When it comes to Scotland’s great food and drink revolution, something risks being lost. We are all grateful the grim millstone of the deep-fried Mars Bar is fading into history, but dismissing everything that has gone before would be a mistake. In the race to be a nation that embraces a kale smoothie as easily as scallop ceviche, we need to remain connected to our collective food heritage. After all, that’s what made us the people we are.
As part of the Year of Food and Drink, VisitScotland this week launched a nationwide search for our most treasured tastes from the past.
Whether it’s mince and tatties like your granny made or your mum’s perfect steak pie, Scots are being urged to share favourite family meals and recipes handed down through the generations. A selection will then be compiled into a unique recipe book, with the aim of inspiring readers to revive some great home cooking as well as exploring their family food history.
The Treasured Tastes search was launched by the new chairman of the Scottish Food Commission. As well as founding the Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye, Shirley Spear has been a passionate supporter of the flavours of the past. “We all have these food memories that instantly transport us back to a precious time in our lives,” she said. “Some of my most cherished memories are of spending time with my mum, baking jam tarts and fairy cakes, followed years later with teaching my own children how to cook simple, basic things at home and making the most of seasonal ingredients and turning them into delicious treats.”
The fresh interest in our food roots coincided with the start of a new STV series exploring similar ground. In this week’s first episode of Lost Suppers, restaurateur Carina Contini took actor Bill Paterson on a journey back to the food he remembered as a boy.
So why the sudden taste for nostalgia? It’s probably inevitable when anything looks like being lost to history, but perhaps it is also a consequence of where our food journey has been taking us. With local and seasonal here, there and everywhere, it was only a matter of time until we looked for the next big thing, and why shouldn’t that be our rich food heritage?
Travel Scotland and the traditional tastes are still out there. From Arbroath smokies to Selkirk bannocks and Ecclefechan tarts, regional variations provide plenty of inspiration for contemporary chefs and home cooks. Some of them simply need to be revived and more widely shared but others could be adapted and developed for modern eating.
Either way, it’s a great excuse to dig out the old, dog-eared family recipe books so many of us have kept tucked away. They are great reminders of the past, but let’s put them to use as inspirations for the future.