What Did Sir Walter Scott Eat?

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By guest blogger Josi Kilpack

ladyofthelakes_coverMy most recent book Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott was my first opportunity to write a story set in Scotland. I’ll never claim to be the best researcher—I mostly like to read novels and watch movies set in the time and/or place J. One thing I specifically looked for was what was different between what the Regency English (my previous historical fiction forays) ate as opposed to what the turn of the 19th century Scotsman ate. Scotland didn’t have the economy or the aristocracy that England had, they had a large middle class and lower class which meant that food was very different depending on who’s table you dined at. Walter was raised pretty solidly middle class, his father a writer for the signet—a type of solicitor in Scotland—their family would have sheep’s head soup most Sundays which was made by boiling a skinned sheep’s head for about 24 hours. Yum. They are also famous for their “fish, fowl, and flesh”—three separate courses between the soup and the dessert of a typical middle-to-upper class coursed dinner. Vegetables would be eaten in smaller portions—they liked their meat—and they ate a great deal of root crops that grew well in the colder temperatures and stored well through winter, though they pickled quite a few. Often they wouldn’t even eat things like potatoes, cabbage, and carrots until January, when they had used their other stores.

For breakfast—my favorite meal of the day—they ate similar to what we think of as an English Full Breakfast: back bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, porridge, and mushrooms, but Walter might also have black pudding (made with pig’s blood) Haggis (sheep organs mixed with other stuff and packed into a sheep stomach) and the traditional Scottish breakfast bread: Bannock, sometimes referred to as oat cakes. I’ll skip the entrails and blood-based recipes, thank you, but I can totally go for Bannock!

To make it, blend the dry ingredients together, and then add cold butter (back then they would have used lard or bacon fat) either grated, or blend with a pastry blender. Then add the wet ingredients and mix until you have a sticky dough. Divide dough into two portions and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times to smooth it out and reduce the stickiness and roll to a ½ inch thick circle about the size of your pan, cut it into wedges and cook on medium heat in a little oil or butter for a few minutes each side, until browned. You can also bake them at 375 for 20 minutes, or until edges are browned. Split and spread with a little butter and jam and you’re good to go!

2 cups flour (all-purpose works great)

1 cup quick oats (must be quick)

1 Tablespoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cold butter

1 ¼ cup buttermilk (or half buttermilk and half milk, or half milk and half yogurt)