The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

A New Dawn part 6: “Tall, Dark, and…Thirsty?” by Ellen Steiber March 14, 2010

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels.]

This essay was one of my favorites of the lot. It started with a fun overview of vampire mythology, literature, and movies and some of the social constructs our changing vampires have reflected over the years. Unsurprisingly, when Steiber begins interpreting Meyer’s vampires as part of that continuing tradition she’s more than a little disappointed in how they stack up. As a traditional vampire novel, Twilight kind of sucks (lame pun intended). [Maybe because they’re a different kind of blood drinker? The “drink this wine it is my body” kind of blood drinker?… Ahem…] She then finds something even more creepy than blood-drinking monsters lurking beneath the vampiric veneer.

Steiber places the origins of our current crop of vampires in the Balkan “Vampire Epidemic” of the 1730’s. The legends and old wives tales found their way to Britain and were popularized by two works in particular. The first was John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (I got my hot little hands on it for free right here). Published in 1819, Polidori’s tale of the vampire Lord Ruthven is said to be a product of the same ghost story session that spawned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The darkly magnetic Ruthven, Steiber tells us, was even based upon another of the session’s participants, the bad boy, rock star poet Lord Byron.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) amped up the sexual tension. What with his trio of sexy lady vampire roommates and taste for young innocent women, Dracula was clearly a metaphor for the specter of sexuality in the repressed Victorian Era. “He’s a perfect example of the exotic, inscrutable stranger whom good girls really should avoid,” says Steiber. In 1931, Dracula became immortalized on the silver screen by the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. His portrayal was so arresting that it has held up for 80 years as the prototypical vampire. Ask anyone to do a vampire imitation and I’m betting it will owe quite a bit to Lugosi’s Dracula.

Over the years vampires have become even more tied to sexuality and romance. Steiber points out the advantages to a vampire as a romantic lead. A vampire is powerful and magnetic, making him immediately appealing to other characters and readers alike. The vampire has also become something of a sympathetic loner, making them emotionally vulnerable in ways that can be exploited for a number of plot devices, particularly a romance.

After setting up the source material for our modern vampires, Steiber decides that Meyer has actually inverted numerous traditional elements of the vampire. Edward is not a dark parasite destroying the life and virtue of his innocent victim. Quite the reverse, Edward is a paragon of Victorian morality, safeguarding his beloved’s virtue – even when she begs not only to become a monster, but to jump his bones as well. Even Bella’s transformation into a vampire is an inversion of the classic story line. Bella does not become a fallen monster, instead her transformation saves her life and enables her to raise her child.

If the vampires in Meyer’s universe aren’t about sexuality and destruction of innocence, then what on earth are they about?

“What I’ve come to see about vampires, though, is that they change with the time and culture they appear in. They’re mirrors of our fears and desires. Early bloodsucking vampires were all about the hold that the dead had on the living…The stories of psychic vampires told of people who fed on other’s energy, drawing their strength from weakening those around them… Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been interpreted as a reflection of fears of its time: of foreign influence threatening british society, of our animal nature threatening to overwhelm our reason, and of illicit and irresistible sexual compulsion threatening marriage…Meyer’s vampires – or more accurately Bella’s obsession with Edward seems to mirror our current terror of aging, our own deep fear that without flawless physical beauty, we’ll never truly be worth loving.”

The prevalence of the beauty as virtue has a major impact on the young women of today. Especially now that we live in an age of rhinoplasty for sixteen year olds and Photoshop features for personal digital cameras. Steiber is rightfully concerned that Twilight seems to whole-heartedly endorse this philosophy and export it to the millions of teen girls who read it.

“She’s taken our warped attitude toward age and made it even more extreme, and because Bella is so easy to identify with, I can’t help but feel uneasy with this. Life is change. What Bella’s so eagerly signing up for is everlasting stasis.”

Ellen Steiber‘s essay really surprised me. I thought I was in for a bit of historical info, but she really shifted my perspective on Edward’s sparkling, marble pecs and gave me another interpretation about the underlying meaning of Twilight. Her assertion that we have abandoned our disgust of the monstrous, parasitic vampires of the past in order to focus our loathing on humanity has given me plenty of tasty food for thought. Her bio at the end of the essay says that she’s also written for a book called Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series. Sounds delicious… *Adds to Amazon wishlist*

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First Nations Representation and the Twilight Franchise March 13, 2010

I thought I’d follow up my last post with some miscellaneous links/notes regarding the tumultuous relationship between the Twilight franchise and the Native American community. It’s not a topic that I’m particularly adept at discussing, but here are some of the issues and sources I’ve found interesting:

Interesting how the Native characters in Twilight are always mostly naked while Edward and his family are very buttoned up. Are non-white bodies more accepted as sexual objects? Discuss...

