As we commence 2022 I expect you, like me, are onto your new diary whether it be digital or old school, filled with good intentions to be organised and productive, successful and sustainable. Perhaps some of you, like me, glanced back at January 2020 when our diaries were bursting with no hint of what was to follow. Now the healing process begins and, let’s remember, we must all have had resilient ancestors or we wouldn’t be here today!
On the run up to Christmas we had a most enjoyable, fascinating and fruitful meeting with Professor Ashli Stokes of the University of North Carolina & Charlotte. We had been in contact on social media for a while and in 2021 she was over researching Scottish food, tourism, and the Scottish identity. Finding culinary links between Scotland and America is hardly surprising given paths of migration, with poverty-stricken Scots seeking a better life in new lands, yet we found so many fascinating food culture connections, in particular the Appalachian cuisine where many Scots settled, some via Ireland, and where traditional dishes exist that are long gone in Scotland.
We shared cake and Westray Wife cheese with bere crackers and home-baked rye crispbreads baked from Bosse’s wee grain harvest, along with delicious pumpkin and pecan pies that Ashli baked for us, plus okra pickles to be savoured later. Slow Food brought us together and long after Ashli heads westwards, lifelong friendships through food remain.
Talking of Slow Food, the Adopt a Fruit Tree for the Ark of Taste Orchard at Errichel is well underway. This initiative was launched as part of COP26 but carries on so do get in touch with me via link on orchard above if you are interested. As the trees grow and are harvested there will be a tasty treat for supporters – in addition to certificates that will be sent out to you soon.
It is an honour to count chefs among my friends of whom I stand in awe – turning on a pin, creating new memories for reuniting families: afternoon teas, re-organising eating spaces for the umpteenth time and offering food-to-go. There are all sorts of imaginative business ideas too, fulfilling a need for urban meeting places for home-workers in a world where offices may never be the same again.
Cafés and restaurants, rural or city, are making the most of any opportunity these past two years, and bravely bearing disappointments when another variant kiboshes their plans. Such versatility deserves a medal! Producers too have stepped up and adapted, providing welcome deliveries and flexible shopping hours, hired vans and in some cases buddying up. Many of these alliances and services will no doubt continue as the market is definitely there. There have been frustrating glitches in mail services sent to try us but until we have fathomed how to drop off half a sheep by drone we still rely on at-times shaky courier systems and battle on.
Thankfully now some wonderful experiences are once again available as you may have read in my Farming Scotland Magazine article just out in January. Among the many on offer in Goodfoodology is breadmaking with Wild Hearth, seaweed foraging with East Neuk Seaweed and cocktail shaking with Redcastle Gin, and ample opportunities to seek out new flavours for 2022.
There are also exceptional heritage flavours to enjoy. This year we have already feasted on Ark of Taste Native Bred Aberdeen Angus from Hardiesmill and Dunlouise, tucked into Native Shetland lamb from Uradale and moist Arbroath Smokies from Douglas Murray. Bosse is back to nurturing the walled garden at Ardross in readiness for growing more heritage bere, oat, rye and wheat, allowing seeds to multiply with hopefully more for tasting this coming year. I confess I am not digging but I accompany him, pick up some fabulous Ardross produce and decamp to the Mini where I’m working my way through editing our book, Meadows, hopefully published by Easter but that’s another story…