I read a letter in the Gulf Daily News on Wednesday extolling the virtues of the deep fried Mars bar, and how it has come to define the whole of Scottish cuisine.
In a country that has fabulous products such as Aberdeen Angus beef, wild venison, fresh Atlantic salmon, hand dived scallops and lobster, beautiful Ayrshire bacon and lovely borders lamb we are only known for our remainder dishes such as haggis, Lorne sausage, mince and tatties , porridge and our joke dish of deep fried Mars bar.
The Scottish people have been over the years very inventive with their cuisine. Not all can afford to eat primary meats and fish all the time. Dishes such as the Scotch pie and Forfar bridie follow the same tradition as many other countries in creating a pastry case to put the leftover meats in doused heartily with herbs and spices to give a bit of extra flavour. The haggis is also a remainder dish and it follows the same path that creates many types of sausage and black pudding. It’s more or less the same ingredients just put together differently. When we have leftover bits of fish we can create wonderful soups such as Cullen skink, and Arbroath smokies were invented because the fisherfolk could not eat all of a bumper catch at once so had to preserve the rest for later use. Smoked salmon the same.
I have served deep fried Mars bars to dinner guests as a dessert, and in general they do not contain many more calories than other desserts such as sticky toffee pudding or death by chocolate, but OMG does it taste divine mmmm.
Yes, the Scottish people used to have a high rate of heart disease but that is changing. TV cookery programmes, fad diets, health advice and scientific research have made the Scot aware of the fats and calories they are eating. The demise of the traditional chippie replaced by the pizza, Indian and Chinese takeaways have all contributed as well. Not everything is deep fried now and whatever still is, is fried in sunflower oil instead of beef dripping. The deep fried Mars bar is often referred to as a heart attack on a plate, but it has only been on the menu since the mid-Nineties and this is the period which has coincided with the overall reduction in heart disease, so I doubt that it has had much of an impact. Perhaps and here’s the rub, it is only ever eaten by visitors to our fair shores, the ones who like to criticise our culture and cuisine. I have never eaten a deep fried Mars bar in Scotland, and as I said only served it once here and that was as a novelty item.
In a couple of weeks we will be serving good Scottish fare to celebrate Robert Burns and although that will include haggis the rest of the meal will be our finest produce, and of course the greatest drink in the world, and I am not talking about Irn Bru.
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