Friday, July 28, 2006

Food Bites: Sweet Cultural Treasures

Just to let you know that I'm interested in many forms of food history, not just the gourmet, here are some interesting Scottish culinary finds that some friends have brought into my world.
Most of us have very strong memories of the horrible sickly sweet crap we gorged on as children. Hell, many of us still suck or slurp down some Americana treats. Here are a few that are cultural icons that my Scottish friends have introduced into my world. Now, you know I'm not a chocolholic by any means. Hell, if I never ate it again, I'd never sweat it.

And despite what many of you think, yes, I can still be a woman even though I don't care for chocolate.

The sweets I tried were made by the Tunnocks company. My friends say it's a Scottish institution, since 1890, and how everyone (old and young) has eaten at least one of their products since they were kids. Tunnocks makes caramel wafers, caramel logs, teacakes, some coconut flake-covered junk called a snowball, and some nasty crap with orange-flavored cream filling in biscuits.

I was first given the milk chocolate caramel wafers (there's also a dark chocolate version). It reminds me of a KitKat bar with caramel. Honestly, I really enjoyed them. Sweet, not too chocolately, but very dense and substantial. The next time I get another one, I'll have to break it open and strip it layer by layer just to get at candy's structure. It's basically caramel, wafer, caramel--repeated 4-5 times! I'm surprised they've never tried to sell them in the states. They would be a hit.

The next one was the teacake. Ok, so, I'm still unclear as to the definition of "teacake". I think it's something tasty and sweet that you may have with "tea". But even the definition is confusing. Sometimes, "teatime" specifically means dinner. But I've also heard it to mean generally a "meal" in the afternoon or even an elaborate ceremony of snacks during "high tea time".
I don't know...I'm working on understanding it. Hell, even the differences between cake, pudding, dessert as well as chips, fries, biscuits seem to vary in meaning.

Freaking Brits...

(cough, cough-- clearing my throat)

Now, as I was saying, next came the milk chocolate teacake. Basically, it's soft marshmallow on a cookie covered in chocolate. This is Andy's favorite. I couldn't try it. Just too damn sticky-marshmallows goop.
Interestingly enough, there are various consumption rituals associated with this teacake.
Some people (like Andy) must strip the teacake of chocolate, exposing the marshmallow and cookie. Then, he eats the marshmallow separately, ending with the pure crunch of cookie.

Others, like my Glasgewian friends, prefer to cut a sizable hole into the teacake and gut out the marshmallow first. Then, the chocolate and cookie are eaten simultaneously.

It's funny; it reminds me of the many ways there is to eat Oreo cookies back home.

If you check out the products from the Tunnocks (retro 1930s?) website, you even get the nutritional information! What a riot!! As if you can really make an argument for the nutritional value of candy and teacakes! Oh well, somebody's got to try...

But beware... The site has some games that will suck you in! I found myself playing them and I don't even LIKE video games!! Ugh!!

And then there's the choice drink for kilted folk: Irn Bru. The soft drink has been around since 1901 and it's about to be promoted as an energy drink (like Red Bull) in the coming months, I hear. It's just as popular as (and in certain counties, MORE popular than) Coke. People LOVE this stuff.

Get this: when McDonald's restaurants first opened in Glasgow they didn't serve Irn-Bru. The wee hairy shirefolk were pissed off that they couldn't get their crack-drink with their artery-hardening food. People got their blue war paint and crude axes and declared a Braveheart campaign war. Needless to say, McDonald's is not stupid. Guess it made sense to serve the salt and grease along with a biggie size of caffeine and sugar.

It's much like Mountain Dew: it has a neon color, heavy on caffeine (maybe even more than Mountain Dew) and loads of sugar. I've been told that it's the cure for most hangovers. The strange thing is that Irn Bru also has .002% of Ammonium Ferric Citrate. Who knows why. It has a bubblegum-like flavor that reminds me of a drink I used to have as a kid. Only, I can't remember what it was.


At Aug 3, 2006, 5:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the "If its not Scottish, its crap" tagline. Classic! I looked Irn-Bru up on Wikipedia. Have you or Andy tried this? "It is often used as a mixer with alcoholic beverages — mainly vodka and whisky". I'm intrigued.


At Aug 3, 2006, 10:00:00 AM, Blogger newplanet said...

I swear to God, Irn-Bru as a hangover cure really really works. Even when your hangover is so terrible that you can barely open your eyes without vomiting. (Lovely!) Just inject it into your veins and you're as right as rain in no time. Hurrah!

At Aug 13, 2006, 11:30:00 PM, Blogger Pille said...

Hi Peggy - I love reading about your new life in Scotland. My seven years in beautiful Edinburgh are coming to an end soon, and you've just reminded me that there's so much I haven't done yet. Like tried a Tunnocks caramel wafer!!! Well, I still have 2 months to go:)

At Aug 15, 2006, 12:16:00 AM, Blogger Andy Catlin said...

You are truly finding the best of Scotland. The first thing I made Terri eat when she came over last Festival from NYC was Tunnocks & Irn Bru. You guys coming over during the Festival? Be good to see you. S'laters - Andy x


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