The recent growth in interest in local produce, Scottish ingredients and traditional recipes has seen many Scots come to the fore who are passionate about our national food and drink offering.
Iain R Spink’s work to revive the Arbroath Smokie has seen the dish elevated to the ranks of national treasure not just in Scotland, but across Britain, as recently attested to by the fact that Iain’s version just been named as one of the Top 50 Foods within the UK.
As a fifth generation member in the well-known fish processing business R. R. Spink and Sons, Iain began working in the industry when he was just 14.
Stepping down from the company in 2001, after the business had been bought over, he decided to leave the industry altogether, heading to university to take up environmental studies – but he soon found himself back doing what he does best.
“I didn’t think I would go back, but to be honest it’s in my blood, when I was studying I realised that I wasn’t bringing in any money, so I decided to start up a pocket money maker to tide me over.”
There was more than a hint of serendipity over his choice of Arbroath Smokies, a product his family have always been immensely proud of, as his chosen vehicle.
“One of the great things about the Arbroath Smokie is that it’s such a simple product; a bit of fish (haddock), a bit of salt and some natural woodsmoke, and that’s it.”
Iain started doing demonstrations with traditional techniques that hadn’t changed much since they were first employed; using an old whisky barrel to smoke the fish at events, with interest growing from there.
“My recreation of the original method differs slightly from more modern methods in that my fish are smoked in much smaller batches, which I believe results in a subtlety better-finished product, something I’m sure my many customers will heartily agree with.”
Iain is fairly modest when it comes to discussing his success.
“I never dreamed I would have quite such an impact actually.
“It just shows you that there is a huge upsurge in interest in these traditional foods; natural produce with low air miles and locally sourced, made using artisan techniques.”
Iain’s tireless championing of the product, like his father before him, will ensure Arbroath Smokies will be around for future generations of Scots (and non-Scots) to enjoy.
• Main Picture courtesy of Euan Myles