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Stories and Stovies

Scottish Teacloth

Scottish Hot Tea

This is the staple drink of Scotland and many Scottish Mormon converts when I was there had a really hard time giving it up, believe me. (Something like Americans giving up their coffee - I know when John joined the Church that was one of his unfounded fears!) But at least I learned how to make tea, and loose herbal tea comes up just as good.

You need a few things, though. Namely, a kettle, a tea pot, a tea caddy, a special tea caddy tablespoon for your caddy, and a tea cozy.

First, of all boil up fresh cold water in your kettle - enough for at least six cups. While the water is boiling, pour as hot water as possible into your tea pot to prepare it for the tea. Then, instead of watching the kettle boil, put together the stuff that you really need to go with the tea - like cookies, little cakes, sandwiches, etc., on a nice three tier cake plate. I brought one with me from Scotland specifically to have as part of my tea set. (So, there I am, this little Scottish/ American Mormon 18 year old marrying into a strong German/American/Catholic family and making darn sure I had my tea set with me when I left Scotland - by the way, the traditional wedding gift from the bridesmaid to the bride is a teaset.)

When you have a whistling kettle, or your water is at a rolling boil in your sauce pan, empty the warm water from your tea pot.

Put a tea caddy spoon of loose tea (about a heaping tablespoon full) for each person youre making tea for into the teapot, and this is important, one for the pot as well.

Pour the boiling water over the tea, put the lid on your pot, and let it steep, on your warm stove about five minutes.

Ah, hah - you thought I forgot about the tea strainer, didn't you? Well, I did. So go get your tea strainer and when you're ready to pour, strain the tea into the cups and serve with sugar cubes and milk. The lifted pinkie fingers when you drink, the porcelain cups and saucers, and the hoity toity talk while you enjoy the tea are all nice, but strictly optional!

Put the cozy over your tea pot to keep the tea warm until ready to serve again. And, if you're thrifty (a nice way of saying you're saving more expenses than spending income) like my mother and gran were, you'll save your tea strainings for another pot later. It's still good tea. (This is when you go from "brewed" tea to "stewed" tea!)

My Granny had a niece, Jinx Millar. Jinx' husband, Dave, had a car - which was a rarity when I was growing up in Scotland. Dave liked to go caravaning (which is trailer camping) and on occasion he would take us for a little ride on some of Scotland's back roads within a day's drive of Dundee with him. I always enjoyed when we would stop for a "bilie up." (No, this has nothing at all to do with throwing up bile and being car sick!). A "bilie up" was the obligatory stop for tea, brewed on the side of the road in a favorite tin can converted strictly for the purpose of brewing tea. My mother and Granny were absolutely convinced there was nothing better on the rare Summer day in Scotland than a good cup of hot tea!

My Granny and her greatniece waiting for the bilie up
My Granny and her greatniece waiting for the bilie up

Yin twa three
A mother catched a flea
we roasted it
and toasted it
and had it fur wur tea

Charlotte's Party Punch

(I made this up, too! And we always serve it at parties in the German Castles on the Rhein punch bowl that I wanted so much in Germany and my dear husband, John, bought for me just before we left in 1971).

Make 2 quarts of lemonade
Add 2 quarts Sprite or 7 up

Include a good sized amount of citrus sherbet, like orange, lime, lemon, etc. - raspberry and mango are really good, too.

Mix in to taste frozen strawberries, raspberries, canned mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, etc. Keep adding to the mix as the partiers enjoy it. (This is a punch you drink with a spoon!)

If you're Mormon, leave it alone!

If you're not, let the rest of us know it's spiked!

Charlotte's Grape Juice

Putting those recipes in this book reminds me that I made grape juice once when we lived in Paradise, California. I made grape jelly that year, too. I remember borrowing the funnel, the sieve, buying the cheesecloth, getting the grapes at a great price and doing just about everything that's in those recipes. That's why my recommendation to you is if you want really, really great grape juice or grape jelly just go to the store and buy Welch's.

