Scone versus fry bread in Utah

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I just moved to Utah from Illinois and was mystified by a fast food chain called Sconecutter. So I went in to try these "scones" and after I tasted them, I said to myself, "This is fry bread." I had had fry bread some years ago at a Native American tepee set up at a festival, and it was just the same as these "scones." But it definitely was not a scone like those I've had at high tea elsewhere -- or made myself. As near as I can tell, only in Utah do they call fry bread a "scone." So the question is, why do they call it a scone? And a secondary question is, Where did fry bread come from? I found one web reference saying that fry bread was something familiar to the Native Americans and the American pioneers, but it's unclear who had it first.

Any food historians or food anthropologists who can give me a lead? Thanks for listening.

Mystified in Utah :confused:
 
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I've done some more research, as best as I could, and have more information related to my question about Utah "scones."

I am not the only one to have this question. Raymond Sokolov, Wall Street Journal editor and columnist, found the "Utah scone" stranger than strange and did some research on it. Apparently, he writes about it in his book Fading Feast: A Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods. I have yet to see it, but I'm going to get my library to find it. He did write about it in an article in Natural History magazine as well, but I don't know which issue -- I do have a copy of the article. At any rate, he confirms that the Utah scone is unique to Utah, and that it bears no resemblance to the scones of the British Isles, which are baked quick bread, not deep-fried yeast dough. Utah scones are more like Native American fry bread and Mexican sopaipillas. One can only suppose that early settlers of Utah imitated these fried foods, sweetened them up a little, and for mysterious reasons of their own, named them "scones." For the most part, native Utahns remain unaware that their scones are not the same as other scones.

The history of fry bread and sopaipillas is less mysterious, but still hard to date firmly. Foodtimeline.com does have some information on them at http://www.gti.net/mocolib1/kid/food...ml#sopaipillas which is also enlightening. It's still more likely that sopaipillas existed before Utah scones. It's also interesting that Utah dessert scones are often served with honey, as are sopaipillas. There's even a restaurant here that describes sopaipillas as "Mexican scones." :confused:

Until someone looks at the diaries and other historical records of the early Mormon settlers to find the earliest occurrence of scones, we can never know exactly what happened. But I feel vindicated that greater minds than I have tried to figure this out. Maybe someday I'll be inspired to work on this more. If anyone ever hears of a food historian in Utah, please let me know. Thanks for listening. :eek:
 

phatch

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My mom was born and raised in podunk Utah. She would fry extra bread dough in long strips for breakfast for us. Butter them up and add jam/jelly or maple syrup. Very tasty. Always called them "dough-gads", something that seems to have trickled down through scandinavian ancestry according to her. Yes, others here in utah would call them scones.

Fry bread in my experience is a fried quick bread. The Navajo taco being how you most often see it anymore. My sister's friend, a Navajo in Page AZ has had it all her life.

The yeasty scone does seem to be a Utah thing, most often created from commercial frozen bread dough. It could easily hearken to the pioneer heritage that lives on in lots of cooking still, or even to some of the cowboy cooking as that sort of thing would easily raise all day on the chuckwagon and cook quickly in some oil or fat with dinner.

On a date once to see Everclear, Belly, and a few other bands perform, the Belly guitarist was happy that Utah had Sconecutters. Where ever she was from, she had them too, and it wasn't just Utah. Can't seem to find a sconecutter home page anywhere.

Phil (Not a native Utahn)
 
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I grant you that it's hard to believe that it's only a Utah thing. If I weren't here, I wouldn't believe it. I'm not saying that there aren't other fried bread things around the country and the world. As near as I can tell, what makes the Utah scone unique is its name (conflicting with the scone that everybody else knows). And it's not like every other fried bread thing, like a doughnut or your mom's dough-gads (and I don't think Utahns would call that a scone). The shape (square or big round pancake thing) puts it in the league of the sopaipilla and "Navajo taco". There's also a fried bread thing called a beignet in Louisiana, which sounds like it's a square shape. Utah seems to have both a sweet scone, which resembles the sopaipilla, and a savory scone, and that's the one that reminded me of fry bread (I've seen fry bread recipes that use yeast).

As far as Sconecutter goes, I can't find any evidence that it exists anywhere other than Utah. Check www.sconecutter.com and the only locations listed are in Utah. So I'm not sure what that guitarist was talking about.

I'm not so mystified about the scone's development per se. It probably was some kind of pioneer thing, although as I say the shape relates it to other foods that were around the Utah settlers, which implies some borrowing. The strange thing to me is that it is called a scone. Why anyone who knows what a baked scone is would call this fried thing a scone is a mystery to me. It's not unlike a doughnut, so why not call it a doughnut? Or a sopaipilla? Or fry bread? This is what I was trying to find the answer to, and I get the feeling that no one knows. The bewildering thing is that most native Utahns seem to be totally unaware that there is any other kind of scone.

