Every wee disc of an oatcake is a taste of my childhood home
From an early age I have eaten oatcakes. My Scottish childhood breakfasts were taken at tables where oatcakes were a regular option. We took holidays at small Scottish hotels and oatcakes were usually a part of the table furniture, sitting in a fancy tin patterned with tartan. If the tartan was one of the Stewart varieties, that made the oatcakes all the better.
Oatcakes and butter. I never considered any other option until later in life. Now, occasionally, I will eat them with cheese. That’s about as adventurous as I get. I still don’t share them with horses.
We moved to England when I was 13 and oatcakes were harder to come by suddenly. That’s not the case now but in the 1970s in the English Midlands, oatcakes — like another staple of my childhood, vermicelli buns — disappeared from my diet except on the occasions I traveled north to visit relatives who had wisely remained north of the foodstuff demarcation line.
Between school and university a friend and I visited Islay and lived rough in the woods by a loch for a few weeks. He had his first oatcakes and loved them. He was English so I was especially proud of the wee dry biscuits. We had competitions to see how many we could eat. I suppose this is the Scottish equivalent of the cream cracker challenge. The oatcake challenge may be better, if only because I suspect there is a great deal more goodness in a half dozen oatcakes.
My daughters eat oatcakes. My son not so much. My wife takes them if there is nothing else in the bread bin of a morning. Samuel Johnson, of course, was no fan of the oatcakes he encountered on his travels in Scotland. Indeed, he was rather disparaging about the main ingredient in his Dictionary:
A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
I told my wife this morning that a new study published simultaneously in Nature and The New Scientist has shown that eating oatcakes regularly makes you more intelligent, more emotionally sophisticated, and sexier in a number of vitally important ways. There was a suggestion that it might even make your accent more Scottish.
I don’t know which of the claims convinced my wife I was making the whole thing up. Regardless, I will be eating oatcakes for breakfast tomorrow.