YEAR of Food and Drink part of a long-term plan, says Jim Tough.
There’s a certain incongruity in the idea of a “Year of” something so utterly fundamental as our food and drink. After all, when is it not a year of food and drink? And even an interest in the distinctively Scottish aspects of our culinary culture, is, dare I say, a moveable feast. Italian, Indian, French and Chinese menus, with varying degrees of quality and authenticity, are as familiar to Scots as Irn Bru and cullen skink.
But Scotland does indeed have a distinctive tradition worthy of celebration in The Year of Food and Drink. For a small nation we have a lot to offer in terms of our natural larder and occasions such as this allow us to shine a spotlight not only on our produce, but also the picturesque surroundings in which it is cultivated and brewed, demonstrating that Scotland truly is a world class destination gastronomically speaking.
With a wonderfully diverse selection of whiskies, as well as fresh and local produce from land, sea and river, the raw materials for fine dining and a healthy diet are on offer.
Of course, this specifically dedicated year is not just about the taste and flavours, but about promoting Scotland as a destination that can be enjoyed by all, be they vacationer, stay-cationer or dedicated foodie.
It’s interesting to see how the Year of Food and Drink has been used to help shape another effective tourism drive for the whole of Scotland: With each month “themed”, May brings “Whisky month” and a series of events across the country which more than 70,000 people are expected to attend, the central aim being to celebrate our national dram and the people and history behind it.
Not just for 2015, but part of a wider, community led initiative, Scotland happens to have its very own dedicated food town. Nestled in the Glenkens of Dumfries and Galloway, Castle Douglas is home to more than 50 local businesses involved in either producing or selling food and drink. Nearby Kirkcudbright and Wigtown are also recognised as Scotland’s artist and book towns respectively and together the three represent a significant contribution to Scotland’s cultural tourism.
At the Saltire Society, we too are celebrating Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and have recently launched the latest in our Saltire Series Pamphlets courtesy of renowned food author Catherine Brown. In her contribution, Catherine takes us on a detailed journey of Scotland’s food and drink heritage, and examines how our very distinctive food culture reflects both our geography and our wider social and economic circumstances.
In Making Better out of Good: Scotland’s Food and Drink, Catherine explores the idea that we can look to tackle some of today’s diet and nutrition issues through the use of classic and traditional recipes, making full use of our native produce to achieve an economical, healthy and properly balanced daily diet.
It’s fascinating to see the current revival of “nose to tail” eating which was a matter of daily practice in the Scottish kitchen many years ago.
Today’s top Scots chefs not only value our cultural heritage in terms of ingredients but are revisiting our classic broth and slow cooking recipes in order to create an interest and appetite for those older cooking methods and lesser-known but no less flavourful cuts, just as our forefathers once did.
As we strive for healthier lifestyles, it is instructive to look back to war-time Scotland. As Catherine points out, it was ironically during the period of rationing that the Scottish population enjoyed its most equal access to a healthy diet as scarce food resources were carefully shared out.
This equal access to food was enjoyed by all, irrespective of socio-economic circumstances. Consequently, everyone was subject to a carefully calculated and balanced diet which ensured that all got exactly what was nutritionally necessary.
As well as celebrating the rich natural larder that Scotland has to offer, let us hope that Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink helps to keep nutrition at the top of the political agenda. I very much hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about our food heritage by participating in some of this year’s plethora of special events.
Let’s make sure that Scotland is rightfully recognised as a world class food and drink destination.
• Jim Tough is executive director of the Saltire Society. For further information about the Saltire Society, please visit our website: www.saltiresociety.org.uk
• Making Better out of Good: Scotland’s Food and Drink is available to purchase for a limited time from the Saltire Society’s website