What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an a that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine
A mans a man for a that.
For a that, an a that,
Their tinsel show, an a that,
The honest man, tho eer sae poor,
Is king o men for a that.
Robert Burns, Is There For Honest Poverty
A Hundred Thousand Welcomes
Welcome to Scotland
The follow selections are reminders of foods I grew up with.
My taste bud memories are still sweet and warm, and Im glad that somehow, somewhere,
I found some recipe books from Scotland in America with recipes in them to help me
recreate these foods for you. All of my grandmothers cooking tips and recipes were
from the "handful of this" and "a little bit of that" school of
cooking. She only wrote her dumpling and scones down from me when we lived in Germany
I wish I had asked her for more.
This is the recipe for smokies from "A Taste of
4 whole smoked haddock
1:1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
Separate the pairs of smokies and lay them in a shallow dish.
Pour on the milk and add salt and pepper. Spread on butter and cover with foil. Cook in a
moderate oven (350 degrees) for about 30 minutes.
This is how "A Taste of Scotland" further describes
"These are quite unlike any other smoked fish in the
world. Small haddocks are used, the fish are cleaned, but not split open, salted, then
tied in twos by the tails, hung high on little wooden spits or over halved whisky barrels
above a fire usually made from oak or silver birch chips. This method originated at
Auchmithie, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century the fisherfolk settled at
Arbroath, and by the end of that century the success of these fish became more widely
known, and the name was changed to Arbroath smokies. The outside of an Arbroath smokey is
a lovely copper colour, and the inside has a most delectable savoury flavour and creamy
texture. When the pit or barrels were not available, ingenious fisherwives set up their
own small smoking sheds."
You know, I don't ever remember my Granny doing anything like
this with the smokies. We would go to Arbroath at least once a year to enjoy the sea air,
I would swim in that freezing cold North Sea water and think nothing of it, perform in the
poetry and speech competition of the Arbroath Music Festival and buy smokies in the
backyard smokeries of the fishwives there. We never cooked them at all - would just bring
them home and eat that tasty smoked herring right out of its skin. Good eating!
We wouldn't always eat smokies, though. Every Hogmanay, or
New Year's Eve, street vendors (we called them "barrow boys") would have them
"dressed" - wrapped in crepe paper to look like formally dressed people,
complete with hats for the "men" and bonnets for the "ladies." These
would be "first foot" gifts to give as symbols and hope for good luck in the
coming year to those you visited that night, after New Year had been rung in. My granny
would always have a smokey and a horshoe hanging over the inside of the front door for a
good year's luck. The horshoe would always be with the arch up, "So the luck wouldn't
run out," she said.
A few other comments about Arbroath and smokies you
always bought them in pairs; and any time my granny would talk about some body who was
yelling and screaming out in public, she would say she was going on "like an Arbroath
fishwife" referring how these ladies would call their wares. My granny would also
often tell me how her husband, the Welshman who was torpedoed after theyd been
married only about two years in World War I, could never pronounce Auchmithie"
but always called in "Ow-mithie." We Scots do like to laugh at you foreigners
who cant say the simplest little words, dont we?
As I write this Im reminded of how fortunate I am to
have a granny who told me stories, and talked of those long gone as though they were still
alive and with us. Maybe thats why I love genealogy so much and feel Johns
presence so close sometimes, even more than 20 years after his death. These people and
ways were so close to my Granny and somehow or other I learned to feel the same way. I
wonder if any of my grandchildren will carry on this family trait? I hope so.
Im going to include in these memories a copy of one of
my first place certificates from the Arbroath festival. The year before I married I won
the verse speaking silver cup for, of all things, English verse. Miss Angus, my teacher,
was amazed (that I won the English competition) and frustrated with me because I only took
a second for the Scottish verse speaking that was the one she was sure I was going
to be first. My name was to be engraved on it by the Festival Committee when it was
returned in 1966. But I was in America by December of 1965 and my mother returned it for
me. I wonder if that cup is still in existence for some other Scottish elocutionists who
might wonder just who Charlotte Alvoet was in 1965 and where she is in 1998?
