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Makkin a muckle o a mickle

Invitit oot tae a Mexican-style eatin howff twa weeks back I could hear the chiels at the fit o the buird daurin ither hauflins if they haed the smeddum tae tak the chilli challenge. I dout I haed e’en seen a chilli whan I wis their age, an it got me thinkin on the muckle chynges ower time in oor wey o eatin. Oor victuals the day ar sae different fae whan I wis growin up durin the 1940s an 50s.

Nouadays, we hae gotten uised tae seein the shelfs fou wi the exotic fuids o ither nations whiles oor ain mair hamely fare taks a back seat. Wirds like fajita, pittabreid, nanbreid, pakora, couscous, spring roll, tortilla, stir-fry, take-away, hae aw been addit tae oor vocabulary. Pastas, pizzas, salsa, curries an the like ar nou a muckle pairt o the ivery day bill o fare. In mony hooses, I jalouse mair lo’ed an better kent than oor ain sadly neglectit hamelt victuals.

But it micht juist come tae pass in thae fivert days o this shilpit Brexit that we aw need tae hae anither think anent hou we feed oorsels. The unchancy prospect o gaein ‘ower a cliff edge’ wi a ‘nae deal’ whan we gae oot the European Union could spik o empie shelfs an fuid rationin like we haed durin the war an for years efter. Sic an amoont o whit we eat an tak for grantit comes tae us fae Europe. We micht hae tae gae back tae a time whan the government o the day encouragit fowk tae turn their gairdens ower tae growin tatties, peas an their ilk; whan sic things as meat, bacon, grains, butter, sugar, cheese, eggs an ither weel kent fuidstuffs war rationed; imports fae owerseas restrictit or nae langer available. It wad be a gey rude awaukenin if it happent again!

As bairns o that generation, we kent oor mithers an faithers haed tae mak the maist o whit victuals war available tae feed us an theirsels; eikin oot the rations wi vegetables fae the local pairts. Ma ain mither, takkin tent o the need tae dae whit she could, growed tatties an cabbitch in oor wee gairden. I can mind her spikken aboot the ‘national loaf’; fortified halemeal breid brocht in by the government agin the dearth o white flour. It makkit shuir that, at the verra least, fowk haed breid tae susteen them. I wunner if them in chairge o us the day will hae the same foresicht. An if they dae, the mallum tae cairry oot sic an operation!

Ma mither wis a dab haund at makkin a muckle o a mickle. She wad tak the bittie o beef alloued tae us an grind it doun in the cast iron mincer clampit ontae the drainin buird in the scullery. Ance the mince wis simmerin in the pan, she wad stairt tae fill it up, addin ingans, cairrots, neeps, cabbitch, peas (in the season), an tatties. A hauf oor afore we bairns cam back fae the scuil for our denner, she wad drap five wee roond doughbaws intae the pan tae growe big an saft. I can tell ye naething is mair mooth watterin tae hungry bairns than the warm reek fae a simmerin pan o mince wi doughbaws. The door wis aye aff the sneck an we wad rin ben the scullery, gie oor haunds an face a wee dicht at the sink afore slidin unner the buird an up ontae the settle at the back, ready tae be servit wi this feast.

She makkit herty broths wi a bane, cairrots, ingans an curly kail alang wi the barley, split peas or lentils aye steepin in a bowl on the bunker. I can mind the queues at the victual dealers tae get oor meisur o barley alang wi ither dried stuff like oatmeal oot o the secks on the fluir. Whan she could get sausages, we haed stovies. The anely fish we saw war sardines fae a tin, an we ate them for oor tea mashit up on toast. She wad mak a farl o tattie scones or oatcakes on the girdle. Clootie dumplin wi a wee sprackle o raisins an a drap syrup. If there wis eneuch milk, semolinie an tapioca war weel kent puddins; an in the simmer, whan she could get the rennet, we haed junkit, better kent as curds an whey. I think on it nou as the forerinner tae yoghurt!

Naething wis wastit. The outside leafs an coorse stalks o the cabbitch an cauliflouer, sae aften discairdit, war aw eaten. An if the breid wis haurd it got toastit at the fire or makkit intae saps wi warm milk, a sprackle o sugar an a wee daud o jam. It wis gied tae us bairns for oor supper.

Oor faither wis a guid provider. He wis back fae the war, an as time went on, wirkin aw the oors at his trade an in aw places tae keep us fed an claithed. It wisnae aften he cam hame empty haundit. Betimes he brocht in a rabbit we could hae as a stew. Ither times his pauchle micht be a bilin o beetroot, or a paircel o tripe. Aiblins, an ox tongue or a sheep’s heid. Sic victuals ar richt oot o fashion nou, but lang syne war aye thocht o as guid, cheap nourishment for faimilies. We war gled o them.

Ma mither’s tripe soup wis a rare treat! It wis fou o brosie tatties, ingans an neeps. She aye makkit shuir we aw got a wee bit o the delicate broun melton alang wi the mair plentifu blanket an honeycomb tripe. Her freend ate her tripe cauld, on a piece, slaithert wi runny mustart acause she likit it wersh! The tongue wis rowed up, tied wi string afore it got biled, skinned an pressit. The taste o the cauld meat fae a tongue wis sublime! The sheep’s heid wis oor faither’s territory! He singed the woolly powe wi a taper fae the fire afore bilin the heid in oor muckle pan. The meat wis scrapit fae the bane an pressit atween twa plates. It wis servit tae us nixt day wi champit tatties. Maist o the bree went intae the stock for sheep’s heid broth. But a wee drap was kep’ back an rendert doun afore it wis pourit intae a scadded jar tae set intae a jeely. We got a spuinfu whan we war peely wally an needit strenthenin!

I can anely jalouse a lot o fowk the day wad turn up their nebs at some o the denners we haed. But we couldnae afford tae be fykie an oor victuals war halesome an keepit us in guid health in a time o austerity.

Ma bluid rins cauld at the verra thocht o a haurd Brexit comin on us, sin I cannae think the kintra as it staunds the day is onywhaur near ready tae cope wi it.

I can anely howp it disnae happen.


betimes occasionally; bree the liquid something’s been boiled in; brosie describes vegetables dissolved into soup during cooking, resulting in a thick soup; buird table; champit mashed; chiels young people; eikin oot stretching oot, making the basic things go further; farl a fourth of a roond; fivert fevered; fykie fussy; hamelt home-grown, native to one’s country; jalouse suspect; lo’ed loved; mallum common sense, awareness; melton soft, brown tripe meat; nebs noses; pauchle goods given in kind, a small bundle or parcel of something; powe head; saps pieces of bread soaked or boiled in milk, ale or gravy etc.; scadded scalding hot; shilpit wretched, feeble; unchancy unfortunate; victuals foodstuffs, groceries; wersh sharp, pungent, yet delicious