All that said, thanks for responding to my message. :) I was starting to wonder if anybody had read it. If you're interested, I do recommend you read that article by Sokolov. It's in Natiural History, June 1985, Vol. 94, p. 82. Your library should be able to get you a copy.

Alice in Sandy, Utah (not a native) :eek:
 

phatch

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I tried www.sconecutter.com when I first posted and it wouldn't resolve. Does today. Oh the vagaries of the Internet.

That date I mentioned was about 10 years ago so they may have had some out of state franchises at the time.

Phil
 
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All along HWY 395 that parallels the High Sierras in Eastern California you can get fry bread tacos at some Paiute establishments in Lone Pine or Bishop - among other places as well. Long live eastern California, my stomping ground, home to the bloody red moon.
 
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This may be an old thread, but I wanted to throw in a response, because this conversation just came up today at work, and I found this through some Googling.
I grew up on these "Utah scones" in western Idaho, along the Oregon border, north of Boise.  It was an LDS household, as well, though.  Having read this, I imagine that my mother would have picked this up from these Mormon roots.  However, I also came across this discussion board: http://www.atforumz.com/showthread.php?t=28520
Apparently, there's some tradition of deep-fried dough in New England, as well, perhaps, as something Southern about calling this a "scone".  Both of these, as well as frontier/pioneer cooking, are likely to have gone into the melting pot to create this 'new food.'  All I know for certain is that they are delicious, whether topped like a taco, or spread with butter and jam or honey, or just butter! :D
 
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Never had a Navajo taco, but from the description it sounds like the puffy tacos found in San Antonio. Fresh-made tortillas are deep fried, using a spider to create a sort of fold in the middle.
I've enjoyed fry bread in many places---it's a mainstay among certain historical reenactors. But anytime I've had it by that name the base was a yeast dough.

I'm intrigued by these Utah scones, though, and will try and do a little research on them.
 
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While living in the desert located east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and attending all the faires hosted by the Paiutes, one always knew the location of the fry-bread stand by noting the long lines winding sinuously through the crowd.
 
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I descend from Mormon pioneer families who came to Utah in the first year (1847). They were all Scots (Stevenson, MacDonald, Williams & Douglass). I am only 3 generations separated from those pioneers. I grew up on a farm where we ate pieces of fried dough now called "scones" almost every morning for breakfast with bacon and eggs. These were breakfast staples from pioneer days. My mom and dad, my grandmother and grandfather, and my great grandmother all called them "fried cakes", which they distinguished from pancakes and traditional Scottish scones. Scones were something baked or griddle-baked on a dry, floured griddle or cast iron frying pan. I didn't hear "fried cakes" called "scones" until I was out of high school 53 years ago.

These so-called "fried cakes" originated on the Great Plains with the Mormon "exodus". Every pioneer family had a Dutch oven, also called a “baking kettle”, a coffee pot and a frying pan. Foods that would keep during 3 months on the plains were flour, bacon, sugar or molasses, and coffee. Meals were monotonous, consisting of bacon, "fried cakes", coffee and whatever could be gathered on the trail. Above all, 3 meals a day, there were the "fried cakes" that have come to be called "scones" made from "salt-rising" dough, made from either yeast or sourdough starts. They were eaten hot at night with gravy beans and bacon and some sort of camp meat, and in the morning with bacon. They were eaten cold for lunch either alone or with preserves. They were a high calorie, high energy food (USDA rates one at 500 to 750 calories), especially when eaten with bacon or preserves, for people who were burning off 3,500 to 6,000 calories a day on the trail. And unlike bread, they didn't go stale during the day, even in the hottest, driest weather.

Most of the Saints (Mormons) that went to Utah in the first year were Northeasterners with an admixture of English, Scottish and Canadian converts. My Scottish ancestors made traditional scones in their "baking kettles" and "fried cakes" (not pancakes) cooked in bacon grease in their frying pans. A few of the non-British Saints didn't differentiate between the traditional scones and the "fried cakes". However, it was not until 1962 when I first heard a woman from Salt Lake City visiting my mother refer to our breakfast staple as "scones." Mother was in her late 50's before she switched to calling her fried dough "scones". It wasn't long after that, in the early 1970s, that a couple of fast food chains in Utah, the Golden Scone and the Scone Cutter, began to serve fried yeast dough as "scones".

