Who Said What About Scottish Food
Down Through the Ages

Gordon Mooney admires the best takeaway food in Scotland

Scottish cuisine? I don’t think there’s any such thing . . . When you buy a Mars bar . . . they dump them in hot oil.”
.....Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight Show

...some of their dishes are savoury, and even delicate, but I am not yet Scotchman enough to relish their singed sheep's head and haggis, which were provided, at our request, one day at Mr. Mitchelson's, where we dined. The first put me in mind of the history of the Congo, in which I had read of negroes' heads being sold publicly in the markets; the last, being a mess of minced lights, livers, suet, oatmeal, onions and pepper, enclosed in a sheep's stomach, had a very sudden effect upon mine, and the delicate Mrs. Tabby changed colour; when the cause of our disgust was instaneously removed at the nod of our entertainer.
.....Tobias Smollet (1721-1771) Humphrey Clinker

You're NOT going to eat MY head, or use MY stomach for your Haggis,  thinks the succulent  wee Scottish lamb


In case you don't know what a haggis is, it's the national dish of Scotland, and is the centerpiece – nay the raison d'etre ! of every Robert Burns supper.    The  U.S. Department of Agriculture insulted the Scots by declaring haggis it unfit for human consumption.  It is made of offal – awful offal -- heart, liver and lungs of the sheep, ground up with oatmeal and spices and stuffed into a sheep's stomach.  But there are ways around this – in the form of nouvelle Haggis cuisine – Haggis pizzas and samosas and pakoras and even crepes, and of course now there is a harmless vegetarian version of Haggis, made of nuts and lentils. 

Tourists who come to Scotland often think the Haggis  is an animal  hunted in the Highlands. Because of this  the Scottish tourist industry –   the same people who brought you Nessiteras rhombopteryx - the Loch Ness Monster –  has created Haggis Scoticus vulgaris.  This furry wee beastie has four legs – two shorter than the others, to enable it to run around the slopes of the Scottish Highlands.  

One of the best haggis spoofs was published by four scientists in The Veterinary Record, January 20, 2007. They did ultrasound studies of Dux magnus gentis venteris saginati (which translates literally as ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race’), and discovered that it was impenetrable by ultrasound. They reported on  the mating habits of this creature, which they acknowledge is mentioned in the literature as far back as the year 10Oatcake!!! 

And last but not least, we have the World Championship Haggis Hurling Competition, which started out as a spoof, but is real.

The northern Highlanders, who also were marauders, ate flesh largely, and often ate it raw. Lesley, indeed, affirms that they preferred it dripping with blood, because it was then "mair sappie" and nourishing.
.....Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

Ancient Scottish cookery was specially distinguished by the excellence and variety of its soups. Of these it may suffice to mention three: to wit, hotch-potch, cockie-leekie, and specially fish-soup, compared to which last, the greasy turtlebroth of London City is a gross and barbarous abomination.

.....Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

Other interesting foods that the fish and chip shops have been asked to fry include chocolate (21%) and sweets (16%) in general, Snickers (4%), Creme eggs (4%), and pizza (4%). Three shops each said they had been asked for deep-fried ice cream and deep-fried Maltesers. Deep-fried Toffee Crisps, bananas, pineapple rings, and Rolos had also been requested.

We conclude that Scotland’s deep-fried Mars bar is not just an urban myth. Encouragingly, we did also find some evidence of the penetrance of the Mediterranean diet into Scotland, albeit in the form of deep-fried pizza. .....www.thelancet.com; Vol 364 December 18/25, 2004; survey conducted for the Scottish National Health Service (NHS) among Scottish fish-and-chiperies, about the sales of deep-fried Mars bars

In a candy store I saw Edinburgh Rock, fishills, voice -pastilles, chocolate bouncers and frosty railroads, but no railroadspikes or iron. Frosty railroads, eh, and chocolate bouncers!... In bakery windows I noticed short-bread, oatcake, and scones (pronounced, "scorns"), that were as big as an elephant's ear; they sold for two cents each; and a variety of strange bread... May I be blowed! In a butcher shop I saw platters of Hamburg steak labeled Mince which came in several grades at different prices. The cheapest kind was labled 4d, (eight cents), and probably came off the horns; the next grade was labeled 6d, (twelve cents), and may have come off the neck or tail; and the eight pence variety was good stuff, no doubt, that came from good parts of the animal.
.....A Poor American in Ireland and Scotland by Windy Bill, [ Ben Goodkind ] © 1913, W.S. Van Cott & Company, 516 Mission Street, San Francisco, California

It was chiefly among the Lowlanders that kale attained its extraordinary vogue. It is a vegetable essentially Saxon and non-Celtic. The more unsophisticated Highlanders regarded its use as a symptom of effeminacy...the Grants who, living near the Lowland line, had grown fond of it were contemned as the "soft kale-eating Grants," and a Gaelic poem on the battle of Killiecrankie mocks at Mackay's defeated soldiers as "men of kale and brose." When the Highlander indulged in such a luxury as broth he preferred the common nettle..
.....Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923

When the aboriginal Highlander or Borderer did condescend to cook his dinner, his appliances were of the simplest: he contented himself with seething the flesh of the animal in its own paunch, or in its skin. The broth, obtained in this way was the common drink of the Highlander ... so excellent that not the best wine, nor any other kind of drink, might be compared to it. .
.....Old-world Scotland; Glimpses of its Modes and Manners ©Thomas Finlayson, 1844-1923