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"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" Michael Pollan.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Herbal Tick Repellent

Because I still have young children at home and suffered so terribly from Lyme disease, I took the time a few years ago to find a "green"tick repellent that had none of the side effects associated with DEET. I ended up with a lemon eucalyptus formulation that had been tested and found to be highly effective in a study from Sweden.The 'recipe' is pretty easy-the hardest thing is finding the lemon eucalyptus oil. It is available online and sometimes in natural food stores. You also need a clean spray-top bottle.


8 oz. boiled and then cooled water
20 drops Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Spritz on before every hike!
Avoid eyes because it stings like all get up and go.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Heavenly Herrings!


The oatmeal in this dish adds to its bulk and fiber as well as absorbing the rich oiliness of the herrings. Herrings were abundant along the New England Coast with many places still named Herring or Alewife Brook or Run. Their abundance must have seemed like a gift from Heaven! To remove backbone, press lightly down middle of back. Turn fish over and ease up the bone.


4 medium herrings, cleaned, heads and tails removed
1 egg and a dash of cream
sea salt and pepper
¼ cup Scottish or Irish oatmeal-fine grind
2 Tbsp. lard or oil
1 oz. butter

1. To remove the backbone of the fish, put on a board, cut side down, and press lightly with the fingers down the middle of the back. Turn the fish over and ease the backbone up with the fingers. Fold the fish in half. Season well, dip in egg mixed with cream and coat with the oatmeal.

2. Heat the lard and butter in a large frying pan, and fry the herrings for about 5 minutes on each side. Drain well before serving hot.


Maine is a state of stunning beauty: seascapes that take one’s breathe away, with snow capped peaks cradling its western border with New Hampshire. The short summer of big blue skies and warm sun almost makes up for a winter that sometimes feels like it won’t quit. It has always afforded an ample but hard won existence to those who call it home. Here in South Portland, Maine, the 19th century world that was created consisted of a stable agrarian landscape-market gardening occurred where the land was flat, fertile, and somewhat less of the pile of the rocks associated with a glacial moraine-otherwise it was grazing land for dairy cattle and the occasional sheep or two-dotted with tiny industry-centric villages. Fisherman and sardine canneries at the coast, the railroad further inland, and a rolling mill in Ligonia. In the pre-electric winter, ice cutting was a major and lucrative industry.

The layers of history that can be found here are flat out fascinating but often tinged with frustrating. Scotch- Irish research can be like trying to identify a gossamer layer of plaid. The link between the English West Country and Maine is fairly clear. The first English colonists in this area were associated with Robert Trelawney’s fishing station at Richmond’s Island- a small dot off the coast of Cape Elizabeth. It represented a dramatic shift in the placement of the English fishing fleet that occurred during the late 16th and early 17th century. The forerunner of this New World fishery had been an Icelandic fishery that was based in a set of seaports on England's north-eastern and Scottish coast. After English ships were banned from Icelandic waters by the Danish, the south-western seaports of England’s "West Country" rose in importance because they were ideally situated to exploit new fishing grounds that had been discovered on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1630, Robert Trelawney, a merchant ship owner and two other Plymouth based merchants obtained a “land grant” to establish a “plantation” on Richmond Island in the Gulf of Maine. This was the beginning of the English settlement that became Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland.

John Winter had been a Plymouth mariner and in 1633 was employed as plantation manager. Winter settled on Richmond Island and brought his wife and daughter from England in 1636. Trelawney initially employed around 60 men, all coming from the parishes neighboring the River Yealm in Devon, east of Plymouth. Many of these men signed three year fishing contracts and some stayed on afterwards. Learning as the plantation developed, in addition to fishing, this group built a farm on the mainland, grew crops, raised cattle on the Scarborough Marsh meadows and an abundance of pigs. They also began lumbering operations- exporting wooden staves for making barrels. They engaged in shipbuilding too, employing a number of house and ships’ carpenters, including Plymouth shipwright, Sampson Jope. Winter’s son-in-law, Robert Jordan, took over the supervision of the island fishery after Winter’s death and many of their descendants still live on land that was included in the original Trelawney grant. Trelawny died soon after the English Civil War and conflicts with Spain and Holland during the 1650s disrupted the fishery so deeply that the great English fishing fleet had declined by 1660.

