Saturday, October 12, 2013

Food and Fodder

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit
The Selkirk Grace - an old Scottish blessing, 'Meat' meaning 'food.'

The main foods for Scottish crofters at this time were oats and barley meal, some dairy food, kale and in coastal hamlets like Badbea there was fish. 

The barley meal was known as bere. It was a very old grain, important for growing in northern Scotland. It did well in a short growing season with the long hours of northern summer daylight.
Bere is the grain on the right- 6r

Oats were grown for human and animal feeding. The oats were sown in the spring and cut in the autumn. The cut oats were tied into bundles called sheaves, and left to dry, after which they were threshed to obtain the grain. Some hamlets had a kiln to help dry the oats and barley which could easily rot if not dry. Note: In the Highlands 'corn' may also mean oats.
Corn Yard in the Shetland Islands. Source: Shetlopedia

A  course oatmeal was made by grinding the kernel between two large millstones called a quern. There was a grain mill at Ausdale but it seems unlikely that William and Christian would have been able to get their grain to that mill with the difficulties of access across the moors and no horse.

Bread was bannocks of oats or barley meal. Generally round in shape, bannocks might be thick or thin, and were baked on a griddle before toasting in front of a fire. Sometimes bread was baked on an old bannock-stone set in front of the fireside. Here a woman at Newtonmore bakes bannocks. 

There were some eggs available, but often eggs had to be provided to the proprietor, or sold to help pay the rent. This hen and her chicks pecks round at Newtonmore.

Here is a crop of potatoes at Newtonmore, probably a much newer variety than grown 150 years ago when potatoes were still a relatively new crop in Scotland. They quickly became a staple food.

The green leafy vegetable kale was grown in Badbea. Because of its hardiness kale has been a staple food in Scotland for hundreds of years. Even snow does not ruin the kale leaves. It was grown in specially built kale yards to help protect it from the worst of the weather and roaming animals. Below is a full kale yard.

Source: The Edge of the World 1936

                                                The remnants of an old kale yard at Badbea

Hardly any meat was eaten but most families had a cow that gave milk for at least part of the year. Some cheese was made.
Blood was sometimes drawn from cattle and mixed with meal and eaten as a sort of cake. The cows kept in early Badbea were the small Scottish variety, not the stocky beauties of today’s Highland cattle. Cows were kept inside in the winter and were often in very poor condition by the time they were able to be taken to summer grazing.

This small Highland beast looks like a steer to me rather than a cow but it is an old breed.

Gruel - a thin drink of oats with hot water, was a regular drink. 
Brose - put uncooked oatmeal into a bowl. Pour over a cupful of hot water or hot milk. Possibly add a piece of butter. 
Bannocks - Two handfuls of oats or barley meal, half a cup of milk, a small piece of butter. Heat the milk and butter together, then stir in the meal. Press into a round shape. Cook on a griddle until both sides are cooked.

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