Stephen Jardine: It’s about time we made a meal out of our neglected patron saint

WHAT will you be doing on Wednesday night? That question probably prompts a wide range of reactions across Scotland.

Some of you will be at the gym, others at the cinema, while the real hedonists turn their attentions to the ironing and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

But how many of you will be celebrating our Patron Saint? St Andrew’s Day has always been the damp squib in the Scottish bumper holiday box. It has only been an official Bank Holiday since 2007 and despite the best efforts of the Scottish Government, it remains something we would like to celebrate, but really don’t.

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The global clickable map on the government’s St Andrew’s Day website threw up a smattering of events from Cyprus to Hawaii, but the only celebration in the Edinburgh area seems to be a Christmas Fair in the shadow of Cockenzie Power Station.

I know for a fact there are other things going on, but that seems to underline the very problem with St Andrew’s Day. We don’t know what to do with it. Part of the problem is the man himself and the fact that we have to share him with others.

As patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, he needs to be all things to all people.

So in Romania women put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillows, and if they dream someone is coming to steal them then they will get married next year. In Austria the tradition is to throw a shoe over the shoulder on St Andrew’s Day.

All that may seem daft, but at least it is a tradition. Our celebration of our patron saint is always overshadowed by the Christmas lights switch on and barely stretches to standing in the dark watching The Proclaimers performing on a cramped outdoor stage in the rain.

So how we celebrate St Andrew is a problem, but with every problem comes an opportunity and, as ever, in this column the answer is food.

If we want to turn St Andrew’s Day into a worldwide celebration of the best of Scotland we need look no further than what we eat.

Scotland now has a global reputation for being home to some of the best natural produce in the world. That needs to be the focus for St Andrew’s Day. Robert Burns never sat down with a plate of haggis to read his own poetry and reflect on his clever use of saucy verse. Instead the Burns Supper evolved as a national celebration in January and that same opportunity awaits at the end of November.

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The Scottish Government’s St Andrews’ Day website has a food page containing a paltry three recipes. It’s a start, but not nearly enough. Instead of dictating a menu, we should be saying, eat a meal for Scotland. The perfect way to celebrate our patron saint would be to cook a meal for family or friends consisting of great Scottish seasonal produce. It could be beef, lamb, pork, fish or shellfish – we’re hardly short of choices.

On St Andrew’s Day we are looking for a way to express our national pride and patriotism, and what better way than to enjoy the fabulous food that we do better than just about everyone else.

Next Wednesday I’ll be down in London for a special dinner to mark the end of the Game Chef of the Year competition. It will be a great celebration of wild produce and, no doubt, a glass will be raised to St Andrew.

But we shouldn’t need to leave Scotland to do that. If you’re still swithering what to do on the night, cook a meal for Scotland.

In these tough times you will be backing local producers, supporting Scottish jobs and, above all else, on a cold, dark night, you will be eating something that is absolutely delicious.