There are many hints of interactions between Maine and Ireland and the Scottish borderlands. They are hard to ferret out but this is where a gossamer layer of plaid can be found, if you look for it. Robert Trewlawney was in the process of developing plantations in Ireland and Maine simultaneously in the 1620’s and 30’s and that there were many interactions and interconnections that are only now becoming visible from history.

Some hints:

There was an active English fishery in Ireland. English fishermen had been fishing for herring, cod, hake and ling in Irish waters from at least the 15th Century, if not before. In the 1530’s a huge fleet of Devon boats regularly returned with considerable quantities of Irish hake. In 1600, Devonians were still fishing the Irish coastal waters with as many as 2,000 English migrant workers fishing out of the Munster plantations on the south west coast of Ireland. These fishermen had a long tradition of fishing off the Icelandic coast, but during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, fishing in this area steadily declined for political and economic reasons. Iceland was a state of Denmark, which disputed the right of English fishermen to fish the Icelandic waters. This political fracas came at the same time as the English were finding the economics of fishing better in the waters off the coast of North America, where larger catches of fish could be found.

The town of Scarborough was given that name because, when seen from the oceanside, Black Point looks exactly like the coast found at Scarborough on the north eastern coast of England. This practical knowledge seems to come from the experience of seamen who had been involved in the North Sea and Icelandic fisheries- that then transferred to Maine. It seems highly likely that, when northern fishery opportunities declined, Scottish and borderland fisherman moved to where work could be found-the West Country ports of Devon and Dorset and the plantations in Ireland.

In the correspondence between Robert Trelawny and Richard Winter, reference is often made to Trelawny’s Irish endeavors. Goods and people seems to have flowed between the two plantations. Irish stockings and other woven goods and foodstuffs are sent to Richmond’s Island. People noted as either Irish or Scot, like David Thompson, mix and intermingle with the fisherman that are designated as West Country folk until you look at where they were born. The early settler Thomas Skilling seems to have been born in Ayr before emigrating to Maine with the fishery. Other Skilling relatives spent 80 years in County Down of Ulster before following Thomas to Maine in the 1718 migration.

Others, especially as time goes on and the Scotch Irish arrive in Maine in significant numbers, became marked as Puritans and supposedly English which is based solely on which town in New England they are born in, without any concern for where their parents came from! Many of those in the second and third generation migration from Massachusetts up into Maine actually had Scotch-Irish ancestors. And, even more confusing-a Knox inspired Presbyterian who was forced to became a Congregationalist by the tithe-tax system [or pay double taxes] also acquired the Puritan moniker along with a seat in the pew.

This pervades much historical research-I recently read an excellent article about a Scottish settlement in Vermont where the author noted that the wives that were married into the community had come from a certain town in Massachusetts and were creating a Creole and Anglified society. In fact, if she had added just one generation to the research she would have found that the Scots were marrying Scotch-Irish lasses and got along just fine due to cultural affinity and not creolization.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another good reason to buy local produce!

It seems that out Grandmother's had more nutritious foods to cook with-back in the day!I found this study about the declining nutrient content of our fruits and vegetables-a good reason to seek out quality produce from small local producers who care for their soils!

Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?
by Donald R. Davis,Biochemical Institute, The University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712

Three kinds of evidence point toward declines of some nutrients in fruits and vegetables available in the United States and the United Kingdom:
1) early studies of fertilization found inverse relationships between crop yield and mineral concentrations—the widely cited "dilution effect";
2) three recent studies of historical food composition data found apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals in groups of vegetables and perhaps fruits; one study also evaluated vitamins and protein with similar results;
and 3) recent side-by-side plantings of low- and high-yield cultivars of broccoli and grains found consistently negative correlations between yield and concentrations of minerals and protein, a newly recognized genetic dilution effect. Studies of historical food composition data are inherently limited, but the other methods can focus on single crops of any kind, can include any nutrient of interest, and can be carefully controlled.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What does a Scot do when they can't grow Oats? Move !

