Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding

During our first Scotland visit, to Islay, we were fortunate to be able to have some meals in the Old Kiln Cafe at the Ardbeg Distillery . One of the highlights of the meals was Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The other day, using the Scottish cookbook given to us by Gordon and Margaret Campbell, my wife made some STP. The recipe called for the toffee to be poured over the pudding so the result was different from what we had experienced in the past; a pudding swimming in a sea of sticky toffee, and (ice) cream !!! Still, it was delicious and I've been eating a bit each day since its creation.

Jacqueline has decided that her next batch of STP will be small, individual puddings, rather than one large. Still, as delicious as it is homemade, we look forward to our next visit to the Old Kiln Cafe, or the Criffel Inn in New Abbey, for a wee taste of STP.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Porridge (oatmeal)

During my Hogmanay 2009/New Year 2010 visit to Alba, my friends Gordon and Margaret Campbell gave to me a copy of Scots Cooking, by Sue Lawrence. It's a treasure trove of recipes and their backgrounds, as well as Scottish "folk lore". The book is divided into sections, such as "Breakfast", and so forth. Well, upon arriving back in the USofA, my wife and I were perusing the recipes, and I was shocked, nay dismayed and chagrined to learn that every day, for more than 4 years, I have been cooking and eating my porridge in a manner more fitting a Sassenach than a Scotsman.

My personal recipe (developed over the past 4+ years) calls for equal parts oats, water, and milk, along with raisins to suit, and a diced apple. All ingredients are placed in a sauce pan, heated to boiling, simmered for a few minutes then served with a bit of milk poured over and sweetened to taste with brown sugar, honey, or whatever you like.

Weelll ..... according to the book, the porridge (oatmeal) should be soaked in water (not milk) overnight then cooked for about 15 minutes the next day. And only a Sassenach pours milk over the porridge; the correct manner of eating is porridge in bowl, milk in separate bowl; use horn (spoon) to grab some porridge, dip into milk, eat. This allows the porridge to remain hot, and the milk to remain cool(er for longer).

So, my wife and I have begun soaking the old fashioned slow cook oats overnight, and the difference in post-cooking texture is remarkably different from that of not-soaked, but I must confess I like the added creaminess of milk so we do use milk. With that said, if I was planning to pour the porridge into a kitchen drawer (or kist in NE Alba), to let it cool, then cut it into slices (calders) for frying I'd never use milk ... the milk would spoil and that would be nasty. Next up is to try dipping the porridge into a bowl so it stays warm rather than cooling it off by dousing it with cold milk.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Feis Ile

Booked the ferry passage (Caledonian MacBrayne) from Kennacraig to Port Ellen for 22nd-May. This was done because we plan to take a car with us to the island rather than hire one at the location. Rather dear $$$ to do that though; still, the auto will be useful on the mainland and we are looking forward to site-seeing during the drive from Glasgow to the terminal. We will leave Islay from Port Askaig, so we can see a wee bit of the Sound of Islay, on the 29th May. After we depart Islay on the 29th we hope to spend a few days retracing my footsteps from 2009 Hogmany/2010 New Year. Still, much planning remains to be done for the 2010 Feis Ile journey.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back in the USofA, Highlights of visit

I've been back in the states for almost one week and wanted to share a wee bit about the return, as well as highlights of the visit.

My friend Gordon conveyed me to Glasgow Intl airport on the 6th where we learned my original flight was cancelled !!! Gordon explained my situation to one of the airport/airline employees and I was placed on a different (earlier) flight, which I believe was the last flight leaving Glasgow for Heathrow. Ironically that earlier flight departed later than my originally scheduled flight, but because my Heathrow flight was not scheduled to leave until almost 6PM, that was no problem. My flight from Heathrow was delayed a bit due to security (or the airline) deciding to check all carryon bags, just prior to boarding, and that can be interesting. Sadly, as with our previous journey, the worst experience was with Border Patrol/Customs upon reentering the USofA. For some reason I/we seem to encounter very bad attitudes on the part of the defenders of our borders. Ultimately though, despite delays and such I arrived safely back in the USofA just about the same time I was originally scheduled !!! PRAISE GOD !!!

