Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Skye - Kale Yard, Kale History, Coffee and Kale, and Peter Pan

 Great Leafy, Non-Headed Cabbage *
Hail to Kale from the Isle of Skye

On Skye some of the old walled areas we saw as parts of cottages or farms appar were for growing kale, that strong very strong vegetable in the cabbage-brussels sprouts etc family. There are no identifying signs, but we found this bit of history through serendipity.

1.  History.  Kale-type veggies have been cultivated since the Fifth Century BC, at least, see  Kale:  Scots.  Kohl: German.  It was native to the Middle East, perhaps brought to the British Isles by the Romans, a staple also of the lower classes, workers, peasants, throughout the Middle Ages.  The forced depopulation of Scotland brought about a decline in kale-demand, as the wealthier apparently preferred the more delicate cabbage.

Kale recipes as meme: In early days, preserved in salt, in barrels. Cooked down and down. It grew well on the rough ground of the Scottish Isles. More: 
For any beleaguered family cook thinking she is unique in imagining crispy kale, not so.  It is all over.  See the added perk of kale at 

Skip viagra.  Try kale.  Then let us know. Go out to dinner with the money saved.

2.  Kailfield.  Also a name, derogatory, for a group of Scottish writers, whose number included James M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan.  Veraveg site. We saw no tribute to Barrie in Scotland, but did in London, of course, at Kensington Gardens.  Tried a search for Kailfield, and came up instead with Kailyard, as the name for the group idealizing Scotland in a nostalgic way, see  Also Kail-yard.

3.  At home
  • Kale recipe.  Kale in the Morning.  Coffee and Kale.
 For those whose families are gastronomically timid, fix your own kale.

Kale despite them.

  • Wash, snip out the stem (put in the processor with a clove of garlic, salt, and any nuts, and drizzle in olive oil for a kind of pesto) and roughly break apart tough leaves.  
  • Drizzle a little olive oil in a pan, toss in the kale, and sizzle until fragrant and crisping 
  • Dump on paper towels, drain.  
  • Dump on cookie sheet, add salt, and roast until crisp, about 10 minutes, say 375, watching and stirring occasionally.  Better than chips.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Perthshire area. Scottish Castles

Scots castles. Tall tower houses, embellished or with walls, additions, or not. They are in ruins in the glens, on the moors, in good condition some, and always evoke the need for a family's defense in isolated places. Put the windows high up, the entry an obstacle with the heaviest of reinforced doors, ditches outside, draws to raise.

The glossy luxe magazine, Country Life, is a venerable British weekly that highlighted Scotland's romance heritage through its castles in August 2012.  One article, a book review, presents Scotland's Castle Culture, edited by Audrey Dakin, Miles Glendenning,  and Aongus Mackechnie.  Find the magazine not on its own website, which I could not find, but in a fine overview of its editorial and topical history at (yes) Wikipedia.  The book adds to the usual architectural history sections the overlay of changing relations with England, shifting allegiances of border families.

Theory is interesting,  but riveting is considering life in these structures, as a family.  The husband off to warring or governing, the lady at home, the retainers, the hunting and fishing culture that meant sustenance then.  Defense against marauding neighbors or invaders.  England's castles look brittle and purposeful.  Scotland's hold echoes of people inside.

Stirling Castle, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Attention should be paid to the swords of famous battle leaders.   Robert the Bruce, who led the victory of the Scots over the British at Bannockburn in 1314, see apparentlyearlier (later?)  received the sword of William Wallace, see .  Scroll down the sites for representations of medieval swords.  Wallace may not have been a pivotal figure at all for Bruce, but the two later get linked by the proximity of their memorials. See, e.g., Wallace was tortured and killed by the English in 1305 when they finally overcame him by betrayal, capture, butchery.  Wallace was known for his own victory over the British at Stirling Bridge in 1297.

What happened to that particular sword is not known, but the sword attributed to Robert the Bruce in Stirling, is so long and heavy that it is hard to imagine anyone able to lift it. I understand that a young man began with increasingly heavy and long swords so that by the time he was grown, he could wield such a one handily.  Like lifting a cow by beginning as a child with a calf.