Chapter 2  

The Necessity of a Food Surplus
It is necessary to outline briefly the evolution of the bearing which food availability has on the progression from early man who ate berries to modern man who can produce synthetic ones if he so wishes. Man’s first food problem was making food more available to him, while his present one concerns a more even distribution. Our interest here, however, is the various stages through which man has gone before reaching ‘civilization’.
Until man solved his ‘first food problem’ there could be no society or culture. This problem was not so much the day-to-day one of the next meal – with small numbers of men chasing a probably disproportionately large supply of animals and this supported by a good supply of fruit, nuts and berries – there was no shortage of food. Neither was his ‘first food problem’ geared to the edibility of meat before the use of fire. Man’s first food problem was the accumulation of a surplus from which he could draw in times of special need or temporary lack of supply. The security of a surplus of food has significance in terms of a surplus of time to experiment and improve the edibility of available food and to look around the less immediate environment to see what it had to offer. Using the Indian myth as a basis for statements Levi-Strauss,1comments that “the cooking of meat and the cultivation of food plants as simultaneous starting points, leads, in the first instance, to the achievement of culture, and in the second instance, to the achievement of society; …”. Bates would concur: “The adoption of the carnivorous habit was probably one of the major steps in human evolution, especially since hunting, by such a feeble creature as man, must have at the same time involved tool-using and group co-operation, providing a base for man’s social evolution.” 2 Levi-Strauss and Bates, however did not take into account the basic tenet of food surplus as being ‘reserve stock’ which leans towards the long accepted Marxian notion that the work of one man can maintain the lives of himself and several others.
Goody, however, placed greater emphasis upon agriculture: “For it was the move from extensive shifting cultivation by means of the hoe to the intensive forms of farming linked with irrigation and the plough that provided the possibility of large-scale surplus and laid the socio-economic foundation for a cultural hierarchy”3. Agriculture, per se, is of sufficient importance to deserve separate treatment which we will come to in Chapter Four. Neither the hoe nor the plough, however, were much use in defending any agricultural and/or territorial rights and thus the sword was more prominent in the emerging “cultural hierarchy” based upon the feudal system created to protect and perpetuate various forms of surplus. We look at some issues connected with this in Chapter Three.
The Civilising Process
“The mere smell of cooking can evoke a whole civilisation” 4
So far, the importance of agriculture has been indicated in relation to the general evolution of man and the emergence of “cultural hierarchy” as Goody put it. At our end of that evolution is civilization which we take for granted. Herbert5 calls it “a social theory” which was “the subject of much learned debate in its hey day” when “to civilize” was a legal term concerned with transferring a case from a criminal to a civil court. “But the new substantive, with the ‘ization’ at its conclusion suggesting a forward-driving historical process, was at the time, a glamorous neologism.”6  With a surfeit of material to draw upon it is appropriate to seek a statement which tells us what is is. To Braudel it is “ … the ancient settlement of a certain section of mankind in a certain place …”7 More specific to our interest here Elias8 saw that “It can refer to … the manner in which men and women live together … or to the way in which food is prepared.”
But Elias was more concerned for the action of civilizing; “What must be pointed out here is the simple fact that even in civilized society no human being comes into the world civilized, and that the individual civilizing process that he compulsorily undergoes is a function of the social civilizing process.”9   Elias is not the only one to have made such comment: “ … every individual is born into a culture that existed prior to his birth. This culture seizes upon him at birth and as he grows and matures, equips him with language, customs, beliefs, instruments etc. In short, it is culture that provides him with the form and content of his behaviour as a human being.”10 Having afforded a brief discussion on the nature of civilization, ‘culture’ presents too much of a challenge to be debated so quickly. Much has been written on culture, and T.S. Eliot “observed with growing anxiety the career of this word … during the last six or seven years”11 and added that “its important role is, of course, doubled by the word civilisation”. He did not differentiate between the two words as it would only produce an artificial distinction. In a similar way it must be said that between early and modern man, in terms of the evolution of culture, the stages are complex and defy glossing over.