I have a strong interest in landscape studies-especially the relationship between people and the land through food production. This relationship is quite sensitive to climate-and small changes can create big results. I have been studying the peopling of Ulster and New England by lowland Scots and find it interesting that so much attention has been focused on politics and overpopulation as motivating factors for the great wave of migration that occurred after 1606 and so little attention has been focused on the weather. For example: Oats play an important role in the Scottish diet. In Southern Scotland, higher altitude arable land has commonly been used to grow oats, but there was extensive abandonment of these same lands between 1600 and 1700-often with the people associated with their cultivation leaving for Ulster and later, America. When scientists measure it, they have found that because oats require a certain amount of warmth or degree days to ripen and that for many years in the 17th century the cool weather led to dramatic and reoccurring crop failures. The viability of any farmland depends upon its ability to sustain a family from one harvest to the next and these failures caused upheaval in the farming system of the lowlands and led to land abandonment and migration, for the lucky. Many others starved to death. The years between 1693 and 1700 were called the ‘ill years of King William’s reign’ because of crop failures in 7 out of 8 years. More people in southern upland Scotland died of starvation than had killed during the great plague of 1348-50.
Starvation is a good motivation for migration. Its interesting that New England, also affected by the so called “little ice age” also experienced a terrible drought during the same decade-including the famous year 1692.

I have been preparing a statistical analysis of temperature, land abandonment, witchcraft accusations, and hopefully migration records for 17th century Scotland. Temperature, witchcraft accusations and land abandonment in southern Scotland were all highly related and statistically significant at a .05 marker level. In one correlation that I did, temperature was found to explain 38% of the rate of witchcraft accusations. This means that when the temperature went down, the level of witch accusations spiked up. The migration records have been difficult to put together-the estimates of total migration out of Southern Scotland vary from 20,000 to 200,000 out of a total [Highland and Lowland] population of about 800,000! Pretty impressive. It should be noted that both England and Ireland were in the process of absorbing an enormous tide of Huguenot migrants[more than 100,000 over time] from France at the very same time! It seems that King James endorsement of the Ulster plantations and English New World settlement was actually sound political policy in the face of a natural disaster and demographic and political pressures that makes our Katrina pale in comparison!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Trip to Boston

It being school vacation week, Cara [my beloved daughter] and I spent a day in Boston walking the Freedom Trail. We had a great time and I came back amazed that, even though I didn’t expect to find it- Scotch- Irish and Scottish History peeked itself into the tour. Back in 1775, the British Occupying Forces in Boston exhibited a special contempt for Presbyterians by turning their churches into horse stables and storing manure within-probably an insult of the byre house form that was traditionally prevalent in Scotland [and continues here in Maine and in New Hampshire as the unique connected Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn buildings that dot the landscape in rural areas that were settled by the Scotch-Irish.] We were surprised when we found early graves marked ‘Irish’ that displayed the RED HAND-one was of a Jackson family. We were also really impressed by the Irish Famine or Great Hunger Monument. The statues and markers were quite moving and there was an Irish tenor singing-it was a truly beautiful experience. It left me feeling all the more dedicated to erecting a similar statue of a Scotch-Irish family somewhere near the site where the first Scotch-Irish settlers in Maine spent that first cold winter!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


The Scotch-Irish became great pork lovers after they got to America!Lard was once a stable cooking ingredient-and should be again-for if the pig is reared properly the lard will be a powerhouse of vitamin D!

Your great-grandmother would have told you that homemade lard is the best and cheapest cooking fat. It has a mild flavor and a high smoke point. It's well suited for sauteing and frying foods, and it makes the best pie crusts. Rendering lard is the process by which fat tissue is turned into pure fat. I buy lard when it is available at my farmer's market, which is probably the best place to buy lard. I look for pigs that have are "free range", "field-raised" or "pasture-raised", they have been exposed to the sunlight which makes their lard rich in vitamin D. The "organic" label by itself simply means they have been fed organic feed; the pigs will often not have had access to the outdoors. I recommend avoiding conventional (non-organic) pork at all costs, because it's profoundly inhumane and highly polluting. The lard that you can buy at the supermarket is from these factory farmed animals.