As far as Navajo fry bread is concerned, it is regional, probably developed from cultural transfer from late Spanish Colonial settlers in New Mexico who developed sopapillas in the late 1790s or possibly from early Mormon settlers in Southern Utah. There is no doubt that the Dineh (Navajo) themselves date "fry bread" to their 1864 Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone fry bread obviously has different origins. They have no tradition for it, but it appears in their culture after contact with Mormons in the Great Basin and Mexican culture in California. Where other tribes got fry bread is anyone's guess. But in the 21st century, it appears universal, having spread through years of cultural exchanges at Pow Wows and other gatherings. Its name in English appears to come from the literal translation of the Dineh (Navajo) term "bááh dah díníilghaazh".

I'm in my 70s now, and have been calling these fried pieces of dough "scones" since I was 22. That's for the last 50 years or more. But even now, this name is a comparatively recent reference to a much older Utah Mormon tradition.
 

phatch

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As far as Navajo fry bread is concerned, it is regional, probably developed from cultural transfer from late Spanish Colonial settlers in New Mexico who developed sopapillas in the late 1790s or possibly from early Mormon settlers in Southern Utah. There is no doubt that the Dineh (Navajo) themselves date "fry bread" to their 1864 Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone fry bread obviously has different origins. They have no tradition for it, but it appears in their culture after contact with Mormons in the Great Basin and Mexican culture in California. Where other tribes got fry bread is anyone's guess. But in the 21st century, it appears universal, having spread through years of cultural exchanges at Pow Wows and other gatherings. Its name in English appears to come from the literal translation of the Dineh (Navajo) term "bááh dah díníilghaazh".
While the concept is older as you noted, Native American Fry Bread has it's roots in the reservation system imposed on them. The ingredients of flour, powdered milk, salt, oil, were the staples supplied by the federal government. These are not traditional items in the history of these people.  You'll find fry bread in the modern heritage of tribes from the middle of the USA and westward. Not just the Navajo. 
 
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The so-called "Utah scone" or "Mormon scone" was a product of the Mormon pioneer era, which lasted from 1845 (Nauvoo Exodus) to 1869 (completion of the transcontinental railroad). I'm a Utah native, born and raised. My great-grand parents came to Utah in 1847. They had been born in Scotland. My paternal great-grand parents had come to the U.S. in 1827 and joined the Mormon Church in 1831. My maternal great-grandparents had joined the Church in 1839 and came to the U.S. in 1844. Both sets of great-grand parents made the crossing in 1847.

The staple Mormon immigrants on the trail to the Salt Lake Valley was bacon, which gave a lot of grease, and yeast dough fried in bacon grease. This was a high energy food that would last all day. Since everyone but infants walked next to the oxen and wagons all day, they burned off everything they ate. Nobody got fat on that greasy diet. In fact most got thinner. They mixed the dough at night with a starter left over from the day before and cooked them in the morning. At breakfast they ate them with a strip of bacon. They ate them cold for lunch with preserves or honey if they had them.

I understand from my great-granparents journals and my recollections from talking with them was that they got awfully tired this diet. Buffalo meat was a welcome change, but fresh meat wouldn't keep like cured bacon, and it was consumed by a pioneer company in a few days. Then it was back to "bacon and cakes" according to the words of my great-grandmother.

I don't know who first called this fried dough a "scone", but it was comparatively recently. I was in my late teens (1950s) before I ever head someone refer to fried dough as a "scone". My great-grandmother and her younger sisters and cousins who lived into the 1950s called them "fried cakes". We had them almost every morning on the farm where I grew up just south of Provo.

I was in my late 20s before I ever heard of "Navajo fry bread." It is hard to say whether the Dineh (Navajo) people got their "fry bread" from Mormon settlers who penetrated their territory in the Four Corners area in the 1850s, or from Spanish and later Mexican settlers who were in the area as traders as early as the 1700s. However, because wheat flour was not a traditional staple in the Navajo diet, "fry bread" must have been adopted from sources where wheat flour and yeast leavening were part of a traditional diet. That leaves either the early Mormons or early Colonial Spanish missionaries and settlers. The way the Navajos cook "fry bread" is more in the Mormon tradition. However, I suspect that they got their "fry bread" from early contact with Spanish traders and missionaries who consumed it as "sopapillas".

This brings us to "sopapillas". A sopapilla is a type of fried quick bread served in several regions of the Americas with Spanish heritage. The word "sopaipilla" is the diminutive of "sopaipa", a word that entered Spanish from the Mozarabic language of Al-Andalus. The sopapilla can date its origins to Spain before 1400, and it may even date to the time of the Roman occupation. The Roman and later Italian "castagnole", eaten with butter and honey, was and still is essentially the same as a sopapilla.