This post from Racialicious dissects some of the racial stereotypes in Meyer’s depiction of the Quileutes. The sections on exoticism and sexualization of non-whites and equating Indigenous Peoples with the animalistic are particularly interesting. It’s something I’d like to return to in the future, but I feel like my competence with the subject matter is too limited at the moment. I welcome links and book/article recommendations on similar topics.

***

I'm so glad I'm not a child celebrity. The interwebz has only limited amounts of my youthful exploits, thank goodness.

Questions have been raised about Taylor Lautner’s Native American status. Whether he has Native ancestors or not, it’s clear that he was not raised in any Native American tradition. A serious scandal surrounds Tinsel Korey (aka Harsha Patel?), who plays Emily Young in New Moon and Eclipse. That these issues haven’t been widely discussed seems kind of odd. The Twilight franchise has a rabid fan base demanding up to date info nownownow. You’d think news outlets would be hopping all over it. Unfortunately, it may be ignored simply because it’s a First Nations issue. Non-Native American readers are probably more interested in Lautner’s abs than whether he or Korey are authentic representatives of Native populations.

I’m torn on whether or not it’s necessary for actors to be actual members of specific groups in order to play one in a movie. Their job is to pretend and convince us to willingly suspend disbelief for a few hours. Demanding utter authenticity from your actors, especially when they’re playing vampires and werewolves, kind of defeats the point of acting and verges on silly.

However, the history of casting is littered with offensively slipshod and/or racist representations, from replacing non-white characters with whites (whites are clearly the neutral, non-ethnic race, donchaknow? /sarcasm) to employing a tiny handful of Indian and Arab actors and using them interchangeably – as if the vast array of ethnic mixtures from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Central Asia were all the same.

***

Here’s a post from an amazing blog that explores Indigenous peoples in children’s literature. The author, Debbie Reese, offers her own critical perspectives on the Twilight saga, but I especially appreciated this post on actual Quileutes willing to share the true traditions of the tribe.

***

Ahem problematic heritage hijacking. Ahem.

Meyer’s appropriation of Quileute name, land, and tradition is really a very sensitive issue. She has personally gained quite a bit from the association. The fallout, as indicated in the above links, is mixed for the actual Quileute people. Will Twilight tourism pump some money into the economically depressed reservation? Do the Quileute even want the attention in the first place if all they get is a bunch of tittering teens interrupting their talks on deeply-held spiritual beliefs with questions about whether they have any brothers and are any of them werewolves?

***

Again, this is all fairly new to me, so I don’t have an official stance on any of these topics other than to say that I would love to learn more about each of them.

 

Sorry in Advance March 12, 2010

Filed under: Movies,Rants — imaginaryheroine @ 6:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Quileute Wolf Pack Tattoo from New Moon

I understand that movies based on novels require a certain amount of sacrifices to artistic license and format.

I think the insertion of the wolf pack tattoo in the New Moon movie was mainly there to serve as an indicator of association, since the effects and shots needed to make the pack look bigger, buffer, and taller than everyone else would have been time consuming and costly.

At first I kind of liked the tattoo. I even briefly considered getting a t-shirt with the tattoo screen print. It seemed like a low key way to display my Twitardation. It also feels like something of a tradition, as I used to have a t-shirt with an Angelus tattoo on the back in honor of my beloved Angel from BtvS.

Unfortunately, the more I looked at the design, the more I realized it looked less like a wolf and more like…something else. Something that can euphemistically be referred to as “lady bits” or “vajayjay.” Scroll up and look again. I’m not crazy. It totally does.

So now, all I see when I see the wolf tattoo is bunch of dudes with lady bits on their arm. I said sorry in advance, but I’m going to say sorry again.

EDIT! 3/12/10 9:26

Now that I think about it, the wolf/vajayjay tattoo reminds me of a paradox of lycanthropy that’s been bugging me for a while. Werewolves as monsters are generally gendered male, because they’re hairy, muscular, angry, out of control, and dominant. But they’re controlled by the moon (not the Quileute pack, obviously, but SMeyer says they’re shifters, not werewolves). Moon cycles are kind of a girl thing, no? It’s weird that a “male” monster phase could basically be thought of as the worst PMS ever.