Talking to my father a few days later, he asked me what were the highlights of the visit. As cliche as it might sound, the entire visit was a highlight (of my life), but, thinking about it a wee bit there were a few particularly memorable events or aspects:
  • Jim Gellatly (the Unknown Scot) googling for various words I used during a conversation, and finding this blog. Here's a link to that blog entry ....
  • The overwhelming hospitality of the Scots with whom I spent time, many of whom I met for the first time during the visit.
  • The realization that not hiring a car was the correct decision. Had I taken the advice to hire a car I would not have been blessed with the conversations that I had while traveling on the trains, buses, and private automobiles. It's also quite likely, had I hired a car, that I would still be lost in Glasgow, or trying to find my way back from Wales, Cape Wrath, or John o'Groats !!!
Hopefully soon I will be posting many of the pics from this visit, and the 2009 Feis Ile, to a photo gallery on Flickr or ... and I'll post to the blog an appropriate link. So, please keep an eye on OorAlbaBlog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mar sin leibh (goodbye) ... but I will return

This is the last post of the journey. After this I must prepare for the trip back to the USofA.

Last night my wife suggested I had enough time today to revisit the Central Station area of Glasgow, so this AM that's what I did, but I arrived a bit later than planned. I boarded the Newton to GC train which made it almost to Cambuslang before stopping due to a broken down car ahead on the tracks. Eventually we were transported back to Newton where we all boarded the "high rail(?)" to Glasgow Central Station. I walked aboot a wee bit and had lunch at a pub. A few hours later I boarded the train back to Newton, and here I am with my final words.

I stood on a wee hill near where I am staying and took the attached picture. Several days ago I arrived in Glasgow, alone, knowing noone face-to-face except Gordon and his wife, who picked me up at the airport and conveyed me to where I would stay. Duringthis stay I have used public transportation, or been chauferred (sic?) to various places by Gordon, and others who I met during my stay. In short, I have had to rely on others for assistance and direction, and they have all been more of a blessing that I could have imagined.

Many years ago my grandmother left Scotland for a strange land where, to my knowledge, she knew noone. As I stood on that hill looking out over Glasgow my wish was that I could hear her voice telling me what she felt as she left Scotland for a place she did not know, because right now I am rather sad to leave Scotland, a place I want to know well, and I am eager to return.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mind Yer Heid !!!

Returned to Dumfries, and area, today courtesy of, and with, Ann and Bob Baird. We had lunch at Robbie Burns favorite howff, the Globe Inn, which dates back to 1610. After lunch I wanted to visit T.B. Watson's and see what there was to see. While there I was able to sample Bruichladdich's Octomore: what a dram !!! From there we drove along the A710 through Drumburn, as far as Kirkbean, until it was getting dark, and time to head back to Glasgow.

Tomorrow is my last full day here, in Alba, but some of it will be spent preparing to return to the USofA. I have had fun, seen much, made friends, and hope God blesses me to return with my wife and continue to explore, perhaps as residents for a time.

Because I will probably lack the time tomorrow to blog I would like to thank the following people in Scotland who made this adventure possible through assistance, advice, encouragement, etc:

Scott Miller
John Colvin
Bob and Ann Baird
Alan and Margot Ross
Paul and Heini Euliano
Gordon and Margaret Campbell

The public transport workers who answered my many questions about "How do I ..."

To the unknown Scot who found this blog while he, I, and another Scot, were standing at the Newton train station one morning, and he (the unknown) "googled" for keywords, based on our conversation, then asked me "How was the cullen skink?" My friend, you made my day with that comment. I hope you have read, and enjoy, the blog. Slainte !!!

There were others, such as Allan McGregor, who I did not have a chance to meet. Hopefully next time. There were still others, such as the (Gaelic speaking) members of St Columba church whom I hope to remain in contact as well.

If I did not mention anyone who believes they should have been mentioned, please forgive.
If you've been following, please continue to do so. I will be posting further thoughts, and pictures. Ideally I'd like to provide a link to a photo gallery rather than have to embed photographs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I have a little bit of The Gaelic (but desire more)

Today I attended two services at St Columba, in Glasgow. The first, at 10:00AM was in Gaelic, the second, at 11:00 in English. Following the Gaelic service the woman sitting in front of me introduced herself, speaking in The Gaelic but immediately switched to English when I responded in English. I think I know what she asked me but with no Gaelic speakers where I live my progress in self-teaching is not rapid. Yet, I remain committed to learning. It turned out that she had to learn to speak English having grown up speaking Gaidhlig on Leodhas (Lewis). I was amazed at how easily she and others switched from The Gaelic (of which I understand some, but not a lot) to English. The number of Gaelic speakers is not large and there is effort to keep it alive; I offered to move to Scotland so I can learn it as well.

