I have been driving around Fife with a 12.5kilo sack of tatties in the back seat for quite some time now.
The truth is there’s no room for them in house, but they were an absolute bargain.
Plus tatties, locally grown and scrubbed taste better. They just do.
For me, they also taste of home and childhood.
Brace yourself readers, for this is a column about food, glorious food.
I can see them now, clear as day, great big steaming piles of freshly boiled potatoes.
My nana would scrub them, score the skin and boil them before peeling the skins off.
They’d sit on the counter, above my seven-year-old eye line in one of those white Pyrex dishes with the dainty blue stitch-like pattern on the rim, with a whacking great knob of butter on the top.
Rhoda kept her tatties in her glory hole, which I have only ever understood to be the name for the cupboard in the hall by the back door that contained a wonder of trinkets, boxes and things which had no where else to go.
You can’t call it that now unless you want to face an abundance of sniggers.
She was an incredible cook, my nana, but I only really remember a couple of staple dishes.
Chicken braised in a pan with leeks and stock, served with the tatties was a clear favourite. So simple and so utterly delicious.
In a close second place came her tattie soup, poorly named as it was rich with all sorts of veg steeping in her own meaty stock. This was to be served with oatcakes and cheese, never bread.
Then mince and yes, you’ve guessed it, tatties in third.
Hearty food, for it was full of heart.
Brexit and Covid changed my ways
Food has always been a big part of my life, something which is self-evident from a frame that has, throughout my life, been politely referred to as sturdy. But it’s an even bigger part now.
I blame the pandemic really.
Lockdown forced us to spend more time in our homes, with more time at our disposal to plan and cook.
Eating punctuated the day between zoom calls, when there was little else in the rhythm of life to do the same.
I also blame Brexit. That’s when my food shopping habits changed.
When I lived in Edinburgh, I was every supermarket’s dream customer.
That classic basket shopper, who only thought about that day’s meal once I was past the steady grip of their sliding doors.
The one who bought condiments and spices that got used once before idling away in cupboards. So much waste.
When the fears of shortages arose, my shopping habits changed and the big shop arrived by van.
There were spreadsheets.
Never again would we run out of something, for there would be another in the cupboard.
A second, small freezer was bought for the shed.
Not hoarding, just stocking up.
When the apocalypse came, we’d be fine for maybe six weeks rather than six months.
I wasn’t being selfish you know, just prepared…
The good life – Markinch-style
Then came the obsession with the garden which again was such a tonic during lockdown.
Pretty flowers, yes, but also a small veg patch and greenhouse.
The veg patch has only ever succeeded in fattening the caterpillars of Markinch. However, the greenhouse was a runaway success and I’ve had tomatoes coming out of my ears until about a week ago.
I was never going to feed the household from that alone, I just wanted to know how and whether I could.
Turns out I probably can.
I am now storing roasted beetroot and gherkins in cider vinegar.
Oh dear god, if you could smell this 😍🎄 pic.twitter.com/hMFgRbtdbw
— Kezia Dugdale (@kezdugdale) October 27, 2021
Our next door neighbours have plums and apples falling from the sky. That’s been captured for chutneys and jams.
Our freezer is stacked with brambles, and there’s rhubarb gin in the cupboard in case we crave the taste of summer in the dark nights ahead.
My crumble topping is one part oats, one part soft brown sugar with just a little flour and one spoon of butter.
It melts and then hardens slightly. Like the syrupy flapjack served with custard when school dinners were good.
Climate action begins at home
As COP26 rumbles on, we should think more about the role of food in our lives – where it comes from and what its future holds.
A few years ago, I read the food critic Jay Rayner’s A Greedy Man in a Hungry World.
It’s hilarious but also highly informative, breaking down the argument about the role of meat in the battle for climate justice.
Locally sourced bacon fairs pretty well against avocados flown in from Mexico or blueberries out of season from Peru.
It also does pretty well against food grown in this country out of season under hot lights and plied with nitrogen-rich fertiliser.
We should all understand this better as we stroll the supermarket aisles trying to do the right thing by the planet and our budget.
For me, the first and most obvious contribution we can make to protect our food is to respect it more.
To buy local where we can, to make it last and never waste it.
That’s why I’m just going to finish off that crumble.