I hope you like the poem Im including too. Its
not quite a poem about a smokie, but it is about a fish. This was a poem I won an award in
competition for at one of the annual Arbroath Music Festival competitions. It was a dear
favorite of my mother, and whenever I was performing as an "elocutionist" in
concerts or programs in old folks homes, etc., she would always ask me to do this. I
remember her glowing as she watched me performing this and other pieces. She always had
the biggest smile at this one because, for a woman who didnt like to eat fish, she
certainly liked to hear this poem.
The Auld Broon Troot
The auld broon troot lay unner a stane,
Unner a stane lay he.
An he thocht o the wind, an he thocht o the rain
An the troot he uist to be.
Am a guy auld troot, said he to
A gey auld troot, said he.
An theres mony a queer-like tale I could tell
O the things that hee happened to me.
Thae wee hafflin trooties are a
Theyre a verra smert, said he.
Oh, they ken a the rules o the gem aff by heart!
An theyre no often catched, All agree.
Theyre thinkin am auld,
An theyre thinkin am dune.
Theyre thinkin Im dune, said he.
Theyre thinkin Im no worth the flirt o a fin,
Or the blink o a bonny black ee.
But am safe and am snug in ma
bonnie we neuk,
Am safe and am snug, said he.
Am the big fish that nae fisher could heuk,
An all aye be that- till ah dee!
My mother and me on a Scottish fishing town beach after the War
clipping taken from the Dundee Courier, during our trip there, Summer 1974:
An Arbroath Music Festival certificate
More about Dundees working horses
A Dundee reader refers to my item from Mr. Simpson about the
citys working horses of 50 years ago.
He says, "During the first world war, horses were often
allowed to go along streets by themselves, their vanmen delivering all the while.
"Tram-cars were still in vogue and in many places there
were only a few feet between a tram-line and the pavement.
"Peter McCabes bakery was in such a place near the
foot of Blackness Road.
"Bakery vans had always to be moved to allow a tram to
go up the Blackie.
"The vanman could be up the close and carrying boards
from the bakery there to the van.
"Sometimes the tram-drivers became impatient at the
hold-up and clanged the tram-bell with their foot.
"One of Peter McCabes horses tumbled to this.
"Of its own volition it would turn to the right facing
up the Blackie and complete a circle.
"Once the tram had moved off, the horse would come back
again to where it had been.
"At the top of Hilltown there was a fish shop which had
a white pony.
"It did exactly as Peter McCabes bakery horse did
when the tram-driver gave the signal.
"One grocer had a shop at the corner of Francis Street,
and he kept his horses in a stable quite near, usually referred to as the
"Six days a week the horse would come from the stable,
turn to the right at Strathmartine Road, move over to the left and stop until the van was
loaded with groceries to be hawked in country districts.
"Every morning except Tuesdays the rounds were beyond
Downfield so the horse moved off in that direction.
"On Tuesdays, however the district covered was Birkhill,
Muirhead, Dronley, &c., beginning at Lawton Cottages, which would be somewhere near
"This meant the horse had to turn to come down to
Coldside to get into what was then Loons Road.
"It did so automatically, without the guidance of the
Mrs. Mackintoshs fish shop
Mrs. Charlotte Bleh, an ex-Dundonian holidaying from the
United States, was also interested in my item on Dundees working horses.
"My grandmother, whose maiden name was Mackintosh is
82," she says.
"She says she's sure the fish shop at the top of
Hilltown, which you mentioned, was owned by her grandmother, Mrs. Jessie Mackintosh.
"Mrs. Mackintosh had a white pony.
"The shop had a big sign in the shape of a fish above
"Id like to have some more information about the
shop and the pony."
Mrs. Bleh is staying with relatives in Dundee.