From there I wandered around Glasgow, down to St Andrew's on the Square, where I hoped to have lunch but the cafe was closed. So, I walked back to the Central Station area where I had lunch. This was the shortest day so far: I left at after 8 and returned at 5ish. There is so much to see, and I have enjoyed tremendously the opportunities I have had to talk to Scots while waiting for a train, visiting them in their homes, or as a result of asking for directions to a destination. Only two more days in Alba. I miss my wife (and The Ghillie) but I will be sad to leave, and hope that God will open doors for us to return, perhaps to live.

A correction, pics from Saturday

I was informed that I misunderstood the covenenter hangings. So, I updated that blog entry, but to sum up: the Covenenters believed that Christ, not the ruling monarch, was the head of the church. They were killed for that belief.

I have posted some pics of my exploration of Dumfries, and the surrounding area. Robert Burns statue, GreyFriars Kirk (across the street from where Robert the Bruce killed his rival for the crown), New Abbey and Sweetheart Abbey, John Paul Jones cottage (yes, those are palm trees !!!), JM Barrie's house, and sticky toffee pudding !!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

South to Dumfries ... longest day thus far

Today I walked to the train station at 07:15 to head south to Dumfries, John Paul Jones cottage, Robert Burns house, statue, etc., New Abbey, etc. It was 10:30PM by the time I was back at the house where I am staying. I took many snaps but I am too tired, and it's too late, to sort through them to post a few. I hope to do so tomorrow. My destination tomorrow is St Columba Church, in Glasgow, to hear a sermon in Scots Gaelic. I'll probably then "hang around" Glasgow for a while if anything is open.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Glasgow (Cathedral), Pot Still, Loch and Ben Lomond

Yesterday morning Gordon picked me up and we headed off for a tour of Glasgow which included the Glasgow Cathedral (a building which dates to about 1200), and The Pot Still. The Cathedral has two sections (one for the common folk, the other for the posh folk) as well as many smaller "private" chapels. It also has heavily "pockmarked" columns where the Protestant Reformers tore icons down after wresting the church from the hands of Roman Catholic clergy. I was pleased as punch to find the name "Small" on one of the private pews in the posh area.

I was awed to find a private chapel, for nurses, that had been refurbished at some time after being unused for more than 400 years. Yes, that's correct, a private chapel unused for more than 400 years in a more than 800 year old church: that 400 years is considerably longer than the United States has existed as a Republic. From there we headed off to The Pot Still, which has a selection of more than 300 whiskies, where I was hoping to find a couple of lowland malts that I wanted to try, and I was thrilled to be able to sample Littlemill, and Rosebank ... both from no-longer-in-operation distilleries.

After that we drove to his house, picked up his wife, Margaret, and headed to Helensburgh, via Loch Lomand, where we ate a late lunch, then walked down onto the pier to look across at Greenock. We then drove back to their house for a quiet Hogmanay and stayed up into the wee hours chatting. Today was cold (probably only about 20-25 degrees F) but we took a walk after lunch, down to the Auchentoshan Distillery. After a great supper of steak pie, champit tatties, carrots, brocolli, and ice cream for desert, I was conveyed back to my temporary digs.

Many, and deepest, thanks to Gordon and Margaret Campbell for putting up with me for two days, and to my wife, for allowing me to make this journey.

Tomorrow I catch a train from Newton to Glasgow, then south to Dumfries !!!!

Edinburgh (part 2): Grassmarket, Castle, Cullen Skink

Sorry I took so long to post again but yesterday and today I was busy visiting and such. Before I continue on about what I saw, let me say "thanks" to my Edinburgh guide, Scott. He showed me sites that were more meaningful to me than the typical tourist stuff (although he did not know it until I became animated) and we had great fun together at The Whisky Experience, where we sampled great drams including anCnoc, and Ledaig.

During our walkabout he mentioned a site called Grassmarket "where they hung a bunch of people". It turned out that Grassmarket was where the Convenenters were hung when they dared to take the stand that Christ, not the King, is the head of the church. Thanks to John, of Dumfries, for correcting my misunderstanding. I have attached a picture of part of the memorial. While down in that area I was able to take a picture of the back of the castle, and we decided to have supper at a wee pizza joint. I asked to see a menu and what had been a quick stop for a slice of pizza became supper that included a bowl of delicious, I've-never-had-it-before-but-it's-on-the-menu-so-I-must-try-it, fish chowder called Cullen Skink.

It was a full day beginning at about 08:15 when I headed off to the train station, walking, in the dark, arrived in Edinburgh at about 11, walked about, and because I had an "off hours" ticket, I had to wait until after 6:00PM before I could take the train back to Cambuslang where I walked back to the house, in the dark and snowfall, arriving safe and sound at about 8:30PM.

I am having great fun !!!