I was back in Turadh in Byres Road, Glasgow last week, this time with Rama to do some porridge tasting. He had honey with his and I had the traditional one with salt. The platefuls were a good size and quite right too for what they charge. I could have done with some milk with mine and suggested this to the lassie at the till on the way out. They could offer a range of milks in small bowls so that folk could dip in each spoonful in the old fashioned way.
Since I wrote the above, I’ve been reading about cafes in London and Edinburgh selling porridge with a wide range of farantoosh toppings for up to £6 a bowl: blood orange, edible flowers, chai spices, date syrup, avocado, bee pollen, coconut, fig, chia seeds and so on.
I really want to like Turadh and hope it does well but upstairs still needs a good clean. Some artwork or photos reflecting their new name would lift the atmosphere up there; the walls are grey so some storm and sunshine prints would fit right in.
Next time, I’m trying out their cranachan. However, I note it’s served not only with honey but also ice cream! I don’t think I hold with that but we’ll see.
Thinking about their name reminded me of a review of “Sly Cooking: 42 Irresistible Gaelic Words” which I pulled out of the Sunday Herald back in October. The book is by Catriona Black and so was the article, so I suppose, strictly speaking, it’s not a review. Anyway, it was fascinating. The collection of words was begun by a priest in South Uist and Eriskay from 1884 to 1905 – Father Allan McDonald, who filled 10 notebooks. Then in 1958, John Lorne Campbell used 3,000 of these words to produce his “Gaelic Words and Expressions from South Uist and Eriskay”. It was this latter book that Catriona Black read and was captivated by. Her book celebrates 42 of her favourites, illustrated with her linocut prints.
Do other languages have a word for the atoms seen in a ray of sunlight coming into a house – mionagadanan? Or the spark of life in a dying beast – rong?
One of the ones I recognised as a thing was a’storradh which means forcing food on people whether they like it or not. I was immediately transported back 40 years, hearing and seeing a cousin of my mother’s going round a kitchen table encouraging all the men to eat and then eat more of dishes that were within touching distance of them while the women were left to feed themselves. And it wasn’t even her house! But I also thought of an old Italian woman I know who had to eat grass as a child when forced to leave her home in Monte Cassino during WWII; now she’s big on a’storradh.
Forradh means somebody cooking something on the sly – oh yes, I thought: “bread eaten in secret is pleasant”. And sgionc is forcing something big into a hole too small for it, illustrated with a woman struggling to do up the zip of her frock.
Catriona Black has a very serious purpose here. “Gaelic belongs to all of us and if we in Scotland don’t get behind it, who is left to care for all those beautiful endangered words, and the stories and genealogies and poetry carried along by them?”
My mother had her words too. She wasn’t a Gaelic speaker but was the daughter of one. Trock – with the vowel drawn out to indicate disapproval – was used for anything regarded as rubbishy, whether shoddy material or a flimsy, cheap toy or a sugary foodstuff lacking in nutrition. Other folk from East Sutherland and Ross shire know and use that word but what about ply? I haven’t been able to find anybody else who uses this word for a segment of an orange. The mystery of speek was solved when I consulted my Gaelic dictionary; it was used during a haircut for a section of hair which was longer than the rest and needed trimming to match. It must be from spic for a spike. A lirk was used for a wrinkle in a sheet which annoyed you through the night.
My father had his didoes and snaisters, Scots words known to my generation but scorned by the bairns. In fact my favourite niece used to deny the very existence of such words and when she was younger, I decided to do a survey with her and stopped five folk on the street to ask if they knew what didoes were. None of them did, so alas, that was grist for her mill. But what is the English equivalent of snaister? A sugary snack? But does that convey either the pleasure of the eater or the disapproval of the onlooker?
Why do I care about what happens to these words? Why not just give in to standard English – or American English more like, which is becoming even more prevalent? Well, not only do they feel better in my mouth but like Catriona Black, I want to become “one more defender of the treasure, and not one less.”