Chapter 7 

Uses of the Research
Inevitably one returns to the assertions made at the beginning of the book to see if the main ones are upheld. There can be little doubt about the distinctiveness of the Scottish diet throughout history although various points have been made concerning the influences upon it stemming from outside the nation. The case made within nutritional circles concerning the need to improve today’s Scottish diet has been taken as being accepted. It has been shown to have been in need of improvement during the last four hundred years.
The ways in which the research could be used to influence the modern diet include promoting a greater awareness of the good and bad aspects of Scotland’s dietary history. Less attention needs to be given to the blood-and-thunder aspects of even its dietary history and more to promoting interest in the traditional dishes at present saved for tourists. The fast-food carry-out may be able to include on its menu a synthetic haggis wrapped in tartan polythene but that is insufficient. With the often mentioned abundance of Scottish cookery books it is time to promote a much greater use of them in Scotland and by the Scots. Not those whose diet is satisfactory by virtue of their ability and willingness to purchase a variety of foods but those whose dietary horizons are clouded by processed bridies, mutton pie and chips.
The ‘Taste of Scotland’ project run by the Scottish Tourist Board in expensive hotels and restaurants in the early 1980s needs to be extended by more ‘traditional’ fare and then injected into the cheaper off-season restaurants, educational catering and the works cafeterias. Those who specialise in social nutrition need to give much more advice to those in the social services on the social uses of Scottish food and drink with a view to developing social education in terms of improving the nation’s health. The Scottish Health Education Group also had an important role to play in this respect. Scotland’s national heritage has come under review from time to time and a somewhat bogus gastronomic heritage has been exposed. The ‘institutions’ of porridge, haggis, and their like may well have come from elsewhere but form a major component of the symbolism equated with Scotland which needs to be changed. In providing an insight into that gastronomic heritage it has been appropriate to enter the rich Scotsman’s Castle and the poor Glaswegian’s garret to establish the nature of the preceding influences upon the modern diet. These include the economic, the political and the cultural factors which shaped the earlier diets and their force has never been under-rated.
Goody, Elias and Braudel
Goody saw that there was affinity between Elias and Braudel in that “The general development of civilisation” and “the slow adoption of good manners” respectively meant “learning ways of acting that … individualised, privatised and restrained the behaviour first of the upper strata and then more generally.”1 The table was where the individualisation was most obvious. Using Elias rather more than Braudel, we have seen the general civilizing process and related the development of the Scottish table to it. Perhaps because of a more protracted earlier period in Scotland it was appropriate to show that ‘chivalry’ needed to be identified as a precursor to Elias’ courtesy. Still operating on the assertion that Scotland was generally a century behind other European countries and notable England (this probably most evident in reading Warrack’s Goody2account of the differences in the development of houses from around 1500 to the 1650s3 it is somewhat supported if one considers that while Europe at large was experiencing ‘courtesy’ Scotland was still grappling with ‘chivalry’. It is a pity that Elias did not spend more time reflecting on the lead up to his “courtesy”.
Other aspects of a less accelerated progression are witnessed directly at the table. The lack of development of roasting occasioned by an overuse of the boiling pot and sabbatarianism (“Cooking … was kept to a minimum, and in consequence nothing similar to the English Sunday lunch has ever had a chance to develop”) 4 was perhaps one reason for a less refined Scottish court during the courtesy period. Goody points out that “The carving at the table of a lord … played a very prominent part in the life of princely courts.”5 There were carvers among the “most honourable”6 in other European countries but no similar references have been located relevant to Scotland.
Now, if it was that such differences occurred between the standards of courtly eating relative to Scotland and England (it would be simpler to let Scotland’s nearest neighbour represent itself and other European countries) then it is reasonable to suppose that there was a less differentiated cuisine relative to the Scots nobility and the peasants. In other words, the peasant would have been surprised at what his laird ate and astonished at the fare enjoyed by the English lord. This makes the comparisons which Goody suggests more difficult to hold in relation to Scottish cuisine. In his words cuisine means here “a culturally differentiated cuisine – the high and the low”7. Clearly there were high and low cuisines in medieval Scotland but ‘high’ was lower than England and ‘low’ was below poverty level.
The other senses of cuisine given by Goody refer to “the products of the kitchen” and the “highly elaborated forms of cooking”8 such as French haute cuisine. We have seen rather more of the social use of the kitchen (girdle especially) products and Chapter Five looked at “specific foods … in their historical context”. It was clear from looking at the Auld Alliance that little haute cuisine rubbed off on to the Scots kitchen table and any French menus in use in Scotland probably came across the Channel and the Borders as opposed to directly. The heritage was linguistic as opposed to gastronomic but the ordinary menu is and was unlikely to feature ragouts even, still less Tournedo Rossini (A round cut of fillet steak served on a circle of friend bread and garnished with foie gras).
The menu structure, despite the potential for development a la Francaise, remained static due to a seemingly national desire to cling to tartan food. As a different aristocracy came to shoot deer around the 1850s, so did a gradually increasing number of more mobile tourists come for the scenery as time progressed. With a resurgence of interest in a gastronomic heritage there was no need for a major reclassification of foodstuffs. The prime changes mediated by the social structure included improving the star-rating of one’s farmstead within a much accelerated commercial hospitality. Perhaps for the first time in the turbulent family history, the haim was a key part of a cash-crop economy while everywhere else the Industrial Revolution was having so much greater economic impact.
