Scotland Chat #2.5–More Food!

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I can’t believe I didn’t post anything in October.

(Actually, I can believe it. October was crazy–but good-crazy. My mom came for a visit, and then later in the month, my friend Tami came to visit. I love visitors!)

Anyway, in our last Scotland Chat, Tami and I talked about the food in Scotland and how it’s different than the US. Here’s the other half of that conversation–and, yes, curry is mentioned.

Tami: I think, as we are here longer, we will learn more about how Scottish people eat. We eat our way still. I want to learn more about their habits and meals.

Wendy: Where do you buy your food? Mostly one store?

Tami: Big things Costco. Then either Asda, which is an offshoot of WalMart, or Tesco. And the little towns right by me have little versions of those kinds of stores, so I pick up small things there when I don’t need a lot. I can ride my bike, walk or catch a bus easily.

Wendy: Cute! I can see it in my mind’s eye. (Although I guess if I had a bike, I could go pick up stuff at the 7-11, but it just doesn’t look the same in my head . . .)

Tami: I know, right? Something about biking through the countryside to get your milk. Stores close early here, but Asda is open late. Tesco is open later than most. But still, shopping doesn’t happen after 7 or 8.

Wendy: That could be nice. It could also be annoying, especially when it’s light later at night and you lose track of time.

Tami: That is true. Now we are rapidly approaching the time of year when it will be darker earlier.

[Editor’s note: That time has now arrived (we had this chat in September).]

Wendy: So tell me about eating at restaurants. Where do you like to go best?

Tami: We have been trying a variety. As a family McDonald’s is good. Different food to some extent. Smaller portions. We get Domino’s pizza, which is fairly comparable. But we need to go back to homemade pizza.

Wendy: Are people less fat in Scotland, then? In a noticeable way?

Tami: Yes, I think so. Rare to see morbidly obese here. Not that there aren’t some, but not as many. The ideal size here is shown in the media as a bit bigger than the US, so more realistic. And I think middle age and older folks are still pleasantly plump, but not obese. I think they walk more, I think they eat smaller portions. They love sweets but I see more moderation in serving size.

Wendy: Nice. And interesting, I mean that their ideal size is better. I like that.

Tami: No Mexican take out here.

Wendy: 😦 But lots of Indian? (I learned that from Monarch of the Glen, so it may or may not be true.)

Tami: Yes. And they like curries and tandoori. I want to try more of that and learn to cook some of it.

Wendy: Phew. I was concerned it might be leading me astray on Scottish living.

Tami: Haha! Nope, seems good so far. I feel more like cooking here, could be that it’s not convenient to eat out.

Wendy: That’s good, I guess. I like cooking. I just don’t like cleaning up so much.

Tami: Chinese food we’ve eaten tastes fresher and less Amercanized.

Wendy: Cool.

Tami: There are no drive thru places. Not banks, not pharmacies. Not food. Thomas said he saw a McDonald’s drive thru but I haven’t seen it yet.

Wendy: I wonder if that shows our fast-paced, go-go-go culture. Along with stores being open later.

Tami: Yes. It does. It is very much less that way here. Slow down, take a breath. Let the person coming down the road turn in front of you. Be home with your family in the evening.

Wendy: I like that. Although I’m the first to admit, especially when I had tiny kids, it was a blessing to drive thru at the bank instead of keep them all corralled.

Tami: I know! I agree. I like the changes and I like what it is motivating me to change. But sometimes I do miss the easier way of doing things.

Wendy: I can definitely see that.

Tami: I love exploring new foods though, so it’s fun. And when you think about my list of what I miss, it’s not a big list. Things aren’t so foreign that we can’t find our own family groove here.

Wendy: “Things that I miss: Root beer, Crisco, Drive Thrus, Wendy” 😉

Tami: Yup! But maybe put Wendy above Root beer.

Wendy: Haha!

