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I See Elsie

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:28AM   |  Add a comment

 

This Friday, August 20th, some of our fall 2010 lads and lassies are off tae Scotland or North Britain as it was once called. It is the 11th consecutive year that our students have attended the famous Edinburgh Festival. The fall 2010 students will have a great time: it’s impossible not to enjoy Edinburgh during the Festival. Thanks especially to Dr Jack Hrkach for leading the group and to Professors Steve ten Eyck, Norm Johnson and Greg Bostwick who have also taken groups.

Fall 2009 Edinburghers.  Similar to Hamburgers, but more like the Scottish version.

Some three dog advice to the participants: first, keep your belongings and your persons safe. Vehicular traffic runs on the left hand side [the correct side, apparently] of the road, and pickpockets are attracted to major street festivals. Edinburgh, the so-called ‘Athens of the north’, is a picture postcard city, but it also has a gritty underbelly made famous by the novels of Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh. If you find a cheap ceilidh [pronounced ‘kayley’] during the festival, go, go, go, both lads and lassies, and get your picture taken dancing with a man in a kilt. You just might win a prize if you produce the evidence. During the term we’ll be attending some ceilidhs here in London. We are planning a trip to Edinburgh in November for students who didn’t go in August. More ceilidh opportunities!

Sarah works her magic on a Scottish man in a kilt

 

How to make a hit at the festival? How can you fit in with the locals and not be an obvious tourist? Here’s more ‘three dog’ advice that you won’t find in any guidebooks. To enjoy Edinburgh, get dancing, carry your copy of Ian Rankin’s Mortal Causes with you, and above all, eat well. You can do so nutritiously and inexpensively by taking the following on board.

 

But first a caveats: there is wonderful food to be found in Scotland. Scottish beef, game and fish [especially the wild salmon from the fast flowing rivers] are renowned the world over. You will get the finest haggis in the world in Edinburgh. Scotland also has produced some wonderful chefs. But there has also been a high incidence of heart disease in Scotland due to the usual factors: alcohol and tobacco over-consumption, lack of exercise [it’s dark in the winter], and poor diet.

 

We have long been concerned with the myth of Scotland’s notorious poor diet. If Scots followed the advice of our chef-in-residence, Claire MacKrauer of clan Maddon, who operates out of our five star basement kitchen, their health would improve a hundredfold and the middle aged might live long enough to see Scotland triumph in the 2034 World cup [see Irn-Bru website]. The ‘three dog blog’ challenged Chef MacKrauer and her Assistant, Elsie, to take traditional Scottish ingredients and to cook the staff, the builders working on our toilets, and our distinguished visitor from the home campus, Dr Jack Hrkach, a fine Scottish meal that would delight our palates, while not endangering our purses, nor our hearts.

Chef MacKrauer carving the haggis.  Note how masterful her technique is!

As Claire herself explained, getting the best Scottish ingredients for a traditional Scottish feast can be difficult in London, almost 500 miles to the south. The drink of choice for Scots at table is of course Irn-Bru: take a swig and you’re back in the streets and shipyards of Glasgow in the 30s. This non-alcoholic Scottish favorite may sound unfamiliar, and that is of course because it is banned in the United States (my understanding from Mock the Week is that because the makers will not list their secret ingredients on the can, the FDA will not allow it to be imported.  This may or may not be an actual fact).  But like Mr Arthur Guinness’s equally well-know product, famously brewed on the Liffey in Dublin since 1759, the critical question is - ‘does Irn-Bru travel well?’ Chef MacKrauer solves this problem by taking delivery of a gross of Irn-Bru from the 0615 overnight Edinburgh-King’s Cross sleeper train three mornings a week. Why so much Bru? Chef MacKrauer’s secret: the famous Bru not only quenches thirst, but also makes excellent gravy and sweet sauces for dessert. It is also her favourite drink while cooking. Elsie likes her Irn-Bru mixed with pineapple juice.

 

Next, of course, comes the haggis. Our Chef uses only the highest quality free range highland haggis, bred on an estate adjacent to the Queen’s Scottish compound at Balmoral. To save the free range haggis from poachers – especially guests of the Royal family - Chef MacKrauer relies exclusively on Edinburgh’s best ‘haggiserie’, Renton’s of Leith, for her supply of the plumpest corn fed yearlings. She collects the live haggis at King’s Cross while picking up the Irn-Bru. Haggis is of course served with neeps and tatties. Cookery secret number two: do not using butter when mashing the neeps and tatties. Irn-Bru is an excellent and far healthier substitute for the mash and gives the tatties that familiar rust orange colour so beloved of Scottish gastronomes.

Haggis, neeps and tatties.  Yum!

Dessert, of course, is Scotland’s world famous pudding, the deep fried Mars Bar, Elsie’s favourite. Chef MacKrauer explained that her secret was to get only the stalest Mars Bars available [generally to be found in health clubs and gyms], oil which has been used to deep fry spuds and fish for a month, and a can of Irn-Bru for the sauce. Vegetable oil can be used for the frying but remember that vegetarianism is generally viewed by many Scots as an unsocial habit, introduced surreptitiously over several decades by the English in their attempt to lower the Scottish birth rate. Cookery secret number 3: to prevent disaster, freeze the Mars Bar for about 6 to 8 minutes to prevent it from dissolving in the boiling oil. The pan of oil should be cooked at gas point 4 for about 15 minutes until it begins to bubble gently. Finally, for the best result, and this is the critical fourth cookery secret, use un-sieved oil: bits and pieces of cod, plaice, herring and potato skin left in the oil give the Mars Bar a subtle fishy taste beloved of all gourmets. Finally, the last secret: for the sauce, take 6 oz of Irn-Bru, add a teaspoon of sugar, heat gently for about 5 minutes while stirring continually – but do not allow to boil – and pour over the bar as it emerges from the fryer. Serve immediately.

 

Be prepared for murmurs of satisfaction, but advise your diners to keep their ‘emergency contact’ 999 card handy throughout the meal.

 

Have a great time at the Festival!

 

-All three dogs and Elsie (because no individual wants to be associated with this entry)

 


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