If you don't have access to good quality local lard, you can render your own from quality pork fat-there are a few sources online-the Local Harvest website is a good place to start. Look for "leaf lard", which is the fat surrounding the kidneys. It has the highest smoke point and the lowest omega-6 content. It's also practically pure fat.

Caution:This does stink up the house a-bit!No wonder that it was done outside over an open fire back in the day!

Ingredients and Equipment:

* Lard
* Cheesecloth
* Baking dish
* Jars

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut off any pieces of meat clinging to the fat.

3. Cut fat into small (~1-inch) cubes.

4. Place them into a non-reactive baking dish and put then into the oven.

5. Over the next 2-3 hours, periodically mash the fat with a potato ricer or the back of a large spoon. The fat will gradually separate as a clear liquid.

6. When you are satisfied that you've separated out most of the fat, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to stand until it's cool enough to be safe, but warm enough to still be liquid.

7. Pour through a cheesecloth into jars.

8. If you plan on using the lard for crusts, cool it as quickly as possible by placing the jars in cold water so it will harden quickly.

Finished lard has a long shelf life but I keep mine handy in my fridge door.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Spring is coming slowly to Maine this year. It was 19 degrees yesterday morning and the ground was frozen solid. There hasn't been much mud yet but the Rhubarb is starting to appear in the local produce section of my local Hannaford so spring must be somewhere around the corner!

Rhubarb was known by the Romans as a food eaten by the people who inhabited their northern borders-they labeled these people as "barbarians" and the name stuck. Like the Rutabaga, Rheum x hybridum or Russian Rhubarb, is an edible plant that was probably introduced to Scotland by the Vikings. The various varieties of rhubarb plant known today probably all originated along the Asian Steppes, and the Russian Rhubarb that is popular for making pies grew wild along the banks of the River Volga at the time when the Vikings were using it as a trade route. It is first written down as being brought to England from the Volga region in 1573. It was first planted in Italy in 1608 and then in other parts of Europe about 20 to 30 years later. By 1778, Europeans were using rhubarb as a filling for tarts and pies, its popularity rising as sugar prices had descended.

The Chinese species of Rhubarb were grown in botanical gardens in Europe all through the Renaissance. The expense of transportion across Asia caused Rhubarb to be highly expensive in medieval Europe, where at one time it cost more per pound than opium. The merchant explorer, Marco Polo, was therefore interested in, and noted it when he found, an inexpensive source of the plant during his trip to China. Up until the 17th century, Rhubarb was considered a medicinal plant that was prescribed for everything from hangnails to cholera. This reputation remains to this day due to its Vitamin C and Vitamin K content. An old Maine recipe from 1790, for example, calls for rhubarb powder for the treatment of piles!

In America, Rhubarb started out as a plant grown in the herb gardens of the immigrants called the Scotch Irish, and would only become somewhat of a commercial crop later. Sometime between 1790 and 1800, rhubarb spread to the rest of the country from Maine and it became a popular crop. By 1822, rhubarb was available in produce markets throughout New England.

A later development in Rhubarb cultivation, the process of forcing it by growing it in the dark or by pale candlelight, created a thriving industry in England during the late nineteenth century. In modern times, most of the rhubarb in England comes from the northern borderlands of England. An area called The Rhubarb Triangle, consisting of Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford, is located in the northern county of Yorkshire. A European Union program to register and protect cultural foods from around Europe has recently recognized Rhubarb as a unique regional food of Yorkshire.

Rhubarb Crisp is a tasty 19th century recipe that combines Rhubarb with another Scotch Irish staple-Oats- for a special springtime treat.


• 3 cups diced rhubarb stalks
• 1 cup white sugar
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 sticks butter

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, white sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well and spread evenly into baking dish. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir well then cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb layer.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Great Reason to Buy Locally: My MOOMilk Experience

I am a great supporter of the BUY LOCAL movement in the United States. I believe that it is the only way back to a sustainable food supply system like the one our ancestors created and that we have lost. It takes some searching and a clear decision making process but in the end when you buy food that is produced nearby you have fine food and your money stays in the local economy. Another reason to buy local is that it is easier to create a direct link between you and the farmers and I have found that they truly value you as a customer. I live in Maine and had started to buy Maine's Own Organic Milk [also known as MOOMilk.] Last week I had a hard time buying it because the cartons in my local store were leaky-it was a disappointing experience. Because I belong to several local food groups on Facebook, I sent MOOMilk a message about the problem. I was so pleased with their response to correct the problem-and also because my opinion was treated as valued. I will be a steady customer from now on and highly recommend MOOMilk.It tastes great. If you live in Maine-give it a try and support your local dairy farmers!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Portland Press Herald Article

