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My Native Heath...

My native heath is Central Scotland with particular attachment to Aberdour, Edinburgh and Dundee. Aberdour is a wee seaside village in the Kingdom of Fife, 4 miles across the Firth of Forth, as the seagull flies, from our capital city Edinburgh, and just along the coast from St Andrews, the world’s golf capital.

We have a prize winning floral railway station, a small harbour and at one time we exported sea salt from coal-fired saltpans on the beach. Folklore has it that because of Sabbath observance, the fires were ‘banked up’ on Saturday night and Sunday’s salt wasn’t bagged until Monday by which time its crystals were different from normal working days’. The old Fifers may have been God-fearing but they were also canny enough to recognise the USP of Sabbath Salt and sold it at a premium.

Nowadays our village is better known for its environmental assets, fine safe beaches, good sailing waters, exceptionally scenic golf course and a liberal sprinkling of pubs and art studios. The seas are both clean and bountiful, the surrounding land no less so, which ensures Fife’s best restaurants are supplied with the finest of produce, be it beef, lamb or pork, root and green vegetables, lobsters, crabs or Pittenweem prawns. It is here we have Scottish Food Guide HQ and Scottish Food Studio where I run my courses

I was asked to take a group of French journalists around several Fife ‘foodie’ haunts finishing up hosting Afternoon Tea in Aberdour. The subsequent five page article in Cuisine et Vins de France was full of superlatives even dubbing l’Ecosse ’champion du monde des arcs-en-ciel’ in appreciation of a splendid rainbow which appeared while scoffing scones, Dundee cake et confitures. Curiously they reported that we ate cakes everyday and our porridge was made with rain water!? An amusing insight into seeing oorsels as ithers see us.

Representatives from the American Chapters of Les Dames d’Escoffier, international leaders in their fields of food, drink and hospitality, were in UK for their biennial, high-profile, London food tour and this time they added the inaugural Edible Scotland, a bespoke tour I created for them encompassing the best of Fife and other memorable people and places around Scotland

Here they are this week at St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company

For many Scots children, Dundee spelt jute, jam and journalism. For my part I could also add family, my love of cooking and a lifelong appreciation of Angus and Tayside’s contribution to Scotland’s larder and food lore. Dundee, being a busy sea port, would have access to sugars, spices and fruit that would find their way into untold bakings of Dundee cake and jars of marmalade but, for me, the Blairgowrie berry fields would forever wear the crown for soft fruits, seeing off all unworthy pretenders from warmer countries.

Whereas my fondness for Dundee derives from family visits, Edinburgh was where I lived awhile and went to school. It is an internationally famous city attracting millions of visitors to view the sights and attend events like the Edinburgh Festival, the Military Tattoo and the Royal Highland Show, the premier agricultural show in all Europe. Each year upwards of 190,000 visitors attend this four day event where exhibitors showcase what is best in Scottish food and farming, and where I manage Scotland’s Larder Live Cookery Theatre and the Scottish Bread Championships, among other tasks, on behalf of The Society.

Given that our larder is replete with the very best of fare it was, until recently, a puzzle to

visitors how, with some very worthy exceptions, our hotels and restaurants were not making best use of what was on their doorstep. But now, as I travel around Scotland presenting cookery shows or in my mini seeking out hidden gems for my Scottish Food Guide I detect a new air of confidence from the finest of dining establishments to great smoke free pubs serving great pub grub with local beers; and who would have believed Scotland could do pavement cafés like the continentals.

With farmers’ markets, farm shops, food festivals and some forward looking schools and staff canteens there are unmistakable stirrings of a new Scottish culinary enlightenment and good reason to be optimistic for the future, not so many miles from home.

Excerpt from Wendy’s book, Food Miles From Home

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