Strawberry Scones and Civili-Tea: A Pragmatist’s Valentine

Strawberry Scones and Civili-Tea: A Pragmatist’s Valentine

A marriage made by matchmakers Ours is a pragmatic partnership. Social, economic and educational equity? Check. Common Genetic Pool? Yes, his grandmother and mine are cousins once removed. Horoscopes matched? Expeditiously ignored, unless the meeting does not go well in which case the alignment of stars will turn out to be sadly (but conveniently) out of synchrony.

Tea’s a Crowd It begins with an elaborately casual tea staged at my future in-law’s home: Eligible Bachelor #1 meets Nubile College Grad under four pairs of fondly hopeful parental eyes. Bachelor drops his teaspoon and is struck dumb. Bachelorette studiously ignores the handsome klutz and strikes up an animated discussion with groom-to-be’s father. Not an auspicious beginning. Considering that the chick will soon fly the coop (my tickets to America purchased, scholarship to graduate school in hand), the situation warrants bringing in the heavy weights, no less than a sari-clad replica of the Dowager of Downton Abbey! Post haste, the grandparents arrange a second meeting in neutral territory and after some masterful maneuvering I find myself tête à tête amidst the bougainvilleas and overgrown crotons of my grandmother’s garden. Two years later, we are married and have so remained for more than two and a half decades although I tossed off my sacred mangalsutra immediately and my husband has never worn a wedding ring.

I’ll Pass on the Roses, Thanks! It should therefore come as little surprise to you, dear reader, that Valentine’s Day passes by unnoticed in Madamescientist’s household. But that one and half hour ride from Baltimore to Philly on a snowy Sunday morning, so I can chair a meeting before flying on to another in Houston..that was much appreciated, thank you! So when Michelle Beissel shared a recipe for heart shaped strawberry scones, I thought it would be nice if we raised a cup of cheer in memory of that fateful tea party so many years ago.

Pictures and Recipe: https://madamescientist.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/strawberry-scones-and-civili-tea-a-pragmatists-valentine/

Michelle’s Potager Garden: http://soupedupgarden.blogspot.com/

#Incorrigibilitea #IncorrigibleValentine #ValentinesDay  

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100 Responses to Strawberry Scones and Civili-Tea: A Pragmatist’s Valentine

  1. Martha E Fay says:


    There it is – I just commented privately because I couldn’t find it! 

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    You mean on the blog post, Martha E Fay ?


  3. Very familiar for us  here in Sri Lanka


  4. Aww I love this post Rajini. So beautiful and sweet 🙂


  5. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story, Rajini.

  6. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks for reading another lengthy post, Bill 🙂


  7. Both here and on FB, yet!

  8. Jim Carver says:


    Haven’t eaten wheat since that post. Feeling way better.

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Sshhh, William McGarvey. We don’t use the F word here 😉

  10. Rajini Rao says:


    Since the gluten post, Jim Carver ?

  11. Jim Carver says:


    Yep, I went on the challenge. You know it’s not easy with all the stuff around you. You can do a lot with rice and corn if you are creative though.

  12. Jim Carver says:


    News flash this week: HFCS is just the same as sucrose!?

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Well, sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. I though HFCS was just fructose.

  14. Jim Carver says:


    Yeah, but they broke my Jim bonds on that one.

  15. Jim Carver says:


    Sorry, had to get my joke out of the way. As a percentage, it’s the same, half glucose and half fructose. But with sucrose you have to break that bond yourself. In this mixture, they are all free swimming.

  16. Rajini Rao says:


    I had no idea, thought it was all fructose Jim Carver .

  17. Jim Carver says:


    Rajini Rao You know back when I used to do wine, there was a procedure to invert sucrose using citric acid (well lemon juice is what we used). I haven’t even researched the chemistry on that since I was a kid. Bob Calder  may know something more as he does fermentations. It seems like it would, but I’m forgetting the details.