March 3
300 years of mmmmm ...
The first Scotch-Irish settlers landed nearly three centuries ago, and, as author Mary Drymon notes in a new book, many of the recipes they brought ashore are still well-loved in American kitchens today.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

If you like sour cream, pancakes, clam chowder and that Yankee staple known as the New England boiled dinner, you can thank the Scotch-Irish settlers who sailed into Casco Bay nearly 300 years ago.Oats, bonny clabber and stump were the triumvirate of Scotch-Irish foods. Oats were used in quick cakes, breads, hot cereal, and as a thickener for soups and stews.

Mary Drymon’s new book, “Scotch-Irish Foodways in America,” includes many recipes that will be familiar and others . . . not so much.

So says Mary Drymon, a South Portland historian and museum educator who is trying to enlighten Mainers about the 2018 anniversary of the immigration through a new book, “Scotch-Irish Foodways in America: Recipes from History.”

The book includes lots of traditional Scotch-Irish recipes that Drymon has personally tested at least three times – on a wood stove, a modern stove and over an open hearth – to be sure they are both authentic and edible.

There are eats in the book that you are sure to recognize, and others that you surely won’t.

If you were living in the Maine wilderness in the 18th century, what would you rather have eaten: Mackerel marinated in cider vinegar, black tea and spices? How about herrings in oatmeal? Or maybe you’d subsist on stump, which is a hearty, thick puree of potatoes, rutabagas and carrots.

Not all of the recipes are so, um, rustic. There’s also Scotch-Irish versions of New England clam chowder and shepherd’s pie, and a bacon and squash soup that sounds like a delicious way to ward off a winter chill. Drymon includes recipes for rosehip and blackberry wines, and a rhubarb custard. The Scotch-Irish, it turns out, are the ones who brought rhubarb to America.

Drymon, who is working on her doctorate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, got interested in Scotch-Irish cooking because of her own Scotch-Irish ancestry and her food history work at various museums. She finds it ironic that there were fewer than 300 Pilgrims who landed on American shores “and we know the whole Pilgrim story” but not much at all about the Scotch-Irish immigrants who started coming to New England in 1718.

“There were 200,000 of them that came over,” Drymon said. “It’s a huge group that emigrated by the American Revolution.”

Historical records are unclear about where the Scotch-Irish landed in Maine. Some sources say they came ashore in the Willard Beach area of South Portland, while others say the landing spot was “across from Clark’s Point,” Drymon said.

“They’re not exactly sure where they spent that first winter,” she said. “The Scotch-Irish were invited to New England by Cotton Mather, but when they got here what they wanted them to do was move up to Maine so that they could be a buffer between the native Americans and Massachusetts. They shipped them up to Casco Bay with basically nothing, and very little provisions.”

Documents from Richmond Island link the Scotch-Irish with one of their staple foods, bonny clabber, a cultured dairy food made from raw milk that is the ancestor of modern products such as cottage cheese, cream cheese and sour cream.

And Drymon found lots of history about Scotch-Irish immigrants sharing potatoes with their English neighbors, who didn’t understand at first that the edible part grows under ground.

The Scotch-Irish likely added the potatoes to clam chowder, Drymon said. Their oat cakes evolved into our pancakes, their Scotch pies into modern pot pies. They preferred boiling over baking, and so helped develop the traditional New England boiled dinner.

Drymon’s book is called “Scotch-Irish Foodways in America,” and so it also covers dishes still made by many southern grandmothers – sawmill gravy, cornbread stuffing, hush puppies, corn pone.

If these foods are Scotch-Irish as well, why aren’t we eating things like grits and red-eye gravy here in Maine?