Tami: 😉

Wendy: Well, I enjoyed the chat very much. Food is one of my favorite subjects, and to have it with one of my favorite people, well, that’s just icing.

Tami: Haha! Thank you! And over time I will actually know more about Scottish food.

***
The Carsons are getting ready to experience their first Thanksgiving in Scotland. Since they don’t actually celebrate it there, they’re getting together with some American friends on Saturday and holding their own. So Happy Scottish Thanksgiving, Carson Family! Hope the food is delicious!
That wish goes double for all of my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving! Eat a piece of pie for me!
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Scotland Chat #2: FOOD

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Picture taken from Tami’s website, here.

Once again, I’d like to welcome the fabulous Tami Carson to my blog. This time, I picked her brain about a subject near and dear to my heart (and stomach): Food.

Wendy: So tell me about the food in Scotland.

Tami: There is food available and food they eat. In other words, what you can buy in a store and what you find in restaurants.

W: What? Food available is food from a store?

T: haha! Like what foods are available to purchase here and which are not

W: Do they call it “edible” food?

T: Oh, I see. No, those are my own special terms for food.

W: Oh, okay. Slow brain. So what types of foods are available (in stores)? And what isn’t available that you miss?

T: I miss rootbeer. I miss big bags of things like flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, I miss Crisco, the kids mentioned kool aid the other day.

W: Do they only come in small bags, then? And, if things only come in small bags, what do they sell at that there Costco you go to? 😉

T: Yes, hard to find big bags. Even Costco has smaller amounts. Or 5 small bags packaged together. There are some convenience things not here like microwave popcorn. I am pleasantly surprised by the selection of cereal, it’s plentiful and inexpensive.

W: No microwave popcorn? My parents could never move to Scotland, then. They eat a bag of microwave popcorn every night before bed.

T: They could just bring it over in suitcases. 🙂

W: You *can* make your own microwave popcorn, though. Since I imagine you didn’t take your popper due to the plug issue-thingy.

RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE MICROWAVE POPCORN

1/4 c popcorn in a paper bag (lunch size). Microwave for 2 minutes. Add butter. Voila!

T: I will have to try it. First I will have to locate popcorn. I haven’t looked.

[Post-chat edit: Tami sent me a picture of her next Costco trip, where she found popcorn–so it is available. In five little bags. (Okay, I made that part up.)]

W: Weird! Do they have popcorn at the cinema? (Please note I tried to use the proper UK term here–) (And, seriously, if they had to take it over in a suitcase it would take, like, an entire suitcase of its own . . .)

T: Yes, the cinema has popcorn but it is very different! You can get sweet or salted. And neither have much butter either. The bags are much smaller. I like the salted one, it has a mild butter flavour. Mark [Tami’s husband] likes the sweet better but doesn’t love it. Healthier I am sure!!

W: Interesting. Who knew popcorn differences could be so fascinating?

T: I know right. And you adjust I think to the flavour. Theater popcorn in the States will be a shock! Baking supply aisles are sadly lacking. Tiny containers of cocoa powder, baking soda (which is bicarbonate of soda), baking powder, etc… And flavourings are different, can’t find maple extract.

[They also spell “flavourings” differently . . . ]

W: Yikes–and I think the cocoa powder containers HERE are too small! You can only make one or two things of brownies. Speaking of healthier . . . haha!

Can you get maple syrup? I saw the recipe for Cinnamon Quick Bread on your blog and wondered about that. Do they import their syrup from Canada or the US, or do they have places where they make maple syrup in the UK?

T: They have maple syrup, pure maple syrup not Mrs. Butterworths or anything like that. Anywhere! The pure is expensive but a little less so than in the States.

W: It’s definitely better for you than the fake kinds.

T: And the containers are, again, small. We get the “big” jug at Costco and ration it and get two dinners of pancakes out of it. I want to bring back maple extract and start making our own.