  18. Rajini Rao says:


    Anything that breaks up sucrose would make invert sugar..perhaps low pH in lemon juice hydrolyzes the bond. Did you know that the enzyme that does this is called invertase? 🙂

  19. Jim Carver says:


    No, I didn’t, but that makes sense. I guess the higher temperature process enhances that w/o enzymes since it’s too high a temp to work with enzymes. And I think that’s how it works.


    Somebody sent me the process for making HFCS one time and I’ll see if I can drag it up. I just saw it the other day…looking for something else of course. 😉


  20. High Fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used in the food industry as a sweetener and is replacing sucrose. Though cheaper, and in liquid form,  there is a controversy about its use due to the way it is metabolised.


    Your post is lovely Rajini Rao  Iam glad I was able to meet the lovely couple, my best wishes to you both!

  21. A.V. Flox says:


    Congratulations on making your marriage work and focusing on what’s important to you both instead of what everyone else assumes is important! ❤

  22. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you 🙂 For the record, he did buy me flowers once. Unfortunately, my daughter was with him (she must have been ~7 then) and she reported that, “Dad said, look, they’re on sale!” Busted, LOL.

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    It was a pleasure to meet you, Siromi Samarasinghe. You must be planning ahead for the May trip!


  24. Yes! Will you be there in mid May. Would like to meet up with you Rajini!

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    Definitely, I will be around!

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    You will be busy primping and preening, Buddhini Samarasinghe 😉

  27. Kapil Ranade says:


    “tossed off my sacred mangalsutra immediately” – Madamescientist Rajini Rao – wish wifey would do that – but she’s got 4 – 5 of them already (Maharastrian style, Tamil style an more) – and wants another.!! Apparently, black and gold goes well with a variety of saris and dresses . . .

  28. Deeksha Tare says:


    Such an apt post for today Rajini Rao ! ♥


    #Incorrigibilitea  !! 🙂

  29. E.E. Giorgi says:


    can I come live with you Rajini Rao ? I’m low maintenance, I promise… all I ask is that you feed me. 🙂

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Kapil Ranade , you should see me before I go to India particularly for some wedding or other event. I run around pale and anxious looking for my mangalsutra whereas my husband tries to untangle his janeevara or sacred thread. We are such a disgrace 😉


    Now, I would wear mine if it went with my outfits, I agree with your wife on that point.


    P.S. can she have multiples? Since it is tied on at that auspicious moment in the ceremony, how can one have more than one?

  31. Rajini Rao says:


    E.E. Giorgi , come on over. Perhaps those poor eaters in my family would sit up and notice the food that I’m waving in front of them.

  32. Jim Carver says:


    This wasn’t really the one I was looking for, but anyway: “High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars — it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose — but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.”


    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/


    I was actually looking for the actual chemical process by which they take regular corn syrup which is almost entirely glucose and turn it into half fructose. Why? Because it’s sweeter that way.

  33. E.E. Giorgi says:


    sigh. Life is sooo unfair, isn’t it?


    hey, I have a question for you… I think I’ll PM though…

  34. Kapil Ranade says:


    Oh well, apparently, Rajini Rao , they are all “bonafide” mangalsutras if the husband gets them and puts it on the wife the first time; convenient eh? scratches head – somehow I don’t recollect doing that other than in the ceremony!

  35. Jim Carver says:


    E.E. Giorgi You need to pay with a good pun before you get past the front desk. 🙂

  36. Jim Carver says:


     few drops of the red liquid would make this recipe …well, a little scary. 🙂

  37. Jim Carver says:


    What??? That thing chopped off my post!

  38. Rajini Rao says:


    Actually, there were red berries busting out and ruining my powder heart 😉

  39. Kawthar A says:


    That’s a sweet post!!! 🙂

  40. Jim Carver says:


    I could re-type it but I’m miffed right now. Why can’t google get rid of its bugs?

  41. Rajini Rao says:


    Symbolic of a bare heart 😀


  42. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories & of course the recipe (I made them a short while ago…with a few modifications & they were delicious)  Have a good trip Rajini Rao 

  43. Jim Carver says:


    I thought Rajini Rao was tripping on life all the time Cheryl Ann MacDonald and I could have been right.:)


    No, I’m just mad because that whole procedure about cinnamon got wiped out.