Sopapillas are present in Mexico and throughout the U.S. Southwest, which was part of Colonial and then independent Mexico for 320 years. In Argentina and Uruguay, aside from "sopapillas", they are called "tortas fritas" (fried cakes) and "chipá cuerito", a Mapuche Indian word meaning "fried cakes". In Chile, sopapillas have been part of the traditional diet since 1726. Pizarro's expedition to Peru brought sopapillas with it in 1532.

Where the Mormons got their "scones" or "fried cakes" is a matter of conjecture. However, it appears most likely that they date from Colonial New England. In fact, Brigham Young may have even eaten them as a kid. The Dictionary of American Regional English calls the fried dough all sorts of names, including dough goddy, dough gob, doughboy, doughbelly and fried cake, the name my great-grandmother, grandfather and mother called them. Mother didn't start calling them "scones" until she was in her late 40s. The dictionary says that the fried dough was used when early Colonial homemakers got behind in their bread making and needed to quick-fry some bread for supper.

Whatever you call them, whether "fried cakes" or "Mormon scones" or "fry bread" or "sopapillas", the fried quick bread is an integral part of not only Utah culture but Western culture in general.
 
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The "fry bread" of the various U.S. Indigenous tribes is indeed a product of,  the reservation system. However, much of the folklore surrounding it must be examined more closely. For instance, the U.S. government did not provide powdered milk until well into the twentieth century. In fact commercial production of powdered milk on any scale did not occur in the U.S. until 1904.

Similarly, vegetable oil was not commercially available to the U.S. government or consumers until after 1911 when Procter & Gamble began production of refined, hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Baking powder was not commercially available until well after the civil war. In the U.S., Joseph and Cornelius Hoagland and  William Ziegler developed the earliest commercial baking powder in 1866 and founded the Royal Baking Powder Company. It became the largest manufacturer of baking powder in the U.S. Government contracts didn't come until 1877.

It should be obvious that the ingredients of Indigenous American "fry bread", particularly Navajo "fry bread" came from what the government really supplied. That is flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast (until 1877) and lard. Baking powder may have come after 1877. Powdered milk and vegetable oil weren't available until the 20th century.

In fact, the earliest process in the English-speaking world to produce evaporated milk (and that wasn't powdered) was by William Newton who patented a vacuum process for evaporated milk as early as 1837. In 1847, T. S. Grimwade took a British patent on a vacum procedure that produced a highly condensed bottled milk to which potassium nitrate was added as a preservative (Blyth 1882). The Grimwade process was further refined in 1855 to produce a powderd milk to which sugar and calcium carbonate were added (Blyth 1882, Hunziker 1920). Neither process was commercialized in Britain, and only the condensed milk process was a commercial success in England (Hunziker 1920).

In the U.S. in 1856, after three years of refining a vacum evaporation process, Gail Borden began production of canned condensed milk. His efforts were only successful after forming a partnership in 1857 with financier Jeremiah Wilbank, with whom he founded the New York Condensed Milk Company (later renamed the Borden Company in 1899). They obtained large government contracts during and after the Civil War to produce Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, a brand sold in stores today (Frantz 1951). At the end of the Civil War, a patent pending in 1857 was reissued and finally granted to Borden on 14 November 1865 (Borden 1865). Although his process could produce powdered milk, Borden's company never ventured beyond the production of condensed milk until the 20th century.

From the late nineteenth century on, manufacturers continued to search for a process to convert skim and whole milk into a form still more durable than canned milk, and cheaper to handle and package in large volumes (Mendelson 2008). The first large-scale U.S. manufacture of powdered milk was by Chester E. Gray, who invented a device to produce powdered milk by a vacum spray process still used today. With Aage Jensen, his partner, Gray began commercial production in 1904 at the Central Creamery in Ferndale, California (Ferndale Museum 2004). He received a U.S. patent on his invention in 1913 (Gray 1913).

References

Blyth, A. W. 1882. Foods: Their Composition and Analysis: A Manual for the Use of Analytical Chemists and Others. Charles Griffin & Co., London, UK. p 265.

Borden, G. 1865.  Improvements in Condensing Milk, U.S. Patent RE2103 E (Reissued 14 Nov. 1865), Assigned to Gail Borden. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, DC.

Ferndale Museum. 2004. Ferndale. Arcadia Publishing Co., San Francisco, CA. p. 36-40.

Frantz, J. B. 1951. Gail Borden: Dairyman To A Nation. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Gray, C. E. 1913. Apparatus for desiccating liquids, U.S. Patent 1,078,848, Assigned to Chester E. Gray (18 Nov. 1913). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, DC.

Hunziker, O. F. 1920. Condensed Milk and Milk Powder, 3rd ed. Published by Author, La Grange, IL. p 277.

Mendelson, A. 2008. Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. p. 81-82.
 
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