I’ve been thinking about this since I was back in Turadh to try their cranachan – oh dear me, I can’t bear to write on here about it as it was so disappointing. Any resemblance to the original dish was only passing. I e-mailed them about it and got a long e-mail back so full marks to them for replying. However, there’s been no meeting of minds. I’m turning into some kind of cranachan-obsessive. Maybe I should start a preservation society.
When I was 16, I stayed the night with my Granny’s wee sister on Skye. My cousin and I were travelling further on the next day and she had agreed to feed us and put us up for the night. The first course was liver which I’d always found disgusting. When my mother made liver and bacon, I’d eat only the bacon. I remember looking with horror at my plate and exchanging glances with my cousin who didn’t look too thrilled at the prospect either.
Being in someone else’s house, it never entered my head to say that I didn’t like it or that I didn’t want it or that I couldn’t eat it, unlike most bairns nowadays who’re quick to shout that they don’t like something and won’t eat it, no matter where they are or who they’re with. Luckily there was a substantial amount of mashed potato on the plate so I cut off tiny pieces of the liver and swallowed them down with forkfuls of mash and a concealed shudder. The plates were cleared away and a caraway seed cake was put down. I’d never tasted it before and I never wanted to have it ever again. It was another ordeal! Almost unbelievable to have two terrible courses, one right after the other.
This meal had been made and served with love and care, by an old woman for two teenage girls, part of her huge extended family. She and Granny were Free Presbyterians though Granny had married “out” – into the Free Church. I was thinking of them at the weekend when reading Kevin McKenna’s piece in The Observer in defence of Sunday closures on Lewis. Yes, these folk can be very narrow but there’s something admirable, I think too, in their adherence to their principles and their refusal to conform. Why should shopworkers not get Sundays off? What’s wrong with a day of rest? Let’s have a National Day of Humiliation and Prayer if circumstances warrant it!
I will occasionally shop on a Sunday and carry out other Sabbath-breaking activities such as putting out a washing on a day with drouth as surely to miss the opportunity could also be categorised as sinful. Oh, it’s complicated. While I cannot share their beliefs, I can’t help admiring their certainties in the face of all our froth and foolishness.
Better get back to my theme. Another foul meal I had was in the now-demolished Lady Ross in Ardgay. I ordered, at a counter, a baked potato with salad and a coffee. I watched, shocked, as the coffee was made: the waitress took a spoon of coffee out of a huge catering tin and then filled the cup up from a kettle. This was before proper coffee had come to Scotland and well before I found my complaining voice. The potato was soggy, wet in fact and had maybe been baked 48 hours previously and re-heated several times. The iceberg lettuce was brown at the edges, also having been prepared and on display for quite some time. For some reason, I was finding the experience quite amusing – I was the only customer, and no wonder. How could such a simple meal be so awful? I would have been embarrassed and ashamed if the roles had been reversed.
I found similar contempt for paying customers in a café in the North West, now thankfully under new ownership. We were faced with three tiers of cups and saucers on the counter, each saucer had that awful wee brown tub of UHT milk. I asked if they had proper milk and was told that there was no fresh milk in the place. When I queried this, I was then told that it was against Health & Safety to have milk jugs. I laughed at this and the admission finally came that their system made it much easier for them when a bus party arrived. They’d never see these folk again; there’d be another bus party along in a while with more money to be made. So who cared that the tourists were paying for a disgusting drink?
The owner drowned several years later in a holiday accident. My cousin’s auntie kept the cutting from the Northern Times for me. She knew I’d be pleased.