    All I said was I extracted Cassia with EtOH 75/25 and it has anti-hypertensive qualities that were alluded to in a recent study…and you could put that on the scones and whatever.


    The first one was better. Better send this one now before it gets flagged. 🙂


  44. Rajini Rao – How much for the scones?  :^)

  45. Jim Carver says:


    David Lazarus You can make it yourself far cheaper. A little flour, some salt. The rest of it you have laying around.


  46. Jim Carver – But will they be as good as hers?


  47. Jim Carver I used Gluten Free (Organic baking flour…if you cook it works just as well along with Stevia instead of sugar & earth balance instead of butter)  They really are very good, easy to make and not at all expensive. Still high in calories of course, but “healthier”

  48. Chad Haney says:


    Great story Rajini Rao. This year I thought I’d skip the roses for St. Valentines Day and get some desserts and a book that my wife wanted from the Vietnamese shops. So I went Monday and they were sold out of the desserts and I didn’t have cash for the book. I went today and both shops were closed (tomorrow too) for Chinese New Year. Curses, foiled again. I’m lucky she never makes a fuss about a holiday that you and your husband apparently also don’t need.


  49. Nice to learn a bit more about your story!


  50. So, is “common genetic pool” really considered an advantage for a couple in India, or did I misunderstand this? I thought most cultures nowadays rather see it as a genetic risk…

  51. Rajini Rao says:


    Barbara Gross , traditionally, marriages occur within a community where everyone tends to be ultimately related in some way. There are thousands of distinct communities in India, each with a distinct culture, cuisine and dialect. According to Wiki, ours has ~200,000 people and they are all over the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shivalli_Brahmins). I was quite astonished when I arrived in the US that there was a directory listing those of us living here (yikes!). In recent years, marriages do occur outside of a community although they are still frowned upon. It’s still very far from the melting pot that is the US 🙂


  52. Rajini Rao Ah, ok, that makes sense. I am in Germany, and here we do not have so many distinct cultures, at least not traditionally. We have started to develop some in the last 50 years or so, while different groups of immigrants arriving (Italians, Turkish, lately also different Eastern Europeans, and many more).  Intermarriage between those is also still quite rare, although it does happen. As the cultures mix, this might change, but it is a challenge, especially with those communities coming from an islamic culture. The differences and mutual mistrust between those and the primarily christian culture of the “natives” are huge, especially since most Germans believe in a relatively secular state, whereas some of the muslims advocate a stronger influence of religion on laws and everyday life.


    Interesting times ahead there, I think 🙂

  53. Jim Carver says:


    Barbara Gross I’d say if they wanted that, they should have stayed in their homeland where women have no rights, the men have very few and the governments are top heavy.


    Why try to install something that didn’t work in the first place? That’s just ignorant.

  54. Rajini Rao says:


    Barbara Gross  What is interesting in the Indian social system is that these communities I describe are not separated by religion, but by geography, language and culture. It used to be a way of maintaining tradition. That’s changing now that people can cross cultures so easily with technology and travel. From a practical point, those matchmakers of old did have some good ideas..modern research does validate that marriages built on shared values and cultures are easier to work out (in broad terms, at least). I wonder if Germany will become quite the melting point that we have here in the US.

  55. Chad Haney says:


    To relate food and geography differences, a friend from South India was telling me that when he was growing up, he never really had north Indian food like wheat products. His children however grew up enjoying both wheat and rice based food.


  56. Jim Carver I guess most are coming here because more or better jobs are available, social security and health care is better, sometimes also other family members and friends are here already. But then it is hard to give up the cultural values instilled in a person since childhood, especially if they are founded in religion. If those values collide with the laws and customs of the place you moved to, what do you do?


    This is a problem here. Sometimes laws get broken but courts are reluctant to punish because accepting and not discriminating against other cultures is an important value in German. Personally I think the laws should be the same for everyone, but there have been cases of judges letting wife beaters go because “beating your wife is normal in their culture”. Not a lot of cases, but enough to seriously worry me if a law system allowing such rulings isn’t majorly flawed. Although a lot of immigrants are integrating themselves nicely, there are still a lot that don’t, especially those with very little education (that really seems to be the key point).


