It’s cold for summer, but then I suppose it’ll always be colder this far north and west. We get a few gloriously sunny days, but even then it never gets above 16 degrees. But the cool drizzle somehow suits the rugged landscape; the green hills and the shaggy highland cows, though beautiful in the sunlight, sit well against a greyer backdrop.
We spent a week exploring Iona and the Isle of Mull. For a lifelong inhabitant of the metropole, both felt incredibly remote. One can almost sense the isolation of the monks in Iona Abbey, and their vulnerability to raiders from across the sea; how it must have felt to see the forms of Viking ships emerging out of the mist on a wet and windy day not unlike this one. Mull has a stronger pulse, but even the brightly painted buildings of the Tobermory seafront are filled overwhelmingly with tourists like myself, or drunk old men with weather-beaten faces, stamping their feet to songs about whiskey.
I often think about how food can paint the portrait of a people. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the portrayal of gender in the Jacobite rebellions, and the implications for early eighteenth century British political culture; you’d be surprised how often oats, whiskey, and dairy come up in the primary sources, if only because someone has hidden important documents in a bag of oats. According to the Highland Folk Museum, these all traditionally featured very heavily in the diets of Highlanders and Islanders, though, and is perhaps less surprising given the dishes that Scotland is best known for today (although in many cases things seen as traditionally ‘Scottish’ have been appropriated from Highland culture, which was in fact a world apart from Lowland life).
I thought this would be a good excuse for another ‘what I eat in a day’ post. I always like to try to eat locally and seasonally, even more so when travelling, because it gives a feel for the place. You may think there isn’t all that much difference (Scotland is, after all, still part of the UK — sorry SNP supporters) but every region does things slightly differently, and that’s worth exploring. I wasn’t a huge fan of whiskey stirred into porridge…but at least I tried it.
Food diary from 2nd August 2016
8.30AM: after a short morning run around Iona’s only road, breakfast was a big bowl of porridge topped with rhubarb compote (grown in the hotel’s garden) and toasted soda bread with strawberry jam (both homemade). Washed down with fresh coffee before a boat trip to Staffa.
2PM: carrot and courgette soup (also made from vegetables grown in the hotel garden), crusty bread, and a green tea.
5.30PM: a hot toddy (and a bath) after a very wet and muddy three hour walk round Iona.
7PM: stuffed aubergine for starter; for mains, a dish listed on the menu as ‘peas and carrots’ — essentially a huge plate of vegetables grown on the island and cooked in fancy ways. Red wine with the meal, followed by a green tea.