Special Dispatch: A Tale of Two Scotlands, by Hashley Brown
As modern lore has it Scotland is a land of deep-fried pizza munching obesity. And yes, it does have its fair share of food crimes, but it also has its Highlands and Islands, its wide open spaces that would beat any other in the UK were they contenders to the most rugged or bleak world title. Escape from the central belt of urbanity that is bookended by Glasgow in the west and Edinburgh in the east and you enter a world of Rabbie Burns and misty lochs. A tale of two Scotlands ensues. One informed by the other, but gastronomically distinct.
Scotland No. 1:
Pizza Supper: Budget pizza slung into the fryer with chips.
Pizza Crunch Supper: Budget pizza dipped in batter then slung into the fryer with chips.
Mega Munchie Box: All the Indian starters (Pakora, Bhaji etc..) deep fried with chips. In a box.
...it goes on. There is a great, overwhelming love of chips, and more chips, and fried stuff in inner city Scotland. Lots and lots of chips are consumed, preferably with cheese, all the time. Indian and Chinese takeaways offer chips as standard with all dishes. (And chip shops sell sweets too). Love of the fried potato extends to double carb meals, tattie (potato) scone rolls, takeaways that boast as being the home of the 'cous cous toastie'. Putting one form of fried carbohydrate into another is fun, if not strictly healthy.
"How does this inform one's breakfasting?" I hear you cry. Well simply this, they fry a lot. Your standard greasy spoon will serve you up a plethora of breakfast goodies, almost all straight from the fryer - link sausage, lorne sausage, hash brown, tattie scone, black pudding (and chips), none of which is of any great quality. You eat it and feel dirty afterwards.
Scotland No. 2:
When London's gastro-masses aren't guzzling Breton cider to wash down that tangy Calabrian salami they just procured, it is quite likely they are sampling the produce of their Caledonian cousins. The names of many great Scottish foods are synonymous with quality - Arbroath Smokies, Loch Fyne Oysters, MacSween's Haggis, Argyll Venison, smoked salmon from anywhere, Highland Bitters, Islay single malts (just for starters...). From Scotland's bountiful countryside comes fantastic food. Now do the sums. Add the universal maxim of Scottish breakfasts (serve em everything) to a place that prides itself on sourcing local produce and you have a breakfast for a King, or maybe a Bonnie Prince.
When in the city it pays to choose your breakfasting venue carefully to avoid bountiful grease with your substandard meat. Glasgow is gastronomically more of a challenge than Edinburgh (this writer was dismayed to hear from a local cab driver that "Glasgow's not ready for sushi...") but there are gems everywhere. Having said that, a bacon and tattie scone roll from anywhere will taste fantastic, even better if it's in Glasgow's Barrowlands market. Once you've had your fill of the cities I'd recommend hotfooting it as deep into the countryside as you can, and notching some country breakfasts onto your early morning bedstead. And remember that a Full Scottish is considerably bigger than a Full English, and that haggis, black pudding, Cloutie Dumpling & Lorne Sausage are all wonderful additions to the breakfasting repertoire (as is whisky with your porridge, but the porridge story demands far more discussion than one article will allow).
In a mere three and a half months of breakfast research, it has been impossible to measure the breadth of the Scotch breakfast, but safe to say that if you find a good one it'll keep you right all day. As long as you never, ever ask for a Full English...
Try these: Heart of Buchanan, Tapa Organic bakery, Peckhams (Glasgow), Bonhams (Edinburgh), The George Hotel (Inverary)