We can reflect upon three stages proposed by Elias: courtesy, civility and civilization. ‘Courtesy’ is concerned with life at the medieval court, ‘civility’ implied the life in the French court of the later Louis(s) and civilization’, of course, is taken to mean our present mode of living. Elias begins “A Review of the Curve Marking the Civilization of Eating Habits”. The debate comes to a focus: “The more rapid movement begins later here, earlier there, and everywhere one finds slight preparatory shifts. Nevertheless, the overall shape of the curve is everywhere broadly the same: first the medieval phase, with certain climax in the flowering of knightly-courtly society, marked by eating with hands. Then a phase of relatively rapid movement and change, embracing roughly the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, in which the compulsions to elaborate eating behaviour press constantly in one direction, toward a new standard of table manners.” 12
The “new standard” is civility, the important stage before what we accept as modern civilization. Its code relating to the social graces of the table such as the use of cutlery and napkins is used to show the progression from one stage to another.
At the centre of the developing agricultural system were those who consumed the food surplus and who had rights relating to the mobilization of the land-force as an army when the need arose. The centre, or court was where society was being developed and the standards set there spread to the provinces. As we will soon come to realise, the standards of table manners in those times would invoke horror and disgust in many today. While the upper classes may have been developing new norms and criteria for social acceptance and acquiring the utensils and implements to be used in specific ways many of their actions would be unacceptable in the modern setting. “… a London will of 1424/25 lists ‘Wassyng-towels, bothe for mete and after’. It was the custom to wash hands at the beginning and end of a meal, but whereas the first occasion was a polite formality, the second was a necessity”.13Elias uses Erasmus to make the point about changing standards and levels of embarrassment. “One ought to wash one’s hands before a meal, says Erasmus. But there is as yet no soap for this purpose. Usually the guest holds out his hands, and a page pours water over them … The fingers become greasy. ‘Digitos unctos vel ore praelingers vel ad tunicam extergere … incivile est,’ says Erasmus. It is not polite to lick them or wipe them on one’s coat. Often you offer others your glass, or all drink from a communal tankard. Erasmus admonishes: ‘ wipe your mouth beforehand.’ You may want to offer someone you like some of the meat you are eating. ‘Refrain from that’, says Erasmus, ‘it is not very decorous to offer something half-eaten to another’.” 14
The feeling of revulsion resulting upon such a quotation is a measure of our own level of civilization and we have gone as far as we need to with quotations of the kind given. Elias15 gives many which are far worse and fortunately we do not need them to illustrate anything in particular here. The point which Elias makes is that at any specific time there will exist standards of behaviour as beacons of social control, table behaviours being the most commonly cited.
To keep the discussion of courtesy to a minimum we can give here the quotation which Elias takes from the Zedler Universal Lexicon of 1736: “Courtesy undoubtedly gets its name from the court and court life. The courts of great lords are a theater where everyone wants to make his fortune. This can only be done by winning the favour of the prince and the most important people of the court.” The basic principles of etiquette were being established. White put it rather well; “By means of these definitions, prescriptions, and prohibitions, each individual is made to conform to his class and the classes are thereby kept intact.”16 In order to keep on the right side of the king it was obviously tactful to conform to the standards of behaviour laid down in his court. We take up that issue in terms of Scotland when the alternative was to ‘remove’ MacBeth.
In the ‘civility’ stage etiquette was very much in the stage of formulation. “When the plate is dirty you should ask for another; it would be revoltingly gross to clean spoon, fork, or knife with the fingers.”17 On page 53, Elias discusses the way in which this concept of civilitè came to be accepted in Western society. He relates it to the formation of manners and regards it as “… an expression and symbol of a social formation …”18. Ross, however, was more specific when he remarked that “Nothing is more certain than that manners, far from growing up spontaneously, early get the social sanction behind them, and are forced into vogue. Propriety gets codified as soon as morality.”19 Veblen took up the manifestations of manners and noted that they “… are in part an elaboration of gesture, and in part they are symbolic and conventionalised survivals representing former acts of dominance or of personal service or of personal contact. In large part they are an expression of the relation of status – a symbolic pantomime of mastering on the one hand and of subservience on the other.”20 The pantomime was probably in greatest evidence in the bowing and gross hand-flourishing in the final years of the French court and the ‘Dandy Period’ in England
“The specific stamp and function …” of civility was achieved in the middle of the sixteenth century. Elias informs us that “Its individual starting point can be exactly determined.” The date given is 1530, when Erasmus’ De civilitate morum puerilium (On civility in children) was published. “It contains simple thoughts delivered with great seriousness, yet at the same time with much mockery and irony, in clear, polished language and with enviable precision.”21 Elias asserts that “… the actual change in the behavior of the upper classes, the development of the models of behavior which will henceforth be called ‘civilized’, takes place – at least so far as it is visible in the areas discussed here – in the middle phase.” (ie civility)22 Remembering that we are concerned with three stages – courtesy, civility and civilization, “They indicate which society is speaking and being addressed at a given time.”23 As society progresses the phase which has just been left is soon forgotten but it has left its mark.