    People in Germany are becoming scared of being “taken over” as the birth rates among immigrants are also much higher, thus they are making up a bigger and bigger part of the population. Of course those fears to not exactly help to improve the relationship…


  57. Rajini Rao Even though I have no first hand experience of such matchmaking and most people in Germany would consider it a horrible system, I tend to agree that it is not such a bad idea at least to take these factors into account. The first time I met a female colleague from India on a Business trip and she talked about her husband, of course the matchmaking system became a topic very fast, as all us “Westerners” were really curious about it, and we all thought a highly educated (and very strong headed) woman like her would be opposed to it. But we quickly found out that this was not the case, she was actually quite happy, told us how she was able to suggest a man that she had seen at work as a suitable match to her parent and luckily it all worked out fine for her. In the mean time I’ve met more people from India during my work and most of them seemed to be happy with their mates, so at least the results speak for themselves.


    Also, with what we know about the scientific background of “falling in love”,I think it is clear that it normally doesn’t keep for long, and real love will only develop if the couple really fits well together. I have the suspicion that in the long term result it will not really have such a big impact on the whether the couple was actually “in love” for the first 2 years or so or not. (oh fine, now all the romantics are going to yell at me…).


    And yes, I think the ease with which we travel today plus the internet and global working make it easier for cultures to get along and mix, as we get to know more people from different cultures and notice that they are as human and normal as we are, and a lot of fear just goes away. But unfortunately all of this requires a certain level of education (if only to be able to communicate in a common language), and that is where people are left behind. 

  58. Chad Haney says:


    Arranged marriages in Thailand are on the decline, likely due to western influences. Sorry I’m on my phone or I’d give a better comment.

  59. Rajini Rao says:


    Very well said, Barbara Gross , I agree with your sentiments about marriage. Eventually, I expect arranged marriages will decline in India, as in Thailand, Chad Haney  , and it will be interesting to see how all this works out. Education, mutual respect, and communication are all key to making a partnership work.

  60. Chad Haney says:


    The friend I refer to above, had a heck of a time arranging marriages for his sons. One ended up finding his own wife. A common complaint from him was that a lot of the potential matches were looking for Bollywood men that were also professionals, e.g., engineers. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just relaying his laments. I don’t know their accuracy.

  61. Nic Hammond says:


    am i the only person who can’t stop focusing on the biscuits?

  62. Rajini Rao says:


    Stay for tea, Nic Hammond 🙂 By the way, U of R is my alma mater- I was at the Med Ctr right around when this ancient tale of matchmaking was underfoot. 


  63. Chad Haney I think this is a very normal problem and not restricted to arranged marriages only.


    People are looking for the perfect companion which fits them rationally (good education, good job, modern values, similar interests) but is also “falling in love” material, i.e. immediately attractive.


    In our time marriage is no longer such a must as it was before (at least in Germany it isn’t), so people, especially women, now have the luxury to keep on searching for the perfect man, having high expectations, and if there is no fit immediately they can just keep on searching until they are successful, or even decide they’re better off single.


    Also I suspect that the growing media consumption has an effect here. We get used to the beautiful people in movies and TV and forget that the mousy wallflower in a TV series is actually a quite attractive person in real life. So our perception of attractiveness may become somewhat distorted.

  64. Nic Hammond says:


    Rajini Rao, mine too! my PhD is from the Chemistry dept here, and for a time our lab had a station in the “new” (then) Aab Institute/Medical Research Bldg wing of the MedCtr. Took my Biophysical Chemistry courses over there too, with ancient men (all men, natch) you might even recognize. Mostly, was in Hutchison on River Campus though, losing time on my watch every time I tuned the 500 and 600 MHz NMRs. 😛

  65. Rajini Rao says:


    Nic Hammond , I had some classes over at River Campus. Some of those ancient biophysicists have retired (my advisor Alan Senior) or passed away sadly (George Kimmich, Phil Knauf). I bet we both know a bunch of current faculty there..it’s a small world 🙂 

  66. Nic Hammond says:


    Oh wow… yeah. Senior was here when I was here then, and Phil Knauf was one of my profs for Biophysics. And Lynne Maquat and Joe Wedekind (newer) were on my committee. It’s a very small world. Did you know Tom Tullius (who I did my postdoc with) while he was at Hopkins in Chemistry?