Just a bit of something to think about…

 

A New Dawn part 5: “Dancing with Wolves” by Linda Gerber

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

I liked Gerber immediately, since she began her essay by confessing her membership to Team Jacob. If this blog had wider readership, I would probably start getting hateful comments right about now. Let me just reassure my dear friends on Team Edward, I think Bella and Edward were clearly destined for each other for all eternity, etc, etc, ad infinitum…ad nauseum… I just like ’em tall, dark, warm-hearted, and warm-blooded, I guess.

Now that that’s out of the way, lets talk about wolves. “Dancing with Wolves” discusses the ubiquity of wolves in the legends of cultures around the globe. From the number and variety of legends named by Gerber, the humans affinity for wolves is patently obvious. The author quotes Daniel Wood’s book Wolves, saying “these animals are “mirrors, reflecting the proximity of the primitive in human nature,” and adds a number of examples of how wolf and human social structure are similar.

The essay then discusses the prevalence in Native American legends, in particular those of the Quileute tribe, and how they relate to wolf imagery in the Twilight Saga. The legends that Jacob tells Bella at First Beach in Twilight are all authentic Quileute legends with the exception of the story about “the cold ones.” Originally, Jacob and his werewolf brethren played a much smaller role in the saga. It was only when Little Brown offered Meyer a preemptive multi-book deal, that she added the werewolf/shapeshifter embellishment upon the Quileute wolf legends in order to create the Bella-Edward-Jacob triangle.

Gerber discusses some wolfy themes that permeate Jacob and the other Quileute’s character development. Two of the most common associations with werewolves are puberty/coming of age and good/evil or evolved/primitive man duality.

Jacob, like most teenage boys, has a crisis of identity when his body begins to change. These emotions are enhanced by the werewolf metaphor. A teens body turns against them and they become a kind of half-and-half monster. Gerber points out that calling on wolves is an integral aspect of some coming of age rituals among tribes in the Olympic peninsula, which parallels the formation of the Twilight wolfpack, if not quite as literally.

Another common werewolf theme deals with good vs. evil duality. Sometimes it’s presented as evolved vs. primitive duality as well. The explosion of a human into a monstrous wolf represents an escape of either the evil or primitive, Id-like nature inherent in human beings. This jives with a Cherokee legend related by Gerber that tells of a battle between two wolves that goes on inside us at all times. One wolf is good, while the other is evil. It is up to us to chose which wolf will win and guide our conduct.

Initially, Jacob and several of the other pack members resent their destiny. They reluctantly take on the burden of being Protectors, but they are unhappy the proximity of the Cullens has robbed them of their fully human identities. Jacob settles uneasily into his new form, but he still rejects his full destiny. He refuses to be Alpha and clings to Bella, urging her to forget Edward and chose him instead.

Gerber likens Jacob’s character trajectory to that of a Spirit Journey, he “has to let go of who he thought he was so he can become who he is meant to be.” When Bella and Edward marry, Jacob attempts to avoid what is admittedly a pretty tough destiny by sinking into his wolf form and running away. It’s not until Jacob returns, claims his rightful place as Alpha, and fights beside the Cullens to protect Bella and her baby that he walks his true path. In the end, Jacob is rewarded by imprinting on Edward and Bella’s half-breed daughter, Nessie.

While this essay focused on the wolf/human connection and the ways in which Meyer’s Quileute werewolves help us to explore various philosophical themes, there was really no discussion of how the Twilight Saga has affected the real Quileutes or the reception of Twilight in other First Nations groups. It’s not a snark, since Gerber doesn’t claim to do that. She very specifically sets out to talk about wolves in Twilight, not Native Americans in Twilight. Hopefully I can come up with more on this issue later.

 

Eclipse Trailer! Wheeeee! March 11, 2010

[SPOILERS! References a scene in the climax of the Eclipse book (but I’ve hidden it in background color text – you’ll have to highlight it to see the spoiler) and includes Eclipse movie trailer.]