Further to any elaboration of the meaning of civilization previously given we can move on quickly to the change in “sense of self”. Herbert talks of the “sense-of-self” within a “repertoire of roles” 24   And, somehow, that “sense-of-self” has changed from generation to generation. “… the manner in which the individual behaves and feels slowly changes. This change is in the direction of a gradual civilization but only historical experience makes clearer what this word actually means.”25 That “historical experience” can be assessed on the basis of looking at the progression in terms of table artefacts in use and any detail relating to that use to indicate levels of table manners.
 “Nothing in table manners is self-evident or the product, as it were, of a ‘natural’ feeling of delicacy. The spoon, fork, and napkin are not invented by individuals as technical implements with obvious purposes and clear directions for use. Over centuries, in direct social intercourse and use, their functions are gradually defined, their forms sought and consolidated. Each custom in the changing ritual, however minute, establishes itself infinitely slowly, even forms of behavior that to us seem quite elementary or simply ‘reasonable’, such as the custom of taking liquid only with the spoon. Every movement of the hand – for example, the way in which one holds and moves knife, spoon or fork – is standardized only step by step.” 26
Elias however was concerned with the very gradual change from one form of behaviour to another. Here we do not go too deeply as we are interested in the stages rather than the minutae. “A table laid in the modern way and our present table manners are the result of many details that custom has imposed slowly, one by one, and in ways that vary according to region.” 27
Variations through time can be given to indicate the detail that has changed at various stages. In the medieval stage, the trencher was the forerunner of the plate.28 The spoon and knife did not become an everyday item until the sixteenth century.29 Thomas Coryate introduced the fork around 1600.30 Napkins came into use in the twelfth century31, but combined use as a
handkerchief prevailed in Scotland up to 172032.   The initial assertion at the start of Chapter 1 that Scotland was a century behind Europe in such matters is just an average position. In this case, Scotland was centuries behind Europe.
Culture and Cookery
The distinction between those for whom food is enjoyment and others who perceive it only as a necessity was well drawn by Molière. “Il faut manger pour vivre et non pas vivre pour manger (one should live to eat not eat to live). Such distinction helps to highlight the position of food within a culture. Feret remarks: “To those who eat to live, cooking is nothing more than a habit or a daily chore imposed by necessity and reinforced by custom. Humankind must eat and the usual manner of preparing food is common everyday knowledge in all societies. Ways of treating food to make it more palatable have been and continue to be handed down from generation to generation, principally as an oral rather than a written tradition. For this reason, for many cultures, there is comparatively little in written form to tell us specifically how food was prepared or served in times past; there is also little to tell us how specific dishes evolved into their present forms.
“When there is a certain amount of wealth this attitude toward cooking and dining changes. To those who can afford to live to eat, the preparation of food may no longer be an attempt at making a necessity more palatable; rather, cooking may become a delightful amusement or even an absorbing science.”33
It is an underlying premise of the present work that Scotland never reached the stage of being able to “live to eat” and despite the numerous and exciting modern cookery books detailing its dishes, many of these have been almost completely changed in modernising them.34 It has already been asserted that France left the wrong legacy (e.g. Ashet of cold meats as will be discussed in the ‘Auld Alliance’) which is surprising considering the ‘Molierism’ which underpins its attitude to food. T.S. Eliot might have seen it as a matter affecting the whole of Britain. “If we take culture seriously, we see that a people does not need merely enough to eat (though even that is more than we seem able to ensure) but a proper and particular cuisine: one symptom of the decline in Britain is indifference to the art of preparing food.”35
There are several points arising from what Feret has put forward. “ … the usual manner of preparing food is common everyday knowledge in all societies” and is suggested in Elias’ socio-genesis where one accepts the cultural framework into which one is born. We can propose a ‘gastro-genesis’ taking us beyond “preparing food” to summarise the culinary / dietary system which we accept as normal.   The oral-written dichotomy relating to the tradition of passing on detail of “ways of treating food to make it more palatable” relates to what will be assessed in Chapter Five.
