Thursday, October 2, 2008
COOKING AWAY FROM HOME>
I am often asked if there are any foods form Scotland which I miss. I think I can say that having been away from Scotland for quite some time now there is nothing that I really miss anymore. When we first left Scotland almost 14 years ago it was to go and live in Hungary where I frequently wished for the familiarity of Scottish foods. Here I was struggling just to understand what was written on the side of a can, and I can assure you the picture of the contents were not always the best representation of what was inside! I remember one day deciding I was going to make spaghetti bolognese for supper. It was the early days of our time spent in Hungary and my language skills were pretty poor to say the least. I headed to the supermarket clutching my list, which I had, with the help of a dictionary written in Hungarian, this was supposed to help me decipher the products! My first problem was trying to persuade the butcher to mince my beef. He was not willing to do this. Eventually, I think he saw the frustration in my face he reluctantly complied with my request. Afterward I learned because beef is expensive he would think it a waste to mince it. With the minced beef under my belt I wandered through the produce, this part was easy, I just picked out the onions and put them in a bag. My confidence was growing so off I trotted to the aisle with all the canned goods. I saw the tinned tomatoes, loaded them into the trolley, the spaghetti was easily recognisable in the package. I now had everything I needed and headed home to prepare the evening meal. All started well enough, that is until I emptied the tomatoes from the tin into the mince, STRAWBERRIES. I couldn't believe it. The tears came but not before the expletives. The frustration of it all just became too much for me and there was no way back from this. I had no tomatoes, even if I could have picked all the strawberries out. I can laugh now and soon got the hang of the shopping. I was much more diligent with the list translation. Soon I realised that for everything I couldn't buy there would be something else to replace it or even something more delicious. It was fun experimenting and trying out new foods. It took me a long while to be able to serve anything with whipped cream. Try as I might I could not get it to whip. I spent hours beating, coaxing and screaming at it to try and make it whip. Then one day I spied a tiny package in the supermarket which said "habos fixalo" I knew habos translated as whipped and as there was a picture of perfectly whipped cream on the package I prayed I'd found the secret. Could it really be a simple as adding this to the cream to get it to whip? It was that simple. This was a huge step forward in my culinary achievements in Hungary. Over the 5 years we were there we were fortunate to try out some delicious, and some not so delicious foods but it was a wonderful opportunity to eat as the locals eat. To enjoy meals prepared by people who were to become good friends. The Hungarians were as interested in my cooking as much as I was in theirs. I am happy to have many Hungarian cook books in my collection, many of them given to me as gifts. I still like to cook from them occasionally, it brings back wonderful memories of our time spent there. Eventually some British supermarkets opened. Tesco. A familiar face of home. It carried some British products, at a price, but it was nice to get them.
Here in America it is not so complicated, thankfully. Cuts of meat have different names, but that is easily solved. Also with wonderful stores like "IRISH on GRAND" in St Paul I am able to treat myself to a few products from home, digestive biscuits, good tea bags, Bird's Custard Powder, good bacon and Scotland's other National Drink, IRN BRU to name but a few. World Market also keep a good selection of "foreign foods"
So although from time to time I think about foods from home, it is a romantic memory, because when I do go home for a holiday and have these things again they never seem quite as good as I remember them. Perhaps my palate has changed, I don't know. All I know for sure is if you don't try anything new then you are missing out on so much.