I’m too excited to do any real analysis just now. So let me just leave you with this:

  • Edward still looks in dire need of a laxative or a fiber aid…
  • What is on Victoria’s head? I was willing to give Bryce Dallas Howard a try, but I already miss Rachelle Lefevre.
  • Ditto re: Bella’s wig to a lesser extent. Why, oh, why did you cut your hair, Kstew? Is it easier to find a convincing 80’s fashion mullet wig or an attractive long, flowing locks wig? I’m guessing the former.
  • “She found us!”… I seriously hope this refers to the whole Edward/Victoria duel scene [highlight select if you want to see the spoiler]. It better not refer to Victoria finding Bella & Co. in the same darn place they were for the other two books. Seriously??? How hard is it to find you if you never went anywhere?
  • The meadow looks ridiculous. I wish they had done something more organic looking.
 

27.3% of America Feels “Up in the Air” January 30, 2010

(SPOILERS: Contains discussion of major plot points from the movie)

Last night 7abibi and I managed to catch Up in the Air before it left theaters. Despite the presence of the lovely and talented Anna Kendrick of Jessica-in-Twilight-and-New Moon fame I was kind of left feeling meh by the trailer. Guy. Planes. Whatevs. I’m so glad he talked me into it, because I thought it was smart, funny, and full of timely philosophical questions.

Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a corporate downsizer for hire, rolling around the country slashing jobs and dreaming of reaching 10 million frequent flier miles. A new hire at his firm, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), drops in a to rain on his parade with her idea to revolutionize the industry by nixing expensive travel and firing people via videoconference. Through the marvel of modern technology, downsizers like Bingham can now fire anyone anywhere from the comfort of their home office, no travel costs incurred.

Bingham fights for his jet setting lifestyle and the “dignity” of his profession only to have his boss recommend he take Natalie on the road for a quick tutorial in the art of letting people go. The film examines Bingham’s emotional detachment and isolation as well as Natalie’s naive expectations about what life looks like after the comforting structure of college is stripped away.

The most interesting portions for me were those that dealt with the emotional toll of unemployment. In a society when the first thing people ask is “What do you do?,” it is absolutely gut-wrenching to have to work around the issue of underemployment or unemployment. If the latest job stats are any indication, there are a lot of wrenched guts out there.

According to the latest press release from the US Labor Department, unemployment is still hovering around 10% in the US.  According to NPR, this number doesn’t include another 17.3% of Americans who are underemployed, working part time instead of full time or working below their education and experience level to stay afloat financially.

Although Up in the Air does touch upon the financial troubles faced by fired employees, its true accomplishment is the poignant portrayal of the identity crisis people go through when they lose their jobs. What do you do when you have no answer to “what do you do”? Who are you in our society when you are not a contractor or administrative assistant or farmer or any other do-er?

At one point in the movie, Bingham says, “When we stop moving, we die.” Taken another way, this could be read as when we stop doing, we die. An unemployed person is drastically de-verbed. They are no longer a do-er. It’s not hard to see how many people can feel a piece of themselves has died when they lose their job. You weren’t let go. You were terminated.

Though I am lucky enough to not be unemployed, I can speak to the awful feelings of underemployment – something felt by zillions of recent grads.

I busted my ass in college. So did a lot of people. I didn’t graduate high school, so I may have endowed graduation with a little more epic significance than is strictly the norm, but on campus people act as though that little piece of paper will be your ticket to the good life. Invest, they tell you. You have to invest your time and effort and (especially) money into your future.

After graduation, I filled out over 200 applications for any and every job I could find. Despite my fairly substantial work experience, near-perfect GPA, and glowing references, I only got called in for one interview. With a temp agency. They didn’t hire me. I got a decent contract position through a friend of a friend of a friend, doing approximately the same thing that I did 5 years ago as a freshman in college. It took me over a year to pick up my diploma.

To quote Tyler Durden in Fight Club:

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

The difference between my generation and the Fight Club generation is that we aren’t living in a world of corporate plenty and we aren’t “working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” Many of us are working precarious and dead end jobs and still can’t buy shit we actually do need. Many of us are working no job and find that not only can’t we afford shit, we can’t participate in the world of American personhood.

“What do you do?”

“I do nothing.” The subtext being, “I am no one.”

It doesn’t matter how many times we’re told “a lot of people are going through this too” or “it’s not you, it’s just the recession” or “something will come up – jobs are a lagging indicator”. It feels like it’s you. Just you. You are a failure and you are alone and the life you were promised would be there if you just worked hard enough is gone forever. And you are very, very pissed off.

