Letters to Home: Tasty Nummies in Scotland

Letter to home time! You know the drill. I’ll begin with some description of a rustic café on a cobble stone street where I’ll be drinking an obscure local beverage. I’ll claim I’m writing this article there instead of in bed at my flat while sharing a special moment with a pack of Oreos. I’ll throw in the names of some random towns and streets nearby, like Pitlochry, Holyrood Park, and Leith, just to let you know I’m somewhere exotic and cool. I'll simultaneously try to make you all envy me and to convince myself that I’m not as homesick as I actually am, so I’ll make it sound like Scotland has changed me and maybe wax lyrical with some broad generalizations about the heart and soul of this heath-carpeted, enchanting realm. Or we could talk about snacks.

Scotland doesn’t exactly have the culinary reputation of other popular European destinations like France and Spain. Sure, there are amazing restaurants, but, much like in the USA, most of the classy food styles are imported. Consider, for example, that the greatest contribution of the United Kingdom to the foodie world is Chicken Tikka Masala. There’s tons of Thai, Indian, and Italian places, but that’s not exactly a surprise, now is it?

Why bother with that stuff when the true food adventure can be found at the nearest junk food aisle, packed with all sorts of preservative-laden goodies. Next time you stumble into your neighborhood Scottish/British grocery store, here are five things to try.

Jaffa Cakes Hot damn, these little chocolate-orange-cake things are addictive. Picture a little spongy wafer with a “smashing orange-y centre” (their words, I swear), doused in chocolate and sold for next to nothing. You can buy these things by the yard for £5, and God knows they’ll probably keep for thirty years, so why not buy a crate’s worth and hide them under your bed? Simon Pegg agrees.

Digestive Biscuits Yes, they sound like a product that would sponsor a nursing home or perhaps a line of adult diapers. Unfortunately, they don’t actually help with irregularity or incontinence, which means there’s still no cure for the Claremonster. Still, they're delicious, especially the chocolate ones.

Malt Loaf I don’t know what it is, what it’s made of, or how they make it, but get a hold of a Soreen Original Fruity Malt Loaf now. The mystery starts with the packaging, a bright yellow brick covered in pictures of grapes and promising a “squidgy” experience. What’s that mean? The dictionary says “moist and squashy," like a rotten pumpkin. Or road kill. Or an octopus with low muscle tone and a taste for McRibs.

Once you open the wrapping, though, you’ll be rewarded with a bizarre black block that looks like a gigantic blood clot or perhaps swampy mud. Much like watching Forest Whitaker, you need to push past the looks to enjoy the goods. Cut off a slice and enjoy the squishy, fruity ambrosia. If I had to describe the taste, I guess I’d say its like someone took a few dozen loaves of raisin bread and threw them in a trash compactor with a jar of honey. It’s a treat, a spectacle, and an experience.

Irn Bru Produced by the Barr soda company in Cumbernauld Scotland, Irn Bru is a beverage and a nutrient supplement. Its name, in Scotts, means “Iron Brew”, and it’s the regional favorite in Scotland. More importantly, it’s pretty much what would result from letting loose a drunk confectioner in a pharmacy. Ingredients include gobs of sugar, iron supplements (hence the name) and quinine. So, if you’re ever planning on losing a lot of blood in some malarial swamp, make sure to pack the bru.

Scottish Pancakes/Lemon Curd

Toast is great, but it's so boring. Add some pizzazz to your morning carbo-loading and get at this combo. Here's how it happens: Walking through the store, you see a package of pancakes in plastic wrapping. You think, “Wow, normal pancakes!” You buy them and walk home, jamming to the new Calvin Harris album on the way. People stare, but it's cool. You get to the kitchen and tear into that packaging. You’re about to stuff one of the fist-sized disks into your mouth, but you remember this article and pull out the jar of lemon curd that you bought at the store—also because you read this article. You slather on some of that sweet, sweet slime on to your pancake and take a bite.

BOOM, flavor tornado. Flavornado. What’s up with this pancake? It’s sweet instead of bland and impotent, and you wonder if its been kissed by an angel or just griddled with honey. Then ZING, the effervescent lemon curd singes your tongue with tanginess. You promptly pass out. You wake up, hours later, and slowly curl up into a ball crying "All those wasted years..."