Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scottish dumpling, not your dim sum variety

Scottish Food, Installment 2 of 3
The last post was mostly food in Edinburgh, so here we'll progress on to other places and experiences.
First up (and making a grand impression) was the breakfast set-up at my B&B in Inverness. (highly recommended!)
Keep in mind, this was just the COLD breakfast. Gorgeous cereals, fruits, yogurt,etc. Add to that your choice of eggs, meats, and my favorite, tattie scones. They might be a bit of work for one who is not accustomed to having mashed, or in fact any, potatoes on hand, but they were tasty enough to give it a try nonetheless.

Next is the food at the cafeteria of the Culloden Battlefield Memorial site. Now I've heard that there is a fancy guest house and gourmet restaurant nearby, but you're off your rocker if you think I could afford to go there. As it was, I had to check at the bus station for where to pick up the city bus to visit the memorial site, as it was not obvious from their website. After an inside talk, a self-tour of the museum, and an outdoor guided tour, I scoured the gift shop and settled into the cafeteria to stave off a food-headache. I saw these crisps, which amused but did not entice!
I also tried Clootie Dumpling, a traditional fruitcake-type dessert, which turned out to be fabulous, 'smoored' as it was in custard. SO good, especially on the misty, rainy, chilly day that we had that day. But once again, there's a challenge to make it-- where on earth does one get suet in the States?
Third, we have the famous visit to Leakey's Bookshop & Cafe. I loved this bookshop, not least because it had a cafe upstairs where one could procure delectable baked treats and a warm beverage to best accompany the reading material at hand.
On my first visit, I had a pot of tea. And I didn't look closely at the menu because I was busy observing and then speaking with a young Swiss mother traveling with her young son (but not too young- he was old enough to talk excitedly about where they'd been and what they'd seen, about 11 or 12 years old). Did I mention we spoke in French? It was AWESOME!
 The second time I returned however, I tried a baked good (a caramel shortbread, I believe) with my tea. And perused the menu details, which included a historic bit.  I'll wait while you read.

Good bit of cheeky humor there, eh? And another connection back up to that Diana Gabaldon and her fictionalized version of the Culloden Battle- really fascinating!

Fourth and finally, we leave Inverness to include the day trip to Stirling Castle, in a metaphorical middle of Scotland: between the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow (E-W), and between the cultures of the lowlands and the highlands (S-N).
At Stirling, I had a very informative tour which encompassed different ages of the castle, famous architectural elements, rituals of life, changes for military needs, etc. But the one place the guide didn't take us to but strongly recommended was seeing the exhibit on the Renaissance kitchens.
There were very lifelike mannequins/models pictured at work, and everything looked so busy! There was sound piped in to mimic the hubbub of a feast in the making. It was really well done.

This shows a servant slowing down in the course of serving all the courses (hehe) at a typical 16th century banquet, which included:

  • pottage (soup)
  • roasts
  • small pies and pastries
  • tarts or fritters
  • fresh or preserved fruit and sweetmeats

I guess they didn't go in for salads, hmm...
Here was my favorite- all raise a cheer for the bakers! Rough men's work at the time, because it took a lot of bread to feed the people, who didn't have much of a varied diet unless they were high-fallutin'.
Don't they look real? Better than a wax museum, though; those are just creepy.
The last photo from Stirling kitchens was an oven that was used before the expansion for the palace's guests, when it was more of a fort stronghold. These kids were around and I felt a strong urge to be the witch pushing them into the oven for getting in my shot...

Next up will be the final installment of Scotland food (Glasgow) and some preamble about the New England road trip, where Produce, and not Preparation, turned out to be King (a-ha-ha, we were just talking about the Castle, get it?)

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