The corporate downsizers in Up in the Air are full of cloying doublespeak to soothe the newly terminated. “We’re here to talk about your future” and “it’s important to look at this as an opportunity” and even “if not for you, do it for your family.” Clips of the terminated employees are spliced in, depicting fear, grief, anger, and confusion. According to Imdb, these are real people expressing how they felt after they were fired from their real jobs. The juxtaposition of actors playing terminators spouting insincere corporate blather and the honest feelings of the terminated straight from the source is a truly masterful touch.

It is these same people who provide a light at the end of the tunnel – and the movie. Though still struggling to get by, their tone is more hopeful as they talk about how their families and friends rallied around them after they were fired. While the “do it for your family” line has a hollow ring rolling off of Bingham’s silver tongue, family becomes the cornerstone of these real people’s salvation. You take each day one at a time, using your loved ones to stay on course. We are not just our jobs. We are not alone.

So… I guess this is a really long way of saying thanks, 7abibi, for taking me to see Up in the Air.

 

Guilty Pleasures and Guiltless Double Chocolate Scones January 29, 2010

Guilty pleasures first. After admitting my supreme dorkdom in the previous post, it’s amazing that I still have some qualms about admitting this….but… I am a Twilight fan. Actually, I prefer Twitard, in honor of one of the most hysterical blogs on the net Twitarded.

I didn’t want to read the Twilight Saga. I was tricked into  it by one of my professors. Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to like it. I started out with a pencil, circling questionable vocabulary decisions (‘verbose’? Seriously? I think she meant ‘loquacious’). But despite its doubtful literary merit and dubious moral undertones, it nearly ruined the last week of finals in my undergrad career. I started Twilight on stop day and went out and bought the other three books and devoured them one after the other. I simply had to know what happened.

I thank you Stephenie Meyer for all the joy you've brought me, but WTF, mate?

Even after the fiasco that was Breaking Dawn, I was still addicted to the books, audiobooks, soundtracks, movies, and various cosmetic and wardrobe products affiliated with the movie. I have the Aerie ruffled roll over sweats that Bella wore in that scene in New Moon where Jacob jumps into her window. I am that lame. 7abibi (“ha-bee-bee” which means my male beloved in Arabic and refers to my boyfriend, with whom I share an apartment and an annoying yet adorable cat) has born it all with puzzled equanimity, poor man.

I thought I had plumbed the depths with those sweat pants, but I was wrong.

After a few rotations of books 1 – 3 and even a stab and trying to like Breaking Dawn, it was obvious that I had to find more. I had to dip into the torrid, Mary Sue laden world of fan fiction. Don’t misunderstand – I have a few friends who read and also write fanfic. It only took a few peeks into Harry Potter fanfic during the long cold nights between books before I was totally turned off. Totally. Malfoy/Ron X-rated slash fic is just not for me. Sorry.

But after hearing the buzz on not one, but several sites about the fanfic Wide Awake by angstgoddess003, I had to go check it out. I was in pain. I needed more Twilight!

Dare I say it, but even devoid of vampires, magic, and other fantastical elements, Wide Awake is absolutely phenomenal. It’s full of delicious teen angst, drama, and romance woven together with a perfect stripe of tart humor by light and skillful hand. I stayed up two nights in a row and snuck peeks between calls at work. I was truly a woman possessed.

**Disclaimer: Wide Awake is rated M for mature. It has lots of filthy language, some graphic sexual content, and disturbing imagery that may trigger, offend, or disturb some readers. This is not your tween or prudish Twimom’s Twilight**

I want to examine some of the themes in a later blog post, because it’s a really beautiful text with many points of interest, but right now I just want to talk about cookies. You’ll notice that the chapter titles are named after cookies. These cookies provide a quick snapshot of Bella’s state of mind in a particular chapter. She relates to others through her baking.

This is something I can really relate to, as I both enjoy baking and eating baked goods. My greatest joy is always seeing other people eating and enjoying food I’ve made for them. It gives me a way to connect with people I may not know how to approach. Food helps me tell people that I care for them. For me, a gift of food is meant to encompass nutritional sustenance, sensual pleasure, and personal affection.

This recipe is based on one for a healthier cookie that was originally published in SELF magazine circa 2000. I was trying to counteract the guilty reading pleasures with a bit of virtuous eating (I seriously am trying to follow a Clean Eating diet, but my life simply can’t go on without baked goods). Unfortunately, my first batch turned out to be seriously lacking in tastiness. Who cares if food is healthy if no one wants to eat it? However, with a bit more leavening and some other tweaks, the recipe turned out to yield a pretty darn good (and quasi-healthy) scone.

