Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Ayrshire via Glasgow

At Bill's suggestion we spent this past bank holiday weekend in southeastwest (!Frank just kindly pointed out my error!) Scotland. I spent all day Saturday and part of Monday in the Family History Library at Irvine. Bill got in a couple of dampish bike rides, owing to the usual wet weather. We spent Sunday at New Lanark, which I'll tell you about shortly.

On the way over, we spent Friday night in Glasgow, where we met Frank and his wife Jackie for dinner. Actually, let's be right about this, they picked us up and took us to dinner, which was completely unnecessary and incredibly generous. Frank is yet another distant relative (his maternal grandfather was the youngest brother of my mother's paternal grandmother) found through our genealogical research on the Internet. Like with the cousins in Michigan, we were put in contact with one another by Sharon in Australia.

We had an excellent meal at The Bothy, which Frank said was 'very Scottish'. So, naturally we had to have the haggis, neeps and tatties and of course it was very artfully presented. By the way, the word bothy is Scottish but is used all over Britain to refer to a kind of basic accommodation.

Haggis, neeps and tatties isn't as strange as one might think. Neeps is just a Scots word for turnip (tur-NEEP) or swede. We often have this in the winter, steamed until it's soft enough to mash and eat alone, or with mashed carrots or mashed potatoes. Cooked neeps/swede/rutabaga are a pale orange colour and have a rather bland, slightly sweet flavour, much like a milder form of carrot. 'Tatties' refers to potatoes, nothing more or less.

Haggis, admittedly, is a bit more exotic, being a sausage made with lamb. OK, made with lamb's innards like lungs, liver and heart; also oatmeal and onion and spices. I'm not an enormous fan of lamb or mutton to start with, but haggis is quite pleasant, really. The closest I can come to describing it is that it reminds me a bit of corned beef hash both in flavour and texture.

Sharon commented that I was quite adventurous in eating haggis, but I did watch several other people eat it with pleasure a few years ago before having a taste of Bill's and later ordering my own. The occasion to have haggis doesn't come up often so it's not like I'm eating offal all the time. In any case, have you ever considered what goes into baloney, which I loved as a child and ate at every opportunity?

One meal time is too short to know people well, but I felt easily at home with both Frank and Jackie. Frank and I have corresponded a fair bit via email for several months. Jackie and I had to start from scratch. Turns out she runs at least 3 times a week; wish I could say that gave us more in common than it does, but I haven't given up entirely.

Anyhow, I am looking forward to keeping in touch with Frank and Jackie and to visiting Glasgow again so we can return the favour; they were good company and I would like to know them better. Frank has a sister that he wants us to meet as well. We might even manage to persuade them to come down to our neck of the woods one day.

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