It’s partly due to available ingredients; you use what the landscape provides. But it’s also because the Maine immigrants were more integrated with other settlers here in New England, Drymon said, while the Scotch-Irish who settled in the south tended to get marginalized, and so were able to hang on to more of their traditional foodways.

“The Scotch-Irish in the south got kind of filtered out to the back country, and they were more ethnically themselves, separate from the rest of us,” Drymon said. “In New England, their culture had to be sort of dampened down by the Puritans that they had to live with. It changed them. And then once they won the Civil War, there was a real disconnect between the northern and southern branches, I think.”

Drymon has started something she calls the “1718 Project” that she hopes will teach Mainers more about the history of their Scotch-Irish ancestors. She envisions museum programs and exhibits on the Scotch-Irish culture, including food, and is looking for people and organizations to contribute ideas and be partners in the effort.

One of Drymon’s own ideas came from statues she’s seen in northern Ireland and Highland Scotland dedicated to the Scotch-Irish. The statue in Ireland shows a family about to embark on their long journey to America.

Drymon would like to see the conclusion of their journey represented by a statue here.

“I think it would be nice to have that family arriving here in Maine,” she said.

Drymon swears by this old Scotch-Irish venison recipe, which she says is so good even her children will eat it. It’s ideal for Maine hunters who have venison in their freezers.


Serves 4

1 1/2 pound shoulder of venison, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 ounces all-purpose flour

Sea salt and pepper

1 ounce butter

2 medium onions, skinned and chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1 cup beef stock

1/2 cup rough hard cider (scrumpy) or local red wine

1 palmful of tied seasonal herbs, tied in a bundle

2 teaspoons vinegar

1. Toss the venison in the flour, sea salt and pepper, shaking off any excess. Reserve flour mixture. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the meat for about 10 minutes until well browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer into an ovenproof casserole that has a heatproof lid.

2. Fry the vegetables in the fat remaining in the frying pan until golden. Drain well and add to the meat in the casserole. Stir the rest of the flour mixture into the butter in the pan and cook gently, stirring, until brown. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually stir in the stock and cider or wine. Bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened.

3. Pour this sauce over the venison and season to taste, then add the herb bundle and the vinegar.

4. Cover the casserole and bake in oven at 325 degrees, or in a Dutch oven in the coals for about two hours, until the meat is fork tender. Remove herb bundle. Serve with mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage.


Makes 8

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup buttermilk

Egg wash:

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the rolled oats. Mix until combined. Stir in the buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together.

3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough a few times, then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut this circle into eight sections like a pie. Place the scones on a greased baking sheet. Mix egg and milk to make an egg wash and brush the tops of the scones with this mixture.

4. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

MARY DRYMON’S book, “Scotch Irish Foodways in America: Recipes from History,” is available through and
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Friday, March 5, 2010


When I wrote my book, “Scotch-Irish Foodways in America,” I made a very conscious decision early on to use the term Scotch-Irish and not Scots-Irish.

The Scotch-Irish are the descendants of a mixed group of mainly Scottish and English Borderland tenant farmers who relocated to Ireland during the 17th century Plantation of Ulster period- where they met and mixed some more with hired Highland Scot mercenaries, Huguenots, and a even a few stray Irish natives. After a little over 100 years, they then moved on to America, where many of them interacted and intermarried with other ethnic groups-the German Protestant settlers in Pennsylvania and the English West Country fisherfolk in New England.

From around the early 19th century, the terms Scots or Scottish did become the preferred usage among educated Scottish people for themselves, Scotch being regarded as an “anglicized affectation.” In modern usage in Scotland, "Scotch" is not used for ethnic identity but as a descriptive term for something [eg. Scotch Whisky]; when applied to a person it has “patronizing and faintly offensive connotations ...". To be politically correct, Scotland, Scots, and Scottish culture should not be described as Scotch.