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Scones

Yield: Makes 2 -3 dozen depending on drop size

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat works too, but white whole wheat tastes lighter)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup ground flax seeds or flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup drained great Northern, Cannellini, Garbanzo or any white beans, liquid reserved
2 tbsp coco butter at room temperature
1/2 – 3/4 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs (can be replaced with 3 egg whites and 1 yolk, but all whites can result in crumbly, hard scones)
1/4 cup skim milk or unsweetened soy milk
1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz chocolate chips with at least 60% cacao content
Optional mix-ins: these are great with walnut pieces, dried cherries and/or cranberries
Optional topping: 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt and 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Equipment:
1 medium mixing bowl
1 large mixing bowl

Stick blender/immersion blender
Coffee grinder
OR
Food processor

Flexible silicone spatula
2 metal teaspoons
Silicone baking mats
Cookie sheets
Nylon rigid spatula (or other cookie de-panning device)
Cooling racks

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using coffee grinder OR food processor, process oats until finely ground but not powdery. If you’re using the coffee grinder, this will have to be done in batches. Combine with flour, cocoa powder, ground flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium mixing bowl. This is your dry goods bowl.

Using stick blender, purée beans and 2 tbsp reserved bean liquid until smooth in a large bowl. Add coco butter, Agave nectar, eggs, vanilla and mix with immersion blender until combined. Alternatively, purée beans and liquid in clean bowl of food processor, and then add coco butter, agave nectar, eggs, vanilla and pulse until combined. Then transfer contents to large mixing bowl. This is your wet goods bowl and soon to be your final mixing bowl.

Add dry goods to wet goods bowl in batches, stirring slowly with silicone spatula to avoid puffs of dry goods. Stir in chocolate chips (and other mix-ins like nuts and dried fruit). Batter will be thick and wet with heterogeneous bits of mix-ins and bits of oatmeal and flax. If batter is dry, drizzle in milk 1 tbsp at a time and mix until it becomes wet. If batter is too runny, add in whole wheat flour 1/4 cup at a time and mix until it becomes thicker.

Using metal teaspoons (in my experience, the batter is too sticky for a disher or scoop) drop about 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter on cookie sheets with silicone baking mats. The concern while baking these scones is upward lift, instead of outward spread. They can be made about 1.5 inches apart from each other, but be sure to spread the batter out to about 1/4 inch thickness. It will puff up quite a bit as it bakes.

Once the scones are dished onto the baking surface, now would be the time to add the topping if you so chose. Mix together salt and raw sugar and sprinkle a small amount onto the tops of the scones.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes until centers are firm. Use nylon spatula to transfer to wire rack to cool.

***

This recipe is very forgiving and versatile. Wet batter can be remedied with a bit more flour, while dry batter can be fixed with a bit more milk. There are also lots of other flavor combinations you can introduce to the batter with great results. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • For a mocha scone add enough instant coffee mix for 2 or 3 cups of coffee to the wet goods before mixing in the dry goods
  • Try black beans instead of white – the dark, smoky flavor goes well with chocolate
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and use mixed dried fruit and substitute lemon extract for half of the vanilla extract for a light, fruity scone
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and substitute almond extract for half of the vanilla extract. Mix in sliced almonds for a toasty almond scone
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and add 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 3 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and use molasses in place of agave nectar to make a spicy gingerbread scone (omit pepper for milder gingerbread flavor)
  • Substitute maple syrup for agave nectar, nix all or part of the vanilla extract, and add in bits of cooked turkey bacon for a sweet and savory scone
  • Omit agave nectar, vanilla, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and swap 2 tablespoons olive oil for the coco butter, then try savory mix-ins like 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shreds and 1 cup broccoli pieces and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning. Or use black beans as suggested above and add in diced bell pepper, cumin, paprika, and cilantro and serve them with salsa for southwestern scones.
  • I’m not particularly well-versed in the use of alternative flours (yet), but I feel like you could experiment with omitting the wheat flour in this recipe for gluten-free alternatives like rice flour and chickpea flour. You could also try partial substitutions of soy flour to lower the carb count, but I think a full substitution could result in hockey pucks instead of scones.