W: Phew. Zack [my 13-year-old son] would have a hard time. He’s syrup-ration challenged.

T: So are my kids. And frankly, I don’t like dry pancakes. Again, we will get used to a more pure, less artificial taste in things.

W: See, I don’t care for syrup, really. We’re all about melted butter and granulated sugar at my house. Well, except for Zack. Well, Eden, too. I guess it’s just me and the little kids who like melted butter with sugar on top.

T: We may need to try that. A few of the kids have done butter and powdered sugar. “Confectioners” sugar that is.

W: Right! So if you asked for baking soda, they’d say, “You mean bicarbonate of soda?”

T: Yes they do!! And it was hard to find the first time. In general I think they use less preservatives. Thus smaller containers so that things don’t go bad. Less artificial colours and flavours.

Lamb is more common in stores, both minced and chops.

W: So . . . since I come from a sheep-herding lamb-eating family myself, how do you like it?

T: Lamb is good. Still trying it out. I put it in something once and my family didn’t even notice it. At all! But I knew in my head it was lamb so it creeped me out.

W: Hahaha! Have you tried haggis? Also . . . what is haggis exactly?

T: I haven’t. Joe [her 13-year-old son]  has. He gets it sometimes but I’ve never seen him finish. He gets it in a roll, like a sausage roll. I’ve heard rumours about the content but haven’t investigated yet. Sausage rolls are well loved in my family. An actual sausage (not ground) baked in a flaky croissant type roll.

W: Sounds delicious! What do you use for Crisco since they don’t have it? Lard?

T: Butter.

W: Haha–right. That’s better, anyway. 🙂

T: Haggis is: lamb heart and lungs, cooked in spices with oatmeal then stuffed into the stomach lining of a sheep or ox. Like a sausage.

W: Heart and lungs? Oh, dear.

T: I know. I probably won’t try it.

W: Sounds . . . tough. Chewy.

T: It’s all minced and cooked down, so it’s a similar texture to sausage.

I think, as we are here longer, we will learn more about how Scottish people eat. We eat our way still. I want to learn more about their habits and meals.

***

Haggis is a good stopping place. We chatted more about food–quite a bit more, actually–so I’m going to break it up and post it later on this week. In the meantime, enjoy visions of sweet-ish cinema popcorn, abundant cereal, and haggis rolls in your heads!

A Chat with Scotland

Once upon a time, starting about a year ago, my best friend was going to move to Utah at the end of August this year.

Through a series of events that began in May and crammed themselves into about six weeks, she and her husband had received a job opportunity for their family in Scotland, decided they were going, sold their house, and left western Washington for a life across the pond.

I miss her like crazy, but am excited for this chance to hear all about her adventures. And what better way to convince myself that a visit to the UK is essential–and soon–than to have my best friend move there? (No offense, Utah, but I don’t think I could have found enough material to fill a blog series about you.)

Without further ado, I happily introduce the beautiful Tami (one of my very favorite people) as the star of “Scotland Chats!”

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(Here she is with her two youngest children, just chilling while exploring castle ruins. Because that’s what they do for fun in Scotland.)

Wendy: Okay. Is Scotland what you expected? What did you expect?

Tami: Yes it’s what I expected so far, except the weather. It’s been the hottest summer in years and that’s been a bonus. Seeing that “hot” here is in the high 70’s. (Make that the mid 20’s). I did expect it to be green and beautiful. The landscape is amazing, the hills that are gently laid out in green with sheep and cattle. (Haven’t been to the highlands yet). The people are friendly and helpful. I do think they are more reserved than Americans, first off, but when I am friendly and relaxed so are they.

They are definitely more reserved in public and when our family goes somewhere and is loud, we get noticed. That is partially the accent though, our accent. I notice myself talking more quietly to see if that decreases the attention. That said, downtown Aberdeen is full of sassy drunk people late in the evening on a weekend.