On the matter of Feret’s comment concerning the evolution of dishes we need to maintain a specific research template when covering the history of Scottish dishes. In order to conclude anything relating to reasons for any differences in the qualitative diet in Scotland compared, say, to England we will need a little more than mere statistics concerning firlots of oats consumed in the year 1805, or whenever, to guide us. In examining the evolution of Scottish diet it would be useful to bear in mind Grivetti and Pangborn’s “cultural perceptions”. Their remark36 “… diets develop in accord with cultural perceptions. Individuals and societies exploit those food resources perceived as offering satisfaction of social needs.” is apt. We 
will see that “culture shapes the diet.”37
A good coverage of the basic points made so far will enable us to be reasonably concise in looking at the Scottish table in terms of the words used. It is not essential that the stages courtesy and civility  orcivility and civilization are seen as being mutually exclusive any more than Elias purported them to be.
Before ‘Courtesy’
“Civilization has hitherto consisted in the diffusion and dilution of habits arising in privileged centres. It has not sprung from the people. It has arisen in their midst by a variation from them and it has afterwards imposed itself on them from above.”38
This Scottish perception of civilization is parallel to that of Elias in terms of social control. MacDiarmid wrote these line is Stony Limits and Other Poems, (his “middle period, the first phase of his English writing” when “seeking desperately for a tradition in which to work” – according to Daiches.39   It is an unwitting admission to the machinery of social control and more than likely an attack upon “all the touts, toadies and lickspittles of the English Ascendancy …”
It is appropriate to include those references which assert a bold Anglicization of the Scottish gastronomic heritage but without being biased in the selection. Those other Celts, however, took a stronger stand and Welsh, for example, is a significant means of communication there especially compared with Gaelic in Scotland. Scotland, like England, suffered a French invasion and the results show themselves in different ways. England and Scotland obtained euphemisms for its meat (mutton versus sheep), and Scotland obtained a more linguistically based heritage with gigots (legs of lamb) and adapted French words (assiettes became ashets for example). We will look at the linguistic heritage afforded by the Auld Alliance in due course: there is a more urgent job to do at present which is to trace the development of Scottish eating and drinking through time: the imposition of civilization from above, as MacDiarmid put it, is all apparent. Also apparent is the influence of England.
Mackinnon40 describes life in Scotland in what we might call the ‘pre-courtesy’ stage during the third and fourth centuries AD: “They ground the corn which they reaped from the surrounding lands in stone querns or handmills. They reared the goat, the sheep, the ox, the pig, the dog and the horse, hunted the deer, and fished the bays and lochs. The presence of moulds and crucibles shows that they made their own ornaments and articles of domestic use such as … drinking cups etc. The woman … ground the grain …” Mention of the pig is interesting and some considerable amount of space is devoted to the alleged aversion to pork later on. Our interest at this stage is more concerned with the rise of the standard of living and diet using mention of foodstuffs and table artefacts etc, as a measure of the progress being made. We will presume that life proceeded in a similar style until the middle of the eleventh century and the assassination of Macbeth by Malcolm Canmore.
