Saturday, March 26, 2011

Politics and Pumpkin: Canadian Culture Part 3

I didn't intend to write two Canadian culture posts in a row, but Friday's news has dictated otherwise. The headlines proclaiming "Canadian Government Falls" probably had more than one citizen North of 49 rolling their eyes in exasperation. However, I realize for readers whose governments don't operate on the parliamentary system these same headlines might make it sound like things are falling apart in the Great White North. Rest assured, they're not.

What follows is the briefest of briefs on how our system works. Canadian readers might want to scroll down to the second part of this post. I don't want to contribute to your election fatigue, which probably set in within minutes of the no-confidence vote on Friday.

First things first. We do not directly elect our prime minister. When we go to the polls on May 2 we will be voting for an MP (Member of Parliament) for our riding. No more, no less.

There are three main parties throughout Canada, and a fourth party that exists only in Quebec. The party that exists only in the province of Quebec is called the Bloc Quebecois. You might be wondering why this party has not expanded beyond the borders of its province of origin. A quick look at their party goals reveals that they are devoted to the protection of Quebec's interests in the House of Commons and to the promotion of Quebec sovereignty. My guess is you aren't wondering any more.

The other three main parties are the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP (New Democratic Party).  After the election the party that elects the most candidates is asked by the Governor General to form a government. The leader of that party becomes the prime minister. Which brings us to the current situation.

In the last election the Conservative party won the most seats, i.e., had the most MPs elected. The Conservative Party's leader is Stephen Harper, so he became the Prime Minister. However, his party formed what is called a minority government. This occurs when a party has fewer than half the total number of seats, but more seats than any other single party. Remember, unlike places like the US that only have two viable political parties, we have four major players here.

If the parties that do not currently form the government can stop their petty bickering somehow find a way to agree they can, under the right conditions, bring down the government with what is called a vote of non-confidence. Which is exactly what happened on Friday. It is how the parliamentary system works. And in case you are wondering why some of us might be rolling our eyes it is because the outcome of this election could very well give us the very thing we already have - a minority government. Sigh....

Now on to what was to be the original content of this post, which is pumpkin scones. These are the same knock-off Starbucks pumpkin scones I mentioned last fall. By the way, if you are Canadian you most likely just read the word scones with a short "o" sound. This would hold true for residents of other Commonwealth countries as well. If you are an American my guess is you pronounced the word with a long "o". (Since this is supposed to be a post about Canadian culture I thought I should point that out.)

Throw all the dry ingredients into the food processor

Use the best kitchen gadget ever to measure out the butter (seriously, if you don't have one of these you need to get one!)

Pulse the butter and dry ingredients until crumbly

Beat the eggs, pumpkin and half & half together; add to the mix in the processor

Mix until the dough looks like this

Roll out a 9" X 3" rectangle, cut in three parts, then cut those parts diagonally

Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper

Ice the scones and brew a pot of tea

Share them with someone you love

Pumpkin Scones

2 cups flour   (I used half spelt)
7 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
6 Tbsp. cold butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin  
3 Tbsp. half & half
1 large egg

Heat the oven to 425F. Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in cold butter. In a separate bowl mix the egg, pumpkin, and half & half. Add the liquid mix to the dry/butter mix and mix until you get a proper dough consistency. Caution - do not over mix! Form into a ball and roll on a floured surface into a 9 X 3 X 1 inch rectangle. Cut into thirds, then cut each third diagonally. Place on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for ~ 15 minutes. Cool on rack. While cooling mix 1/2 cup icing sugar and 1 Tbsp. milk together. Ice scones, make tea and enjoy.


  1. thank you for this recipe! I have a can of pumpkin in the pantry just dying to be a scone (said with a long "o" - does that make me American?)

  2. I tend to pronounce 'scone' with a long "o", unless I'm feeling particularly refined, in which case it is a "Scohn". Sounds more proper and British to me (I guess that's why it became the Canadian way?).
    Ironically, in Ireland it works the other way around. They thought I was pretty sophisticated to pronounce it the "American" way!

  3. I say it with a short o. Always thought the other way sounded 'put on'. I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins the other week and they were a big hit around here. We're a big fan of muffins in this house.

    Nicely done on the quick explanation of our political system. Although I noticed you left out who the Governor General is (by that I mean the role, not the specific current person) - that just gets even more confusing :) Although to me the U.S. system is confusing, so there you go, shows it's just what you're used to.

    Election fatigue indeed. Along with the constant provincial political news and local municipal elections coming in the fall, and we'll be lucky to get anyone to vote!

  4. @Maureen - Your pronunciation of scone must be due to that time you lived in the US. :-)

    @PJ - I am trying to imagine how someone from Ireland could ever think the American way of saying something was sophisticated. ?? I am just the opposite. I think just about anything spoken with an Irish accent wins.

    @kate - We love muffins too. Pumpkin chocolate chip ones sound delicious. Funny you should mention my lack of explanation of the governor general. When I came to that part I realized it deserved its own post. There is no way to explain it in a short paragraph. Plus I thought the post was already bordering on being a sleeper.

  5. Has the Bloc Quebecois given up its hope of seceding from Canada? Or am I thinking of a former political group?

    I've never heard "scone" pronounced without "oh". The scones "sound" very tasty--the sliced, unbaked dough reminds me of the gingerbread my wife used to bake to make houses when our kids were younger.

  6. @Ric - No, the Bloc hasn't given up its hope, but it does not look like something that is going to happen in the near future. There was a very real chance of it happening about 15 years ago though.