after all, because my mother was the Girl Scout leader who had us making those teacakes.

My mother was also the one who had us tracking animals through the woods and building campfires when all the other mothers just wanted us to make things out of cardboard, so. MY MOTHER IS SO COOL. I love that about my mother, that we were looking up recipes to make teacakes so we could explore the world. This was before internet, you know–you had to put some effort into that kind of thing back then.

And I guess I can be a teacake if I have to, because Laume sent me something to put on top of mine. Only for some reason I can’t get her photo to work (it opens on my computer but it doesn’t upload!), so I have internet searched and substituted a similar one from Jacques Torres.


Also, during my internet searching for a photo, I came across this link, which I share with you out of the goodness of my heart.

May I just state officially and formally for the record again that I really don’t eat Peeps? They appeal to my sense of HUMOR. This is not culinary snobism, since I’ve formally sacrificed all my bank cards and cash so as to prevent myself from just swinging by the grocery store to pick up a fifth (yes, okay, fifth) bag of Circus Peanuts. I just don’t like them. But they are hilarious.

I may have to try the chocolate dipped ones, though.

  • Random thoughts inspired by your post: In 5th grade the mean girls would blow on their knuckles and make a gesture like they were polishing them on their shirts, as they went by someone they didn’t like (sadly, this was often me in 5th grade). I think it was supposed to show that they were better somehow. I still don’t understand what exactly they were mimicking.

    I learned in Boston that alcohol is a fine, fine coping mechanism when parenting. Ok, it was one pint of beer at dinner–don’t send AA or child services after me–but perhaps the lady with the kid-not-dalmatian might want to take up that mimosa ritual again.

    Your mother is so cool, I agree. And that link is hysterical, and I haven’t even seen the movies (nor read the book. I know, I know).

    Finally, is there any way to find out what exactly the teacake-not brisk & direct woman was trying to say?? Good to know sweeping generalizations are prevalent in the faculty of major universities (IS she faculty? I’m hoping not). You’re leaving the country soon, right? So you could be all brisk & direct with her, then fly to France? And speaking as a northerner here, sometimes I could use a little LESS “brisk and direct,” which often equals “rude.”

    May 4, 2007 at 12:18 pm
  • Well, I don’t remember her name. Yes, probably faculty, because it was at an academic conference where lunch was provided. You know the drill: Everyone gets lunch and looks for a spot at a table and strikes up conversation.

    I am sorry to bring up bad memories! I just do it to be silly. Perhaps sillier than I know, since I tend to blow on my nails more like I’m trying to dry nail polish. I feel sure that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing with this gesture. 🙂

    May 6, 2007 at 8:55 am
  • Ace and I thank you for the link!

    May 7, 2007 at 3:55 am

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