Feeding The Alien: The Scottish Way

Where I came from, we have numerous regional food. Each province has their own way to do rice. Each city has their own kind of soup, or broth, or stew. Every time my friend and I talked about travelling locally, we would have a dedicated time of the day to savour the rich variety of food in my planet. Culinary travelling… That’s how we call it. Somehow, though, the possibility of local speciality food in Britain never occurred to me when I first arrived here.

Of course as time went by, I learned that faraway there on the South West part of the island they have Cornish Pasties, or here in Norfolk we are quite famous for our Cromer Crab. But that’s about it.

IMG_2858
British people are really good at making crisps, though. They’re very creative with these…

So, when I thought of travelling within the UK, culinary travelling has never crossed my mind. Yes, we do have gazillion castles, and ruins, and monasteries, and churches, and museums, and galleries, and everything that shouts history. But food… I remember one anecdote I heard before… “British people don’t have cuisine… They have food… ” Shame that I don’t really remember where I heard that.

The lack of finesse in culinary department was also depicted in Agatha Christie’s novel, where our beloved Belgian sleuth, Poirot had to deal with British food. That’s been the running joke, of course. I do love British food, and I think some of them are simply gorgeous. However coming from a culture that worship food, I can totally understand Poirot’s frustration

Therefore, after trying several fry-ups, and fish and chips, I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of expectation about British food. And, all those rambling was just to justify my ignorance of Scottish food.

IMG_2891
The ignorant me thought that Scottish food means Oatcakes

 

 

The first time I went to Scotland was just to go to a rock concert. In the B&B, I was offered “Full Scottish Breakfast”. I was excited then, but I realised that what I got there was basically fry ups which the English called “Full English Breakfast”. I am pretty sure if you go to Cardiff, they will call it “Full Welsh Breakfast”. So, I have decided for a while, so that I wouldn’t offend anyone, I might just call it “The Fryups”.

Since then, and until I went to Edinburgh last week, I never went to Scotland anymore. My knowledge about Scottish food was limited to whisky, and oat — both in oatmeal and oatcake. Ooooh, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE oatcakes. Scottish rough oatcakes, plain — just the best way to enjoy it. And whisky… well, I am not so good at handling my alcohol, so I have to be careful with that pokey stuff.

IMG_3776[1]
No, I haven’t drunk it yet. That drip of 25ml is the serving size
I did try local whisky in Edinburgh. My goodness, it felt like my face and throat melt on the first sip. I have to say though, the aftertaste was wonderful… In case you wanted to try it too, I tried: Highland Park 12 Year from Orkney. I tried it in Bar 50 in Edinburgh.

If you’re into a less pokey alcoholic drink, there’s also a local product called Hollyrood pale ale. Fruity and tasty, but if I have to choose, between both, I will pick the whisky.

IMG_3778[1]
This one has a better serving size…
But the best thing about Scottish food is what I just learned on my last visit to Edinburgh. And it is called: Haggis.

Okay… a lot of people would ask about what Haggis actually is, but then when I explain they would go, “eeew…. you eat that?” Seriously, why the hell not? It is probably one of the best thing I have every tried. When I had my first bite of Haggis, it was the moment I questioned everything in life, and wondered to myself: How could I live without knowing anything about this food?

Well, it was a bit hyperbolic. But I am being serious about how tasty it is.

IMG_3809[1]
No, I am not joking. This is a smaller portion.
I heard about Haggis for so many years from my grumpy darling, but only when I was in Edinburgh I got the chance to finally tasted it. It was not without struggle though. Most of Scottish food was served in a gigantic portion, which I could never be able to finish without hurting myself permanently. My opportunity came when I found a restaurant who served both Haggis, and children size fryup breakfast.

I asked the lady if I could swap the bacon with the haggis. Don’t… I know bacon is tasty, but trust me, there is world outside bacon. And the swap was worth every bite, okay? And with that, I owe a huge apology to Scotland for my ignorance about your food culture. Your Haggis has opened my eyes and satisfied my taste buds.

There you go… Scotland fed me, and it fed me well… I am a happy alien.

The Late Night Baking

Last night I suddenly had this urge to go to the kitchen and bake a batch of brownie. I thought it’s going to be a sweet surprise for my dear Grumper — which hopefully could lessen the grumpiness of having to go to work without fresh brewed coffee, especially after a horrible night sleep. Afterall, I imagine, nobody could be too grumpy while munching a slice of fudgy nutty brownie… right?

Although this is not my first time baking at night, I haven’t done this too often. Usually I waited when Grumpy went to his regular meet up with his buddy, or when he’s asleep like last night. Nothing can beat the feeling of baking late at night like this…

Of course a lot of people have used creative activities like knitting, painting, baking, gardening, or even… writing to help improving their mental wellbeing. The process of producing something, the sense of achievment, or even the feeling of connection to others — when making something for others, could give this feelgood sensation. I can totally understand this.

So far, though, nothing beats the feeling of baking at night for me.

It is almost meditative.

Preparing, chopping, measuring, sifting, mixing… Pouring, leveling, folding, spooning… baking, waiting with that soft jazzy tune in the background, smelling the goodness escaping from the oven door. You know that brownie would be ready in a minute. All done without racing with dinner time, or distraction from the little devil incarnations in the form of neighbour kids playing football in out back garden. In that kitchen last night, it was only me… and the holy brownie.

It calmed me down. It lifted my mood up. And at that very moment, I thought… everybody has to try baking.