Chivalry before Courtesy
“In the reign of Malcolm III began a series of changes which touched every side of the national life and after a century left Scotland with a new language, a new race of rulers, new manners, and new modes of worship. For these changes the King may have been in some degree responsible. The fourteen years he had spent at the court of Edward the Confessor must have taught him the English language and may have removed some of his Celtic intolerance of English customs.” From Mackie’s account41 we can discern several things. English language, the increasing adoption of English customs and Malcolm’s influence generally. It is overstating it somewhat, at least for our study of early Scottish gastronomy, to rely on “the King may have been responsible” as his reluctant bride Margaret can claim the credit for social if not gastronomic progress. Mackie describes the flight of “Edgar Atheling, the nephew of Edward the Confessor, with his mother, and his two sisters, Margaret and Christina.” Margaret had wanted to become a nun and it was two years before she married Malcolm. In the security of her position as Queen Margaret “… She waged war against the old free and easy customs of the Scottish court. The King was now surrounded by a brilliant retinue; his palace was hung with variously coloured cloths and shone with gold and silver; the dishes on the royal table were now all of gold and silver, or at least gilt.”42 Margaret almost certainly waged war on courtly life (holding back development of the contents of those gold and silver dishes) as depicted by Leslie:
“In the lyfe and maneris of the auld scottis schyned not that kind of brauitie [grandeur] quhilke [which] in their dayes we see all nationnis craue [crave]. For this was thair maner of leiving, … , that nathir was thay seine diligate [delicate] in thair table nor arnat in thair cleithing … draue [draw] nocht [did not fritter away their life] ouer thair age in curious cheir, and thair lyfe in daintie and diligat disches, or in taisting fyne wines, and the sueitter [more undiluted drink] drinkes as is the commoune custome … over al.” 43
The effect of St. Margaret as she later became is not generally seen as an English influence on the history of Scotland at that time but Machie seems quite convinced: “the next half-century, during which three sons of Margaret reigned in succession, witnessed the completion of the change which Margaret had begun.” 44
Lamb would seem to agree in principle with the general progress being made at this time: “The early Middle Ages were certainly a period of high civilization, with the King (Malcolm III), from his seat in Dunfermline, offering sanctuary from 1067 onward to Anglo-Saxon exiles from England who settled in towns and villages all over Scotland … The next 200 years came to be regarded afterwards as a golden age in that country, with steadily increasing prosperity …”45 Bearing in mind that Lamb is a climatologist, one should neither take his “next 200 years” nor “civilization” too literally. But the influences of English Culture was more complicated than offering sanctuary as Hechter suggests in terms of those living in the south of Scotland: “The cultural origins of the lowland Scots are shrouded in obscurity. One plausible hypothesis is that late in the tenth or early in the eleventh centuries, English lands between the Forth and the Tweed, then known as Lothian, became part of the Scottish Kingdom. They had once been part of the northernmost English principality of Northumbria, thoroughly English, and quite distinct from the Celtic and Norse amalgams of Northern Scotland.”46
But that which was “thoroughly English” became affected by the Norman invasion. Barrow described “Scotland, 1100 – 1488” and noted three themes “between the death of Malcolm Canmore III and Saint Margaret in 1093 and the accession of James IV in 1488.” (1097 – 1286).47 The first was the achievement of unity, the second was the onslaught of the three English Edwards (1296 – 1357) and the third was when “the harsh simplicities of the Norman era yielded to the Auld Alliance and to the age of chivalry …” (1358 – 1488). Our concern is less for the onslaught of English Kings and more for the change from one stage of the civilizing process to another. Barrow thought that the age of chivalry extended from 1358 – 1488. During that time there was progress made in what happened at the table and Margaret had perhaps, created the first demands which Leslie said did not exist for “dainty and liligat dishes or … fyne wines”. The advent of the age of chivalry is perhaps described by Mackenzie. A limiting factor in the historical information is that the focus is often upon those in power while we have a wide interest which also encompasses “the black-bearded men at arms”. By way of illustration, as it were, Mackenzie discusses what went on in the castle of the twelfth century:
         “Here he dwelt, with his family and retainers in rude magnificence. Daily, in the great stone hall, the board was spread for the household, the lord himself sitting at the head of the long oaken table, while the steam of boiled meat, or roast and of stew, obscured the vaulted roof of the sombre hall, and the black-bearded men of arms passed round the pitcher of mighty ale. Under the table the dogs growled and fought for the bones and offal of the feast, among the rushes or straw with which the floor was thickly covered. Carpets were not used for the floors but for table covers.”48
He is, however, reasonable and gives us much information about the fare of the lesser individuals as can be seen later in his discussion. No doubt a similar picture can be described for the next century and Lowenberg garnishes it for us: “During the thirteenth century, cloth tablecloths came into use; it was then acceptable to wipe one’s fingers on the edges. The tablecloth had to be changed several times during a feast.”49
Little progress is apparent if we believe Innes’ account of the early fifteenth century. Under the margin note 1424 he describes the Scottish domestic situation.
