Sunday 20 February 2011

Déjà vu - mais ne jamais mangé

It's a bit dislocating to discover a parallel universe so close to home. I've just read a story about Glasgow in the paper by an Auckland travel writer called Pam (whose daughter named A. is a reporter for the Herald) and the opening paragraph features the legendary deep-fried Mars bar - but it's not me and it isn't my story.

The main thrust of Other Pam's story is that Glasgow cuisine is much maligned and that you can eat there very well; however she does rather undermine her own message by citing examples such as macaroni cheese pie and chips, and haggis vindaloo, and quotes a primary school teacher who claims that takeaway Indian curries are the only vegetables her students get to eat.

Both our stories actually draw a blank as far as the battered Mars bar is concerned: I stopped at every takeaway I came to in Glasgow and scrutinised their menu boards and never saw it listed (the only time I've ever found it was here in NZ). I did though find a new and unsuspected horror: the deep-fried pizza. Apparently you can get it battered or bare; and the connoisseurs prefer cheap generic pizza because the thick base soaks up more fat. Augh.

Haggis, though. I felt obliged to try it while I was in Scotland despite, oddly, not being attracted by the idea of offal mixed with oats cooked inside a sheep's stomach. I put it off for a while, but eventually gritted my teeth and ordered it as a starter in a friendly restaurant in Pitlochry, an appealing little spa town in the Trossachs. Visions of a pale, steaming bag of minced heart, liver and lungs stabbed with a knife so the contents poured out like lava didn't get my mouth watering while I waited - but when it came, it was a delight.

It was served modern-fashion, as a small stack on a base of bashed neeps and tatties (mashed swede and potato), and was dark, tender and so very tasty that I honestly regretted not having ordered it as a main. I would gladly eat it again.

The other memorable thing about that evening was the lovely couple at the next table: from Ayrshire, in their 70s, married 55 years, he a retired coal-miner, she a retired nurse, both having fun on a touring holiday and thrilled to have a four-poster bed with tartan curtains in their B&B. "It's our very first time! What a shame we won't be putting it to its proper use..." Sweet.
(I haven't any photos of these places because I dropped my camera over a cliff on Skye, so this is the best I can do.)


the queen said...

Swede and potato? Swede? A fried Swede? What is Swede?

TravelSkite said...

Ah, yes, sorry: swede is the fancy name for turnip, used by those who don't want to think that they're eating cattle-fodder.

Surprisingly nice eaten raw, by the way, despite what Scarlett O'Hara thinks.


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