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Potato and Oatmeal Cakes

Potatoes have been grown in Scotland since the 17th century and continue to play a major part in today's Scottish diet. But unlike our forebears we are not entirely dependent on the humble tattie. This, sadly, was not the case in the mid-18th century where especially in the Highlands and Islands the entire population was dependent on the high yield per acre provided by potatoes. A growing population allied to a shortage of arable land, caused through the loss of vast acres of cultivation following the early stages of the Highland Clearances, meant that the potato was essential in  maintaining communities. This pressure on arable land resulted in little else being grown to sustain the population. Thus in Scotland, as in Ireland, the sudden appearance of potato blight in 1845-1846 spelt disaster. The Scottish historian James Hunter has described the catastrophe as ' a human tragedy unparalleled in modern Scottish history'. And indeed it was. Compared to Ireland, the cost in human lives was small but in terms of further clearances and mass emigration it a blow from which the Highlands has never recovered. The Historian James Halliday well summed up this tragedy - 'But the Atlantic was wide, and the journey for most was for ever. The people who went, exploited, rejected and betrayed, suffered all the mental sorrows and physical hardships which their exile brought. The country from which they were evicted suffered to. Scotland lost half her heritage and the desolution which then began has never found a remedy.' ( from 'Scotland : A Concise History' ). The main ingredients for this weeks recipe are two foodstuffs closely associated with Scotland - oatmeal and potatoes. So when you make and enjoy Potato and Oatmeal Cakes, please give a thought to our forebears in the mid-18th century for whom the tattie was no luxury but essential for their very existense and who paid a high price for its failure.
Potato and Oatmeal Cakes
Boil and drain thoroughly some potatoes . Shake them well to get them dry and mealy, and mash until there are no lumps left. Add enough fine oatmeal to make a rolling consistency and add a little salt if necessary. Roll out on a well floured board, prick with a fork and cut in four. Cook, first on one side and then on the other on a hot girdle.

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