  67. Rajini Rao says:


    Barbara Gross , on the one hand I have no problem with people choosing to stay single or partner late in life. But I do have some younger women friends who left the child bearing too late and then have regrets (although there are ways around that). I hope younger generations don’t get too isolated..the one good thing about marriage/partnership is that you have a companion by your side. 

  68. Chad Haney says:


    I don’t think I would have survived the end of grad school and the beginning of post doctoral work without my wife. My wife and I also find comfort in our 4-legged companion.

  69. Rajini Rao says:


    I don’t remember Tom Tullius, Nic Hammond..I was there in the eighties. Great to make the connection. If I return to Rochester, I’d love to visit your lab (and vice versa, if you are in the Balto/DC area). 

  70. Rajini Rao says:


    Same here, Chad Haney. Funny story..at dinner the other night, a bunch of students were exchanging stories of their faithful 4-legged friends, some of whom were getting on in age. At some point I mentioned my 14 yo as a joke and this visiting student said, oh…what breed? One of my students responded, Homo sapiens 🙂

  71. Nic Hammond says:


    Ah, I’m not “in a lab” anymore… at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. So my “lab” is now the classroom, and my “reagents” are teenagers. So more toxic. 😛


  72. Rajini Rao Yes, we have seen a huge decline in birth rates here since it has become socially acceptable to remain single or remain childless even if married. But I think that will stabilize as our societies change. Already single mothers do not have to be ashamed anymore, and work environments are changing to allow more flexibility. And of course modern medicine allows us to delay reproduction to a later time in our life.


    Having a companion – yes, being single myself there are times when I miss that. But there are also a lot of times when I am happy that I can do what I feel like and do not have the troubles that people in relationships often have. Also I have some very close friends (also single) that fill some of the roles a companion would, like helping me when I’m down, sharing a movie or dinner or just talk about the little things that happened.


    And of course I’ve got my cat which also keeps me company (a cat really has personality, so they’re like someone sharing your place with you, not just a live object you possess).


    It’s probably not only a matter of not finding the perfect person, but also a matter of personalities, some people just are totally fine on their own, while others are desperate to always have a partner and cannot live without.


  73. Fascinating reading Rajini Rao Can’t wait to hear about the next couple of decades… 🙂

  74. Rajini Rao says:


    Stay tuned, John Christopher.. by then I may need false teeth for the scones and a walking stick to chase the grand kids off my lawn (with any luck)   😀


  75. OK, I hope I can stay tuned for that long Rajini Rao    🙂  (Actually twenty years goes by so fast, and …unexpected things happen http://goo.gl/UIGCa )

  76. Rajini Rao says:


    Hahaha! Good idea…I think I’ll sprawl under a tree and wait. Something’s bound to happen 🙂


  77. Good things come to those who wait (or at least there’s a 50% chance…)


  78. Oh no, I missed the awesome Tea and cookie fest!


    Looks great! … Love that photo of you  🙂

  79. Susan LaDuke says:


    What a wonderful story, and reminder that love comes to us in many fabulous ways. I’ve found those couples who’ve had arranged marriages, seem to endure the test of time, say they’re very happy together and wouldn’t change anything. So, maybe that’s where I went wrong.


    You, my dear, are a true inspiration for so very many women. I hope that my daughter, currently completing med school applications, hoping for dual degree ; (PhD Neuroscience/ MD Neurosurgery) realizes her dream. She wants a family as well, and you’re proof that’s a possibility!

  80. Rajini Rao says:


    Susan LaDuke , thank you! All the best to your daughter in her MD/PhD applications. We have a very strong MSTP program at Johns Hopkins, I hope she considers applying to us.

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