Food Glorious Food & Drink books at East Neuk Books
By Mia Kellner
When most people think about what Scotland has to offer in terms of its food and drink, what usually comes to mind? The traditional, hard-to-stomach dish of haggis, dished out with a side of neeps and tatties? An ice-cold glass of locally-matured whisky, perhaps. Or maybe the reliable, sturdy staple of porridge, was so bluntly noted by English writer Samuel Johnson in his dictionary definition of the grain: ‘Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.’
Well, all of these examples are more than true, of course. Oats have been around in the Scottish diet since medieval, a cheap food that could be eaten by mainly poorer people, when the harsh land meant that not much else could be grown and little else could be afforded. Also during the medieval period was the invention of haggis, thought to have originated out of the need for people to be mobile and carry food with them. Just as people would carry oats with them to make porridge or oatcakes, they also started to carry offal with them in a bag made out of a sheep’s stomach.
Nevertheless, there’s much more variation in the modern food and drink offerings of Scotland: Irn-bru, empire biscuits, fish and chips, or the notorious ‘deep-fried Mars Bar.’ At East Neuk Books, we have a wide range of books about food and drink, not only Scottish cooking; our book choosing team having recently visited the famous Bowhouse Market, an event near St Monans, which encourages local produce, as well as local growing and manufacturing.
Here’s just a small, choice selection of the food and drink titles our shop has to offer:
Starting with our speciality, we have numerous books to help you get to grips with cooking the Scottish way. For those new to the subject, we have The Scottish Food Bible by Claire Macdonald, an essential text to introduce readers to the food of Scotland, where she celebrates the country’s wealth of home-grown ingredients – from oatmeal, dairy produce, meat and fish, fruit and vegetables to whisky – Macdonald provides 60 creative recipes for starters, main course and puddings, in addition to sauces, dressings, and baked goods.
For a more detailed compilation of Scottish recipes, there is Christopher Trotter’s The Best of Traditional Scottish Cooking, which we sell both second-hand and brand new copies of. Trotter’s book presents an excellent guide to traditional Scottish cuisine with an authentic collection of 150 popular recipes, and serves as a must-red tour via food and drink of a unique culinary heritage.
An integral part of the Scottish culinary scene, seafood has existed in Scottish cooking since the time of Vikings, when they introduced the idea of smoking fish to Scotland. This is still a common practice, with Arbroath Smokies (smoked haddock) being one of our nation’s key traditional foods.
A local text can be found in Fife Fishermen: Portraits and Recipes by Caroline Trotter, a record of those people who made their living from fishing around the shores of the East Neuk of Fife. Featuring the stories of those from Lower Largo in the south to St Andrews in the north and everything in between – St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Cellardyke and Crail – this book includes the photograph of these fishermen, and features the recipes from them, and inspired by their tales.
Find recipes from further afield in Scotland with the new cookbook from Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick, The Seafood Shack: Food and Tales from Ullapool, which contains recipes from the authors’ restaurant, one of the foodie highlights of the NC500. The book presents the fresh, vibrant dishes that won Scobie and Renwick Best Streetfood/Takeaway in the BBC Food Awards – Haddock & Pesto Wrap, Lobster Mac & Cheese, and many, many more.
The Fruits of Nature - Vegan/Plant-Based Food
Or if you prefer something a more modern, healthy and environmentally conscious, why not selecto one of our plant-based food and drink books? We have Wild Tea, by Nick Moyle and Richard Hood, a guide which explains the incredible uses of 40 home-grown and foraged ingredients – roots, seeds, berries, leaves and flowers – and how they can use them to brew their own blends and special infusions.
In Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes, Sara Kiyo of the sensational blog Shiso Delicious, tells all about the Japanese offering which has taken over our Instagram screens. Kiyo gives tips on how to make easy, nutritious, vegetarian bento boxes, with just a few essential ingredients.
Finally, we have the famous Scottish drink. Or is it? There is some debate about whether the noted Scots staple originated in Scotland or Ireland, with modern evidence suggesting that it is, in fact, an Irish invention, as a recipe on tanned reindeer skin was found with a recipe for whisk(e)y that dates back to pre-Christian times.
Regardless, there are still plenty of titles at East Neuk Books that thoroughly focus on whisky – without the e! For beginner connoisseurs who want to learn more about the drink, we have Gilbert Delos’ Essential Guide to Whisky, the perfect book for anyone wanting to know the subtle artistry and intricate secrets of the production process and its many brands.
Needing to learn all about the notable Scottish drink while on-the-go? Well, look no further than The Pocket Guide to Whisky: Featuring the Whisky Tube Map, a handy guide to help budding whisky enthusiasts expand their knowledge, exploring whisky from around the world – from the Scottish giants of Glenlivet to the lesser-known Japanese Hibiki – and yes, you can fit it in your pocket. Probably.
I hope you enjoyed reading about all the weird and wonderful food and drink that Scotland has to offer, and the many books that we at East Neuk Books have about them. Happy book-buying, eating and drinking!