Charlotte's Granny's Toddy

My Granny really was a tee-totaller, meaning she never drank anything stronger than tea - except at Hogmanay when she brought in a couple of bottles of Whitbread beer, maybe some Guinness stout, a bottle of sherry or Sandeman's port, and, of course, my treat of a miniature bottle, all beautifully displayed on the sideboard with the sausage rolls, the shortbread, the madeira cake, the black bun, the Strathspey cake, and the Dundee cake. There was some lemonade and cordial, too, but their inclusion at Hogmany was minor.

Anyhow, whenever we had colds or flu or respiratory ailmaints (here I am working up to the medicinal part) there always seems to have been some whisky available. My Granny's toddy, as I remember it, is a little hot water, a little sugar, and a good measure of Scotland's finest. Much to my regret, that one dosage always knocked whatever ailed me right out of my system.

I remember one year in Phoenix I felt really miserable with flu and was looking for anything to help me feel better. I had some Theraflu (which I knew was good for flu) and also some whisky (which I remembered as also good for flu) in the house. Made perfect sense to me that two "goods" just had to make a "very good." So, I made up my Granny's toddy and added in a little Theraflu. I think I was out for two days! Don't believe I've had the flu since - but neither do I believe I'll use this remedy again be it on man, or woman or child or beast!!

New England Rose Hip Syrup

I've never made this, but am putting in our book, anyhow. My mother and Gran would buy this in the winters in Scotland and give it to me by the tablespoonful to keep me happy and healthy. I can't imagine me ever making this recipe, but I'm thinking lots of happy memories by just doing this typing.

2 lbs rose hips (ripe and red)
Water to cover
1lb 2 oz granulated sugar

Wash the hips thoroughly and put into a large aluminum saucepan. Cover well with cold water (measure the amount necessary). Bring to a boil. Simmer about 10 minutes, or until tender. Mash well with a wooden masher. Put into a jelly bag and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Return the pulp to the pan and add as much cold water as before. Bring to a boil and simmer 5-10 minutes. Put back into the jelly bag and squeeze again. Discard the pulp. Mix the two lots of juice and pour into a clean jelly bag. Allow to drip into a clean pan overnight. Boil the juice down until only 3 cups of it remain. Add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes, skimming if necessary. Pour into sterilized bottles at once and seal or cork.

By the way, the happy memories I'm having are also about "itchy coos." In the fall we would go to the country and gather "conkers" and "itchy coo's." Conkers are horse chestnuts. We would take them home and string them together on very strong string. Sometimes we would coat them in varnish to make them hard. Then, armed with a string of conkers we would go off looking off for other conkers to conquer - pun absolutely intended. Conkers was played by one person holding up one conker by the string, so that there was about a 6" length of string between your fingers and your conker. The other person would then aim his or her conker at yours in an attempt to split it and break it off the string. Every child knew their conkers just like a golfer knows his clubs and I remember having some really great strings of up to 20 conkers as a child - plus the half shells of the victims I had destroyed! I liked that game. But I liked a lot of "boys" games - like conkers, marbles, playing war, going to the old tenements and jumping along the roofs of the air raid shelters. What's that, you ask? Well, air raid shelters were long, narrow, cement buildings about 6 or 7 feet high and about 3-4 feet apart. We would just climb up on those flat cement roofs and chase one another along them. I remember the Dundee housewives yelling at us all the time to get off and not hurt ourselves. (None of us ever got hurt, though, other than when our mothers found out.) These shelters were remnants of WWII and ended up as either storage places for the sanitarily inclined or as pits of filth and muck for us kids to explore and hide and have a great time. We could never play at our tenement because my ever vigilant Granny did such a great job chasing us away.

Anyhow, back to the itchy coos. This was more of a victim game. Those rose hip seeds are really, really, itchy. Out by my school at the Ninewells were the very best itchy coo bushes. All you did was gather these berries and keep them in your possession until some victim happened to pass by. It was quite an easy thing to split the berry open and drop the seeds down the back of your victim's neck. This was really fun early in the morning on a school day when your victim couldn't go home to change. I liked that game, and played it all through my years at the Harris.

About age 15, in front of our air raid shelter at Hill Street
About age 15, in front of our air raid shelter at Hill Street

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