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Arbroath Kedgeree

Tartan Day celebrations in America and Canada have been centred round one of the most important dates in Scottish history - 6 April 1320 - the date when the Scottish nobles appended their seals to the letter to Pope John XXII, on behalf of the Community of the Realm, asserting Scottish Independence at Arbroath Abbey.This year will also see Tartan Day celebrations in Scotland's long-time ally France and perhaps most appropriately the Burgh of Arbroath itself. Arbroath plans a week of celebration from 3-10 April 2004.
 
This week's column concentrates on The Declaration of Arbroath, a document of historic importance not only to Scots but to the world. It marked the emergence of Scotland as the first Nation State in Europe in the modern sense, and the seeds of democracy by declaring that a ruler could be removed if he failed the people.The Arbroath Letter was to inspire another historic document - The American Declaration of Independence.
 
In the splendid Saltire Society reprint 'A Scottish Postbag - Eight centuries of Scottish letters' (2003) the joint editors, Paul H. Scott and the late George Bruce,  wrote of The Declaration of Arbroath :
 
'The document known as the Declaration of Arbroath, the most important and best known in Scottish history, was a letter, if of a specialised kind. It was a diplomatic communication from the barons and 'whole community of the realm' of Scotland to Pope John XXII, remarkable for both its eloquence and persuasiveness and for the boldness and originality of its ideas. Long before such conceptions were found elsewhere in Europe, it spoke for the whole community and asserted the ideas that the independence of the nation was worth defending for its own sake and that rulers exist to serve the community and not the reverse.'
 
The crux of the Declaration lies in the following words -
 
'But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Maccabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succssion according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made him our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.
 
Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.' ( Part of a translation  by Sir James Fergusson from the Latin original.)
 
These words have rung down the centuries. In any other country in the world, a document such as The Declaration of Arbroath would be marked by a National Public Holiday, but not in a Scotland, still tied to rule from outwith her own borders.Hopefully the celebration of the date in other countries will help convince Scots that Scottish Freedom should be regained and the words of 1320 honoured.
 
Arbroath is also famous for the food product, the Arbroath Smokie, now protected by Euro regulations as reported in a previous column, and we celebrate Tartan day and the famous Declaration with a smokie recipe. Taken from Scottish food doyen Elizabeth Craig's 'Hotch Potch' (1978), Arbroath Kedgeree will delight the palate.
 
Arbroath Kedgeree
 
Ingredients : 8 oz (200 g) smoked haddock (Arbroath), boiled; 4 oz (100 g) boiled rice; 2 oz (50 g) butter; 1 or 2 coddled eggs, chopped; salt and pepper; cayenne pepper; pinch grated nutmeg
 
Remove all skin and bones from the fish and chop or flake roughly. Mix with the rice. Place in a saucepan. Add the butter, and egg white if liked, finely chopped. Stir until piping hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Dish up in the shape of a pyramid on a heated platter. Garnish with minced parsley and sieved egg yolk. If preferred, cut the egg white into strips and arrange round the kedgeree instead of mixing it with the fish. You can extend the kedgeree by increasing the cooked rice to 8 oz (200 g). Yield  : 3-4 portions

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