While many of us would love to be back in that starkly beautiful country [Northern
Ireland is beautiful too!]we are not. In America, the term Scotch-Irish has been used as a non-offensive ethnic descriptive for this mixed group for a very long time. While this Americanism doesn't abide by the rules of properness more recently established in Scotland, a land that we left hundreds of years ago, it has been in use here since the 1700s and is what we called ourselves. The term "Scots-Irish” seems to have appeared very recently. I can not find it in any historical records-although early on members of this group were often, and confusingly, called simply the Irish in early New England. The fact that they are confused with Papists is the subject of some early 18th century umbrage that got written down. The usage "Scots-Irish" may be regarded as a well-intended effort to accommodate modern Scottish preferences that is without historical precedent, an attempt to retrospectively apply 21st century feelings to the words of 18th century people.
As a historian, it was difficult for me to do so. Hence the use of Scotch-Irish.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary,the term Scotch-Irish is recorded as being from 1744, while the term Scots-Irish is not recorded until 1972. There was historically an area of York County in Maine called Scotland, but it was settled earlier on by released Highland Scottish prisoners who had been sent to Maine after losing the Battle of Dunbar to Cromwell’s Army and not the Scotch Irish.

Scotch-Irish evidence:

 An affidavit of William Patent, dated March 15, 1689, in a case against a Mr. Matthew Scarbrough in Somerset County, Maryland, quotes Mr. Patent as saying he was told by Scarbrough that " was no more sin to kill me then to kill a dogg, or any Scotch Irish dogg..."

 A report in June 1695 by Sir Thomas Laurence, Secretary of Maryland, that "In the two counties of Dorchester and Somerset, where the Scotch-Irish are numerous, they clothe themselves by their linen and woolen manufactures."

 In September 1723, Rev. George Ross, Rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle, Delaware, wrote "They call themselves Scotch-Irish,...and the bitterest railers against the church that ever trod upon American ground."

 Another comment from 1723 that "...great numbers of Irish (who usually call themselves Scotch-Irish) have transplanted themselves and their families from the north of Ireland."

 During the 1740s, a Marylander was accused of having murdered the sheriff of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after calling the sheriff and his assistants "damned Scotch-Irish sons of bitches."

Oxford English Dictionary citations are:
 From 1744 in the Collections of the Massachuseets Historical Society: 'The inhabitants [of Lancaster, Pa.] are chiefly High-Dutch, Scotch-Irish, some few English families, and unbelieving Israelites."

 From 1789: "[The Irish of Pennsylvania] have sometimes been called Scotch-Irish, to denote their double descent."

 In the 1876 BANCROFT History of the U.S.,page 333: "But its convenient proximity to the border counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia had been observed by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and other bold and industrious men."

 The February, 1883 edition of Harper's Magazine: "The so-called Scotch-Irish are the descendants of the Englishmen and Lowland Scotch who began to move over to Ulster in 1611."

And yes, potatoes are mentioned in the historical records in association with the Scotch Irish in New England from the 1720’s onward. Bonny Clabber is noted even earlier, in the records from the Richmond Island fishing outpost in Maine, as is the use of oats, and getting sick of clams in the winter when there was little else to eat.

But no matter what name you call these people by, one thing stands out: they are truly a remarkable group of Americans! And they brought with them and made some great tasting food!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Portland Press Herald Article about "Scotch-Irish Foodways in America"

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Give Community Supported Agriculture A TRY!

The trees were full of stuck-on snow this morning-again! It makes me long for spring and the early fresh foods that will become available soon. Although I normally forgo them,I'm now ready for my first local radish of the year!
One way to participate in the local food scene is to buy into it:by investing upfront in a share of the season's produce from a nearby farm. Here in Maine, a share typically costs between $275 and $400 for a farmer's market season and you get a box full of whatever ripens that week all summer long. Alternatively you get a weekly voucher to pick up produce at the local farmer's market.Either way both you, the consumer, and your local farmer benefit. The farmer gets a bit of up front money to purchase seeds and necessities and the consumer is guaranteed a share of whatever local fresh veg is produced that summer. You will also find yourself getting more attuned to weather forecasts-as they definitely will effect your investment!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"
Michael Pollan

Monday, January 25, 2010


A Man's a Man for A' That
is my favorite Burns poem so I'm posting it!