“ … The Government encouraged building … the buildings were like the people, poor and mean in taste … Such a dwelling … recalls the time when the rural baron and his family, visitors, vassals, retainers, servants rural and domestic, lived and scrambled for their food, all crowded together in the one hall – a gloomy cold apartment – when the offal of the board was fought for by the dogs below it, and the garbage was hid among foul straw which might be renewed when harvest produced a supply – when the furniture was limited to the moveable boards on which the meat was served, and a few stools and settles of deal – when carpets, curtains, window glass, comfort, cleanliness, were unknown –“50
That limited furniture probably included a ‘counter’. When we pay at a shop counter we may be forgiven for not knowing that its history shows that it was ruled across and down for the purpose of placing tokens or counters, their positions and numbers thus aiding the calculation process. (Warrack gives the alternative name Comptour which, when considering the French Comptoire, lends more support for the influence of the ‘Auld Alliance’). The earlier history of the counter indicates its origins as an ordinary table although “Early inventorys show that in a large number of (Scottish) houses (in the fifteenth century) there was no table but the counter: sometimes ‘ane comptar with furmes’ (a counter and forms or benches) is mentioned, clearly showing that it was used for the household meals.”51
Innes describes the commerce of “Andrew Haliburton, a Scotch merchant52 … for the most part a buyer and seller on commission53 …” In around 1493 Haliburton acts as agent to the Duke of Ross who exported salmon to Bruges.54 In return he received, among other items, “… 3 greater dozen of pewder veschall” which, we are told in the useful glossary on page 345, refers to pewter plates. The same extract gives “a dossyn of serviatis cost 9s” [9 shillings – when the British pound comprised 240 pence divided into 20 shillings] 55
We notice that MacKenzie’s carpets have not been transferred to the floor but the temporary table is still being used. Lowenberg’s tablecloths we will presume were not in use on the day described by Innes. We should discount any growling dogs included to give the verisimilitude and we are spared them in Grant’s rendering of the entertainment given in a Scottish castle to “distinguished visitors in 1537.” They are taken up to the first floor: “… where the lord, his family, his retainers and his servants all fed together. If it were at meal times, trestle tables would be set along each side of the wall. Those who were dining all sat along one side of the long tables on benches and low stools, … honoured guests sat upon a raised dais … at one end of the hall … called the ‘hie burd’.56
Grant goes on to describe the lord’s “great carved chair” and other guests’ cushions or even hangings on their benches.”57 Warrack gives a similar description: “On the first floor is the great hall, an apartment some thirty feet long, or more, in which the evening meal is about to be served. … A long narrow table is set across one end of the room and at this the principal persons, some six or eight in number, take their seats …   This table is known as the ‘high burde’ and it stands on a dais some inches higher than the rest of the floor … The less important members of the household are seated at side tables (against the wall) so that each table is left free for service from the middle of the room”58
All those seated at the meal have their heads covered, the ladies, according to Scottish fashion, wearing kerchiefs draped from a high structure of real or false hair in the form of two horns … We are told that the “greater folk would use pewter, the lesser ones, wooden platters, or even merely slices of bread instead of any plate at all.” The social convention demanding that everyone brought his own knife and forks did not exist. “People would just eat with their fingers. But they had to do this very daintily for there were strict rules for good table manners”.59
Even those at the ‘high-board’ had nothing more than their own knife. “In earlier times there was no distinction between the knives used for hunting or carving and those used at the table, for it was customary at meal times to use a clasp knife which was carried about in the pocket or girdle. In the Middle Ages only princes and nobles had special knives for cutting up their food, and these they carried with them when they travelled.”60 “Forks were unknown and food was carried to the mouth by the fingers. Politeness required that only three fingers, that is two fingers and the thumb, shall be used in handling food; and in drinking, the cup was to be lifted in the same way.”61
While we are spared the details which Erasmus would have enjoyed giving, Grant notes that: “People of refinement all had table napkins and a page was in attendance with a basin and a ewer.” 62 The napkin was originally placed on the shoulder and it was not for a hundred years or so that it was tied around the neck. On the table itself the most notable is the salt-fatt, or salt cellar, often of elaborate design and considerable size. It had a quasi-ceremonial importance and servants were instructed that after the cloth (note that there is no mention of carpets per earlier discussion) was laid they must first see that the salt cellar was in place; after that the knives, then the bread, and last of all the food. “The division of the table into ‘above and below the salt’ is not a mediaeval one, for those who were socially inferior sat at separate tables”63
“Looking around the hall, we see that the floor is covered with rushes or bent grass. A ‘lyar’ or rug is stretched in front of the fire, and on it there are several cushions or footstools.” While the meal may have been taken at demountable trestle tables this is not to say that there were no tables as we know them. The service table for keeping silver and pewter vessels was the “table dormant”64 which term was used in England.
