O: Oir/Onnm, Gorse in the Scottish Gaelic alphabet.
Gorse is a plant blooming almost all year round in most parts of Scotland, and I’ll write about it more in another post.
Most of the plants associated with the Scottish Gaelic alphabet are trees and shrubs, but I was thinking last night how essential grains are for most cultures throughout the world (see my post on Spurtles, Sprottles and World Porridge Day). And the grain most associated with Scotland is oats, from which we get oatmeal, or porridge.
My granny used it in several ways:
• She had the most exquisite skin, even into her 80s; once she told me that she had used a handful of oatmeal to scrub her face when she was young.
• When I had such a bad case of sunburn at the age of 9, my shoulders blistered, Granny put me into a tepid bath with a couple of hands of ground oatmeal suspended inside a cheesecloth bag
• Baking soda and oatmeal can make a good dry shampoo for someone who’s bedridden—and may have allergies that preclude the (more expensive) commericial ones.
• Oatmeal can absorb unpleasant smells, from cigarettes to worse reeks.
• At least once when I was sick as a child, long before Play-Doh was invented, Granny used leftover porridge, some flour, water and food coloring to give me a “clay” to play with on a standing tray in bed.
• It will thicken soups and stews, and bind meatloaves together. Not bad in cookies, either, with or without raisins, and terrific atop Apple Crisp.
• Oatcakes were another way of using oatmeal, baked on a girdle stone over the fire and served with jam and butter.
The wee bannock of the famous bairn’s tale may have been a kind of oatcake.
• And, of course, as a breakfast food! If you think that oatmeal’s boring, then check out Porridge Lady’s blog, with lots of interesting and tasty recipes. Oatmeal is rich in fiber, is filling (so you’re less apt to snack on unhealthy stuff), and may have other healthy applications still being researched.
In many of the stories she told me, oats were fodder for beasts, but even more importantly, ground into meal, was the fuel that enabled people to venture forth and improve their lives. Scholars walking the many miles from their Highland homes to attend universities in Scottish cities, wayfarers setting out on a journey in hope of a new, better life, crofters tracking the reivers who stole their cattle (remember the opening scenes of Rob Roy?)—all took with them a sack of oatmeal. Add some water and eaten with fingers on the way, and you had a quick, easy and filling food. Brose, made by soaking oatmeal in hot water and adding a knob of butter, eaten standing, kept hard-wording people going on land and sea.
A favorite special occasion dessert is Crannachan, using the same ingredients: toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little whisky, mixed with whipped cream, heather honey, and fresh raspberries. Traditionally, the ingredients were brought to the table separately, enabling the guests to assemble them to their own tastes.
|Cranachan--doesn't that look good?|
May you never be so poor you've no salt for your porridge!