Food Culture and Tradition

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Meals and Customs in Scotland


It has been said that the best Scottish meals are breakfast and tea. But those who have enjoyed fine black Angus beef or rich Scottish salmon may well have a quarrel. And though there has long been a Scottish superstition (especially in the north) against shell-fish and seafood as “the lice of the sea,” many Scots do enjoy locally caught shrimps, mussels, winkles, crab, and lobster. But those persisting in the old beliefs hold that salmon, cod, haddock, or herring can’t be beaten for a fine meal.

Generally Scots prefer a few simple good dishes for a meal rather than many courses and elaborate service. What they lose in variations they make up in hearty servings. Scottish hospitality is legendary: no one leaves a table hungry no matter how simple the fare.

A Scottish breakfast will likely include oatmeal porridge made from finely milled, unrolled oats and served with cool milk or cream. Traditionally each spoon of hot porridge is dipped in milk to cool it. Toast with butter, preserves, and a cup of tea complete the meal. More elaborate breakfasts may include a fish dish, bacon, assorted cheeses and tea breads.

The noon dinner often consists of a hearty meat and vegetable soup, a dessert of steamed pudding, custard or baked bread pudding and tea.

Often the highlight of the day will be the tea served in the late afternoon at about five-thirty. Here will be the display of breads and cakes, preserves and marmalades that Scotland is famed for: baps, bannocks, scones, tarts, and buns all served with strong tea, milk and sugar. Chops or sausages with eggs or a dish of sole, kippers, or salmon may accompany the tea.

Perhaps because the late afternoon tea is so special, the evening meal is usually light and includes only one course: either sausages, bacon, chops with eggs and a garnish of peas or a mashed vegetable combination dish served with a glass of buttermilk. In humbler homes, the evening supper may be just a bowl of hot porridge made of oats or barley and served with milk.

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