Warrack comments that “Furniture in Scotland was made for convenience, not for display, to keep dishes and napery out of the way of dust and accidents, and it was accordingly made locally of fir or other cheap wood and consisted of plain, serviceable pieces with little or no pretension to artistic treatment.”65 This comment applies to the sixteenth century.
Moving on to the sixteenth century and : “Passing to the Hall, we find a dignified apartment whose walls are hung with … tapestry. The wide fireplace … is fitted with a ‘chimnay’ or grate, of iron.” Warrack comments that for the first time66 in Scotland a cupboard is seen in the hall although its English counterpart was in everyday use since the fourteenth century.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century the “lady of fashion” as Warrack67 describes her would have awakened to a brightly burning fire in front of which she would have been cosseted by her two maidens. Her toilet completed she would drink “a cup of Malvoisie sweetened with sugar” before ordering the preparation of her “’disjune’ or dejeuner consisting perhaps of a freshly roasted pair of plovers, a partridge, and a quail with a cup of sack.” We could take a reminder here that this extensive meal was breakfast. Warrack includes mention of more meats taken at midday dinner. There is no mention of any more food until supper which is “the meal of the day”.
As the later part of the James VI reign was reached “The mediaeval hall was out of date and must needs be replaced by a family dining room. Their nostrils having become too sensitive to tolerate the smell of cooking, the kitchen had to be banished to a remoter part of the house … the hall was abandoned as a ‘living room’ and the meals and the family life in general were transferred from it to the more secluded apartments beyond.”
As the need for military protection lessened there was a movement away from the castle and an increase in the extent of agriculture. The general approach in the works cited in this discussion shows quite clearly that Scotland was a good century behind England’s standard of living. This was obviously felt by those in the court. Grant generalises about the period 1400 – 1600:
         “Nevertheless, the Scots nobles’ increased desire for the same elegancies that their peers of other nations enjoyed is an important point, for it emphasized the relatively increasing poverty of the upper classes of Scotland compared to those living elsewhere. The land was becoming more and more insufficient for the provision of the rising standard of living that they required. This can be seen very clearly in the case of the king but it was also the case with the lords and barons. From the very beginning of our period they were much in touch with the courts of other nations … At the beginning of the period, when agricultural produce was the main source of wealth, Scotland was less well dowered than other countries. At the end of the sixteenth century, when commerce and manufactures were making England and France rich, but when Scotland was still at the more primitive stage in her economic development, the contrast must have been much more glaring.”68
This contrast remained for some considerable time. MacKinnon has provided some detail relating to social conditions in the first half of the eighteenth century which “differed little from those prevailing in the previous century”:
“Whilst … lords and lairds had little money to dispose of there was plenty of substantial food on their tables, in virtue of the payment of rent in poultry and other kinds of produce. The standard of comfort was still, however, rather primitive … Food was eaten from wooden or pewter plates. Glasses were scarce … and in many households the ale or wine was drunk from the same glass, which went round the table. Knives and forks were not too plentiful and it was not considered boorish to pick the bones and make use of the knife to convey food to the mouth.”69
A similar comment about using the same glass was noted by Graham. The topic of claret as the main drink at this time is discussed much later. “In the simpler, ruder days, about 1730, Lord Kames says that when the French wine was put down in a tin pint vessel a single drinking glass served a company for an entire evening, and the first person who called for a fresh glass with each new pint was considered too luxurious.”70
MacKinnon, however, points to the middle of that century as being the watershed. “From about 1760 the old ways underwent a marked transformation. New mansion houses, better furnishings, a more varied diet, and more sumptuous fashion came in … Another indication of … improvement was the general use of forks and knives at table, which had previously been unknown among the country people at least. The diet of the farming class, if not so generally that of their servants, showed a corresponding advance in the greater use of meat.”71 But such comment was passed in the light of the aftermath of the 1707 Union when ‘civilization’ is not limited to the idea that it arrived as a result of Scotland having an increased contact with England’a More detail of the civilizing process is given relating to specific food and drink in Chapters 5 and 6.