Wendy: So you fit right in . . . 😉 Is the conversion confusing? Or did you live with that in Canada? How about from miles to kilometers?

Tami: Haha! As to conversions, I don’t get Celsius, I never have. Even the 4 years in Canada I still had to convert it to F for myself to feel satisfied. It is in miles here so no conversion there.

Wendy: Oh, nice! Are the speed limits posted in mph, then?

Tami: Yes, the speed limits are MPH. Except, the gas in is litres, which I am quick to convert. To figure gas mileage uses a calculator because you fill it in litres, convert it to gallons and then get the MPG.

Wendy: Phew. That’s a lot of work. How much does gas cost per litre?

Tami: About 138.9 pence per litre. Which you multiply by 3.86 to get the price per gallon. About $5.36 per gallon. Of course that is without the pound to dollar factor. Which I don’t think about as much since we are paid in pounds.

Wendy: So, basically, I should stop complaining? I think I paid $3.89 a gallon today.

Tami: Haha! It is much more expensive in Europe in general.

Wendy: Where does the factor “3.86” come from? Is it 3.86 litres in a gallon or something?

Tami: Yes, it is. That I memorized from my Canadian days.

Wendy: You were specially equipped for the transition to UK life.

Tami: A bit yes! I think a big change will be schools, and helping my boys adjust. They are going to have more of a culture shock than the rest of us.

Wendy: True. It’s going to be a whole different ball game. We’ll have to chat again once they’ve been in school a bit and see the differences.

Tami: What does surprise me is how hard it is to understand people. They speak quickly and since I don’t look so touristy they think I understand them. There are those with really thick accents and I just smile and stare with a blank expression. They usually laugh and try to talk slower.

Wendy: Awesome! Hahaha! That was actually my next question: are the accents SO incredible? There is such a musical quality to a Scottish accent, but I can see where not understanding could be a bit of a drag.

Tami: YES!! It’s like living in a dreamland! We all love that, and talk with each other about what things they say differently and who we can understand and who we can’t.

[Editor’s note: check out the sidebar on Tami’s blog to find which American phrases are passé and the way a person should say them in Scotland–although I see “Munch and Mingle” is missing, which has been my favorite Scottish phrase so far. Maybe it’s not on the list because there’s no American equivalent?]

Wendy: I think I would walk around with a sappy smile while listening to everyone’s conversations.

Tami: Hahaha!!! It’s hard not to. 🙂

Wendy: 🙂 Do people want to hear you talk? Is an American accent something they like to hear, or do they get it enough from Hollywood that it doesn’t matter?

Tami: I haven’t had anyone say, Oh! I love your accent. Don’t know if they just hear it enough or if they think that’s forward, or they don’t even care.

Oh, and men dress nicely here. Women are about the same or better. But men dress in slacks and button ups and have nicely cut hair, on average. Now, the younger crowd are still teens and somewhat sloppy, but not YA age and up.

Wendy: Hmm. Intriguing. That visit to Scotland is looking better and better. 😉

Tami: I know!!!

Wendy: Have you asked anyone to speak in an American accent for you?

Tami: No! I haven’t thought of that. I will need to try. There is a “Scottish” language that locals speak (I remember my dad telling me about it). I’ll have to look up the name. I have asked people I’ve met to say something in that.

Wendy: Cool! Is it like Celtic or Welsh or something? (Hm. I probably just offended the entire citizenships of Wales and Scotland by saying that . . . sorry, friends! I know you’re different countries!)

Tami: I’ll find out the name and redeem you!
***
Now that, folks, is a real friend. I’m hoping to have chats with Tami regarding the mysteries of living in Scotland on a regular basis. Any questions you want to ask a real-live American living in Scotland can go in the comments, and I’ll do my best to fit it in.
Check out Tami’s blog for more Scotland adventures and gorgeous photos. (Not many UK citizens think to post pictures of the everyday stuff, so it’s like an Anglophile’s dream come true!)