The evolution of Scottish gastronomy has been affected by the Gastrogeographic boundary separating it from other, more temperate climates and a cultural boundary detaching it from the general developments within Europe at large. The ‘boundary paradigm’ extends to economic and political considerations and these have been mediated by the extensive social control evidenced by Campbell when he noted that “The unquestionable leaders of Scottish Society … were the landowners whose social prestige derived from their political power.”9
Economy, Land and Control
Scotland was ideally placed in the early Middle Ages for economic one-sided development when animal skins, salmon etc., were valued as exchangeable commodities. The one-sided economic relationship with France was part of the lack of progress in that quarter when Scotland should have been working with as opposed to against England.
But if there was conflict abroad there was potential for more at home. The landlords controlled the food supply by maintaining the feudal system for as long as possible, longer than elsewhere in Europe. The products of the land accrued directly to them through a stranglehold over the mobility of labour at a time and for centuries when seven of every eight workers were tied to the land at various levels of the agricultural labour force. By controlling the quantity of money in the cot-toun and restricting capital availability to the tacksmen the main remuneration after accommodation was a carefully controlledtruck payment of food which the work force had produced by its own hands.
With only a little leeway to produce a few extra vegetables the control over the staple of oatmeal, and later, potatoes was all that was needed to ‘convince’ the work-force that it needed no cash for unnecessary items such as spices or other exotic goods. Any surplus energy available for rebellion against such a regimen was easily deflected towards central Scottish, and later, English government.
With occasional peaks in the graph of general agricultural improvements occasioned perhaps by chance findings that turnips alleviated the need to kill all but the best cattle in autumn and that sheep did not need to be wintered inside, the general rate of progress was often behind England until communication and travel improved and the Industrial Revolution spread to the main areas of inhabited Scotland. The rather slow level of improvement in the diet, if not the overall standard of living in Scotland was dependent upon the factors stemming mainly from outside Scotland rather than from within it. Prominent amongst those factors is commercialism as opposed to domestic economic policy and Scotland seems to have moved from a poverty to a fast-food diet without the probably necessary stages of becoming sufficiently agriculturally productive to maintain itself and still have a large enough surplus to help improve its international trading position.
If any one factor needs to be singled out, the economic misfortune of Scotland must carry the blame for the overall dietary deficit of the nation through history. France has been identified with that misfortune in terms of a one-sided economic relationship. Other aspects include Scotland’s own policy on trade with England as much as the vice versa, and its internal control of the food supply. Not least of those with overall control of the availability of food to the occupants of the but-and-ben was the landed gentry which, as “a closed, cohesive and enduring group”10 amounted to being thebourgeoisie. Its control inevitably diminished “because the complexity and differentiation” of the developing society made it “difficult for any single group to wield power alone”. But the scars of that control are as plain as the old runrig channels from an aircraft.
The Scottish Self-Identity
One line of thought which has had only brief attention can be appraised at this final stage. If it has been put forward that Scotland has accepted a second-rate diet what relationship prevails between such a diet and the idea that “man is what he eats?”11 (Similar ideas have been proposed by Brillat-Savarin12; Frazer13; Wimberly14; and Dichter15). Feuerbach’s approach, however, was in terms of the political subjugation of the German population in the early nineteenth century – a time which is important to our own study. “A man who enjoys only a vegetable diet is only a vegetating being, is incapable of action”.16 The lack of fresh vegetables in the Scottish diet today and yesterday should not be allowed to detract from the point. While Cherno17 dismisses der mensch ist was er isst as“ a pun in an essay filled with subtle invective”, we cannot dismiss the fact that despite skirmishes with authority the upshot of events such as the Clearances was acceptance of the “absurdity of the status quo” which Cherno claimed Feuerbach was trying to get people elsewhere to accept. Those who did not accept the Clearances are the forbears of others who patriotically attend Burns’ Night Dinners in various parts of the world today. 
Accepting that Hampson18 suggests that this phrase “is a dictum which would flatter few of us as individuals” the Scottish socio-genesisa has always included a poverty diet during the period studied. The Feuerbachian assertion becomes ‘a nation is what it ate’ on the same sort of logic behind and “Human beings have an appetite for the sort of foods that symbolise the type of person they want to be”19. Although the study has identified ‘tartan food’ as symbolising the type of people the Scots want others to see them as being – perhaps manly and hospitable, it has been shown that it forms an insufficient diet on its own and ‘conventional foods’ obviously need to be eaten today. The ‘better’ foods which have not been included in the ‘tartan food’ category which are obviously acceptable to the tourist are not part of every Scot’s diet today for an important reason identified by Tannahill20. “… it is a sad comment upon a changing world that where, once they could not afford imported foods like rice and spices … now they cannot afford home-produced foods – the salmon, venison, lobster, kippers and Aberdeen Angus beef that are the pride of Scotland and the rest of the world.”
We have had a little history, a little politics, a soupçon of philosophy, but the economic issues seem to have ridden in tandem with social control on the rear seat.
—   0   —
“I was gann to write a lang pystle, but Gude forgie me, I gat mysell saw noutouriously bitchify’d the day after dail-time that I can hardly stoiter but and ben.”
I was going to write a long epistle but God forgive me, but I got myself so notoriously drunk the day after ploughing the field that I can hardly totter round the [simple] house.
Here we have Burns and in “Only one surviving letter do we find him writing as he spoke.”21 The present study was going to be a long epistle and its writer will remain ‘notoriously bitchified’ for a long time on the abundance of material which was not consumed in this bite. However, it would be almost expected to end with Burns, albeit writing as he spoke. More appropriate is the affinity between the many passing clouds of ill-dieted men we have seen here and MacDiarmid’s22 ‘man himself’ ….
        “Man himself, aside from historic aggregations, is only
        The shadow of a passing cloud, his very existence hardly more than an illusion.
        His thought resembles the ray of a fountain; it rises, sparkles,
        Reaches a certain height and falls, and begins the process again.
-         Would it were even beginning again in Scotland today?”
The last line applies in the context of a new Scots gastronomy.