Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is pòsaidh mi . . . I will marry

Marriage is more than finding the right person. It is being the right person. (Unknown)

Paul proposed this morning. I accepted and I’m feeling like the luckiest woman alive. In marrying him I will gain the kindest and best of husbands, a man whose thoughtfulness of others inspires me to be a better person.

A Gaelic song keeps running through my head. “Is pòsaidh mi,” means “I will marry.” To marry someone is also to marry their family, but in my case I’m also marrying a country. I will always be a Texan, but I will also be Scottish resident. And in doing so I return in joy to the country my ancestors left in desperation for a better life. In the Scots Gaelic language, one cannot be married to a spouse, but rather at a spouse. I will be married at Paul, and I will be married at Scotland.

Song of the Day: Tighinn Air A'mhuir Am Fear a Phosas Mi by Capercaillie. Someone after my own heart has made a lovely slideshow of Scottish scenery to accompany this song. While I’m not marrying “the shepherd of the yearling sheep” described in these lyrics, I like it all the same.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cullen Skink, Cows that Wink, and Felonious Fajitas

“Everyone has a risk muscle. You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.” (Roger Von Oech)

Recently Paul and I visited the town of Cullen with his parents. It’s a lovely place full of 19th century fishermen’s cottages and narrow streets. We checked out the local landmark Bowfiddle Rock, a uniquely formed rock along the craggy coastline. I adore the coast in northeast Scotland. Steep, rocky cliffs overlook blue water and compliment a soundtrack of crashing waves and keening seagulls. This is why I came here.

Paul’s stepmom, who is from the area, took us to a café that reportedly serves the best cullen skink in the area. That’s a fish soup whose name comes from the Gaelic word for “essence.” I was dubious about this soup made of haddock, but decided to give it a go. It’s creamy and not at all fishy - a bit like New England clam chowder but even better. I loved it! Afterwards, we took a drive and I got a close up interview with some highland cattle. These cows are known for their long hair and friendly personalities. They’re very photogenic and eagerly left their dinner of fine local hay to pose for my pictures. One of them, who should be a bovine model with a proper agent, seemed to wink at me and say “hey, baby – check out my horns.” We have longhorn cows in Texas, but they certainly don’t come with such long hair.

I’ve gotten very excited about cooking lately, ever since my dad turned me on to Amazon’s new grocery products in the UK. They have a number of small importers who sell such treasures as chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, green chilis, and even Stubb’s BBQ sauce from Austin! I’ve also been inspired by the recipe blog Homesick Texan, written by a Texas native living in New York where she can’t find all her preferred ingredients. The homemade varieties of food are a hell of a lot better than the crap that passes for Tex-Mex in the supermarkets here. Old El Paso has cornered the British “Mexican” market, selling fajita kits that include things like Bar-B-Que sauce and crispy fried chicken. Perhaps it was a bit of homesickness talking, but I actually wrote to them and told them BBQ sauce and fried chicken do not belong in fajitas. I begged them to hire someone in product management who actually knows something about Tex-Mex cuisine. Maybe they’ll hire me! What a laugh that would be.

Photos: Bowfiddle rock, beach photos, cullen skink highland cattle

Song of the day: The Bluest Eyes in Texas by Restless Heart

(yeah, I know it’s not Scottish. It’s stuck in my head because of an essay I’m writing)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whiskey, Haggis and Burns

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's
a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

-Robert Burns

Two weeks ago we went to the Glenfiddich whiskey distillery in Dufftown. Situated in an area with more castles than Aberdeen has seagulls, it is clear why the area is called the “Malt Whiskey Trail.” (The castles are closed for the winter but we plan to return.) Glenfiddich has been made in Dufftown since 1886 and has been selling single malt around the world since 1963. After a tour full of smells, steam, and enormous barrels, we got to taste 3 varieties. My parents will not be surprised to learn that I liked the most expensive one, aged 18 years. When Caitlin and I first tasted whiskey in October, we swore to only ever drink whiskey that was put in the barrel before we were old enough to drink it. The older I get, the more expensive (and better tasting) shall be my whiskey. I think this is a fine benefit to aging.

On Friday Paul and I attended a Burns supper with his parents at their local golf club. One doesn’t have to be posh to play golf here. It was invented in Scotland and is a game for everyone. I didn’t see one pair of plaid pants, but there were quite a few men in kilts. Burns night is a tradition in Scotland and around the world. It’s a celebration of the poet Robert Burns, composer of “Auld Lang Syne” and “A Man’s a Man for a’ That” among others. Each year folks gather to recite his poetry and eat a dinner of fine haggis, neeps and tatties. Haggis is made of less desirable meat bits combined with barley and spiced nicely. Neeps are turnips and tatties are potatoes, both served mashed. I had lots of fun listening to people recite long Burns poems from memory and share some laughs. Unlike the “traditional Scottish evening” I attended as a tourist in Inverness years ago, this was an actual Scottish evening complete with haggis, music and dancing and it took place among a real community of friends. The evening closed with everyone signing Auld Lang Syne (including all the verses American’s leave out). I learned that to sing it in Scotland involves holding hands with your neighbors with your arms crossed in front of you and bobbing to the beat. What a night!

Song of the Day: Auld Lang Syne, performed by Scottish legends The Tannahill Weavers and sung to a lesser-known tune.

Photos: Glenfiddich Distillery (2) and Haggis with neeps and tatties (and cider), Paul and Me on Burns Night