But of course, it is different for everybody, isn’t it? I know for some people baking or cooking is more stressfull than anything. Maybe if I have to… umm… doing some lifting at the gym? I would feel more furious than calm, although for some people it was their stress release. My sister plays tennis, and my brother has his Brazillian Jiujitsu. My late grandfather played music, and practiced penmanship, and my grandmother is still the kitchen goddess as she has been for decades.

What’s yours?

 

 

Sources:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/improve-wellbeing-knitting-baking-painting-mental-health-study-tips-a7438471.html
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/03/can-baking-improve-mental-health
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/worklife/a9239583/baking-good-mental-health/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_us_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8?

Feeding The Alien Pt.2

I know that I said earlier that I don’t know why telly programs need to stop before announcing the top 3, but I have my suspicion. Some grumpy dude that I ended up marrying likes to rant about how short the attention span of most British telly audience, and that could be one of the reason… but of course… it is the suspense. And the adverts… obviously.

Okay… nobody cares when I am stating the obvious. Let’s just crack on… Shall we? The top 3 of food that I tried in the last 6 years in the UK are:

3. Black Pudding
I think my husband was a little bit careful when explaining what black pudding is, when the first time we bought it from Aldi. I can understand why, though.
The idea of food in this country is very sanitised, that black pudding, haggis, and offal can be off putting for some people. Heck… they don’t even like the idea of eating fish that still have head on it, or chicken that has feet attached to it. Where I come from… those are the proof that what you eat is still fresh — just slaughtered before it goes to the wok. So yeah… I can understand why black pudding could be off putting for some people.
Black pudding, my kind ladies and gentlemen… is made of processed pig’s blood… and bits, and herbs and spices, and rolled and cooked so they look like a big fat black sausage. And then you slice them so that you can shallow fry them in the pan, usually to be eaten with a proper full english fry ups. Heavenly!

2. Trifle
I think the first time I tried trifle I couldn’t really appreciate it because of the massive amount of jelly. But when my mother in law introduced me to the traditional English Sherry Trifle… boom! It was the mother of all English dessert. Dare I say that it is better than italian Tiramisu? Oh yes I so dare… Especially with those boozy sponge.
What are you getting from trifle really? There are trifle sponge… soaked with booze (+1000 pts). The next layer is custard… English custard. I love deliberately mention Creme Anglaise in front of Grumpy just to provoke his grumpiness. And the next layer is whipped cream.
Should I say more?

1. Twiglets
Aren’t you surprised? I mean, I have mentioned marmites before, but it is not the same with twiglets, really. You kind of have to pair marmite with something, but twiglets… you can just have it. It is just not so easy to find them on offer.
Do you know that Twiglets taste better when you buy them on offer?
My mother in law loves Twiglets too, and I tried to bring her some every time we go on a visit to their place. And it was hard… so hard not to keep taking a fistful of the yeasty goodness from that black bag every time she offers to share. Yes… I am every mother in law’s dream…

There you go… If you are new in the UK too, and you think you want to take your culinary adventure to the next level, those are the things you might want to try. Good luck 😀

Feeding the Alien Pt.1

One of the best thing of being an alien in a new place is that I got to try new stuff. And my favourite new stuff to try is the food. I am still discovering new tastes here in the UK, even after being here for almost six years. And the last one I tried was Hot Cross Bun… t’was Easter and I was curious — and the bun was okay.

If I have to make a list of the best food I have tried in the UK, it would take forever. So I will just pick my favourite 5 of food I have tried for the past 6 years in the UK. It is not an easy task, and I don’t care if anyone has ever bothered to challenge me to make this list, but… challenge’s accepted.

5. Eton Mess
I learned about this food on my first summer ever in the UK, and it was called so because allegedly it is originally from Eton — yes, the posh school. Eton Mess is basically strawberry, in whipped cream, and a messy crumble of meringue. I had that all summer, almost everyday… and I did blame contraception when I put on some weight when I went back to my hometown.
Eton Mess is the dessert that woke the sweettooth in me. Something that I never was. It is like a gateway drug, that lead you to a massive selection to British favourite desserts: creme caramel, apple/rhubarb/pear crumble, egg tart, banoffee pie, bakewell… No I am no cake person, but I am a sucker to pastries. And it started from a bite of Eton Mess..
What a messy diet…

4. Marmite
I learned about it just days after I arrived in the UK, it is apparently a part of the introduction to Britain for the foreign student. Yes… Marmite is quintessentially British. However, the way it was introduced, didn’t really invoke my curiosity. I mean, yes they told me it is something that either you will love or hate… but I have to say that if these people are a marketing officer, they need to be sacked immediately.
It’s just when my grumpy husband, who also happens to be a proud English grumpyman talk about what it is about to be British, that the conversation about Marmite came up again. He was aghast knowing that nobody has ever introduced me to Marmite before.
Yes, it is still something you either love or hate… I just happen to love it.
P.S. Do you know that in Malaysia, you can order Marmite Chicken? Yes… if you happen to be in Malaysia right now, and you love Marmite, and you have never tried Marmite Chieken (or Chicken Marmite? Now I am confused)… go to a Chinese food restaurant, you might be lucky enough to find one. Good luck!

Ha ha… I stop it right there… for now. I know that it sucks, but I learned from the British telly programs, that when you make lists of whatever, you need to stop before going to the top 3. I don’t know why… but I am a good learner. So… see you next time for the top 3 😀