Finding Scotland, Stateside

American Adventures, Edinburgh Expeditions

It’s been nearly three months since I left Scotland. Strangely, I fell back into the rhythm of living back home without too much difficulty. I expected to be pulling my out my hair, moaning, mourning. But I’m not.

There have been a few things that have made the transition back to America easy. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get lots of foods I had grown accustomed to, the ale I grew to love, and miss the friends I had made.

The food isn’t too difficult. Mostly I ate things like risotto, which I can easily make in America. I miss the sweets quite a bit, but have been sent care packages from friends with delicious delicious chocolate. Walker’s shortbread is an easy fix, too. Tea isn’t an issue, as my mum and I are very picky tea drinkers and prefer the finest in Tesco supermarket tea (my rent is tea bags. I brought back 800. And McVities digestives. I’m good for a few months).

The real trouble? Haggis. Oh my goodness. It’s so good! Especially with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).

The ale, that was a real concern. I developed a taste for Scottish ales. Innis & Gunn is a real favourite. Imagine my surprise when I found that a local sandwich bar had it on draught, a rare enough thing in Edinburgh, where it’s brewed. That was an amazing discovery. And I can get it bottled at some specialty grocery stores! Win!

Friends, well, thank goodness for Skype! Every day I’m speaking to someone I met in Scotland, some days more than one. And the Far Off Places crew has had conference skypes, which has been awesome to speak with everyone. I’ve even managed to have lunch with one of my Edinburgh friends (he was visiting Boston from LA, was awesome to see him).

And there is always the possibility for visits, both to Edinburgh, and around the world. I’ve friends on nearly every continent, it’s now just a case of traveling to see them!

A recipe for an unexpected meal

Edinburgh Expeditions

Following the success of The Recipe Given to Us by the Stoned Irishman back in May (onions, garlic, courgette, pasta and salmon in a cream sauce), we decided that we would have our entire meal planned by strangers. This included a toast, cocktail, and a three course meal.

Armed with a notebook, pen and bouquet of yellow roses, my friends and I hit the streets of Edinburgh to have locals and tourists alike plan our dinner party.

The cocktail was given to us first by a group of skateboarders in Bristo Square. The cocktail? A Jakeyboy, half Buckfast and half cider. We couldn’t find Buckfast, so this was nixed in favour of traditional cocktails.

An elderly gentleman gave us the starter–“You’ll want a soup,” he said. “A nice Scotch broth. Or perhaps borscht.” With the suggestion of borscht we also got a story about dining in restaurants in communist Russia. “And the ice cream. You never think of ice cream when you think of communist Russia, but they had the best ice cream.”

Our main was chicken/vegetarian curry (standard Scottish affair, but delicious nevertheless). The dessert a molten chocolate cake–I wasn’t around for either of these suggestions.

Our toasts came from a busker on the Royal Mile, a Portuguese saw-player who wears a top hat. “Salud” is the only one of the three I can remember. Other toasts came from ourselves, the British Navy of Nelson’s era (fittingly, the Sunday toast is ‘to absent friends’ and the occasion for the dinner was a going away party), and a favourite of one of my recently departed American friends which is not repeated in polite company.

We collected stories to tell through the night, including a very sweet one about what you see when you are falling asleep from one of the Royal Mile vendors. One of my friends is an accomplished harpist, so that night when I told the story, we had musical accompaniment.

We gave each person a yellow rose as a thank you for their contribution. The leftovers we used to make bouquets, and the roses are still going strong, sitting on one of the tables in my flat, fully blooming and only slightly touched by brown.

An eclectic evening, but a fantastic one, filled with friends, laughter and the happiest of memories touched with the sadness of our friend’s departure–but her adventures will be wonderful and I look forward to hearing about them.

In which Beth eats unusual foods (for her)

Edinburgh Expeditions

Whenever I’m travelling, I try to eat a new thing every day. Living in a new country, this doesn’t happen daily, particularly as living somewhere entails me making my own food.

Today, however, I managed to eat a meal filled with foods I never had consumed before. I went with a few of my friends to Saigon Saigon, which is one of the tasiest Chinese restaurants in Edinburgh.

We looked over the menu and then ordered, my friends (two from China, one from Taiwan) suggesting and selecting some of their favourite dishes. I just had one request: whatever we ate, there had to be at least one dish that wasn’t too spicy.

We ended up with five dishes. One, my favourite, I can’t recall what it was called. But what else did I eat? Let me preface by saying yes, I knew what I was eating. And it was all delicious.

Shredded chicken–my choice. Not too spicy at all.

Roasted duck tongue–a favourite of one of my friends. A bit spicy for my taste, but I did eat three tongues. As well as the bones of two, I didn’t realize there were bones in it…the crunchiness should have tipped me off.

Cow stomach–I’ve had stomach before, when I was in Italy (lamprodotto). I wasn’t a fan then, I’m really not a fan now either.

Pig’s feet–Um, these were delicious. Succulent and tasty, with a lovely sauce.

Sadly, the duck gizzards were unavailable. My friends said that they’re delicious, and I wanted to try them!

For desert, I had coconut milk with soga and tapioca. Wonderful!


And no, I still haven’t tried haggis.


What’s on the Bookshelf? Vol. 6

What's On the Bookshelf?

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

CC/sea turtle

CC/sea turtle

I like reading science books on occasion. Not text books, but books on a subject, like Dava Sobel’s Longitude.

Proust… wasn’t of my chosing–it was assigned reading. But I’m glad that it was.

Lehrer examines eight different artists from turn of the century Paris and how their works preexamined (not the right word) ideas that neuroscientists are working on, such as how we taste (Escoffier), and how we process grammar (Gertrude Stein).

My favorite chapter was the one on Escoffier, the creator of the cookbook and (for all intents and purposes) what we think of as French cooking. Of course, I was also watching a Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations marathon before and after finishing this section!

If you want a good, entertaining and educating read, this is the book for you.