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

About this song

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1795.One of Burns' greatest hits, A Man's a Man for A' That is a song that promotes both Burns' political and moral sensibilities. Published anonymously in The Glasgow Magazine for fear of recriminations or even arrest, it is thought the song is proof of Burns' support for the Revolution in France, and is often used as evidence of Burns holding 'socialist' ideals.What seems beyond doubt is that Burns was influenced by Thomas Paine's The Right's of Man, both of them dealing with idea of liberty, equality and universal human rights. With these themes to the fore it is interesting, and hopefully prophetic, that this was the song chosen to be sung at the opening of the first devolved Scottish Parliament

Interesting News Article Just in time for Burns Night

Banned Scottish Dish Allowed Back in US

Updated: Monday, 25 Jan 2010, 2:48 PM EST
Published : Monday, 25 Jan 2010, 2:44 PM EST


(MYFOX NATIONAL) – After being banned for 21 years, haggis will soon be allowed back into the United States.

According to Wikipedia haggis is a Scottish specialty dish that contains sheep's offal (heart, liver and lungs,) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to lift restrictions on the import of the dish, according to Reuters .

The news comes as Scots and fans of Robert Burns gather to toast the famous poet's life. Burns night , which is celebrated on Jan. 25, usually includes a toast of whiskey and a festive dinner with haggis as the main dish, presented with bagpipe fanfare and saluted with Burns poem "The Address To A Haggis."

U.S. authorities prohibited haggis over food safety fears that its main ingredient, sheep's lungs, could potentially be lethal.

The Guardian reported that during the ban some Scots would smuggle into the U.S. a haggis for their relatives. And butchers in the U.S. have tried to make their own versions of the pudding without using the vital ingredient: sheep.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Do you use a spurtle?

I received a spurtle for Christmas this year and must admit-I use it all the time. I make real oatmeal a few time a week and somehow feel like I am connecting with women from long ago when I stir my pot with a stout stick! The spurtle (or "spirtle") is a Scots kitchen tool that dates from at least the fifteenth century. It evolved from a flat, wooden, spatula-like utensil that was used for flipping oatcakes on a hot cookstone.

Over time, the implement changed shape and began being used specifically for stirring oatmeal and soups. The rod-like shape is designed for constant stirring which prevents the porridge from becoming lumpy.It looks like a fat wooden dowel, often with a contoured thistle shaped end to give the user a better grip. It is in common use throughout most of Scotland.

The Annual World Porridge Cooking contest is held in Scotland every years. Cooks compete for the "Golden Spurtle". This contest was won last year by a cook using Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats-readily available in the natural foods section of most grocery stores.It takes about 20 minutes to cook but the tasty result is well worth the effort

Oats For Your Health

Oatcakes are one of the oldest of all Celtic foods. Traditionally, they were cooked over the fire on a griddle, then hung on a hardening stand to dry and harden. Oats were soaked in the water overnight and a batch was reheated again the following day. Traditionally, oat porridge was served with a pinch of salt. Porridge was a mainstay in Scotland. Various forms of oatmeal can be found in many grocery stores and whole food markets in America. The most common form is rolled oats. Scottish oatmeal or Irish oatmeal is also available. Steel cut oats, which are also called pinhead oats, require soaking and considerable preparation for use. In America the Scotch- Irish brought their love of oats with them and oatmeal eventually became a commercially produced commodity. Quaker Oats was registered as the first trademarked breakfast cereal in 1877. The company’s trademark was registered with the U.S. Patent Office as "a figure of a man in 'Quaker garb,'" selected as a symbol of good quality and honest value.


For each serving use:
1 cup water
1/3 cup Scottish or Irish oatmeal
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Bring water to a boil, then add salt. Add oatmeal slowly to boiling water while stirring constantly. [Traditionally a special wooden stick, called a spurtle is used.]

2. Half cover pot, turn heat to low. Stir occasionally until porridge thickens at 30 minutes. Add more salt if you wish. Usually eaten with cream or milk and sugar to taste.

2 cups Scottish or Irish oatmeal
1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Mix oatmeal with flour, baking soda and salt. Make a hole in the mixture.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons water, add butter, bring mixture to a boil and then pour into the hole in the flour mixture. Mix together quickly. Knead lightly to create a stiff dough.
3. Roll out on floured surface. Cut into 3” rounds.
4. Cook both sides on heated griddle or bake on a lightly greased tray at 350 ยบ F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 15 oatcakes.