WOODWORKING BY DAVE WOOD Oh, oatmeal! I just read a piece by a talented Wisconsin writer who penned a hilarious story about oatmeal as a universal cure for anything that ailed the typical Scotsman, …
BY DAVE WOOD
I just read a piece by a talented Wisconsin writer who penned a hilarious story about oatmeal as a universal cure for anything that ailed the typical Scotsman, the heritage of which said writer is very proud. It got me thinking about my Beautiful Wife who is also a devotee of oatmeal porridge.
I had no idea how attached B.W. was to Quaker Oats when I espied her scarfing down a big bowl of it at her solitary breakfast, which, due to my habit of slurping my coffee, I am not allowed to take with her. I asked her to save her Quaker Oats cylindrical boxes for next year's tomato crop, because the cylinders make a great protective barrier for young seedlings. When a year was up, B.W. presented me with ten twopound empty boxes that she had consumed over the year, more than enough for my tender seedlings. B.W. opined that her consumption of 20 pounds of dry rolled oats in a 10-month period had kept her healthy and hale. (If you don't believe her, try arm-wrestling with this slender German-Polish-American and you might run out and buy a box with William Penn's picture on it.)
I was so impressed that I joined her one morning as she addressed—and dressed—her first helping. No sugar, no milk, just grated Parmesan and a big blob of butter. And I thought George McDade was nuts. George was a classmate of mine in Ohio and hailed from Scotland. I came one morning to pick him up after he had eaten his breakfast, a huge helping of oatmeal that he vigorously doused with salt and pepper, big chunks of cheddar cheese, a slop of half and half and a blob of Parkay, ugh, Oleomargarine.
How could these foreigners manage to get it down without heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, which was the only way I could get my palate to accept it when my folks owned the City Cafe back home.
Recently its new owners have renamed it the Sunshine Cafe after 100 years of being known as the City Cafe. I stopped in for breakfast and was astounded to read in the menu: “Oatmeal and Milk. ……$2.25. (Brown Sugar, 25 cents extra).” I predicted the demise of the centenarian restaurant within the year. (Ya gotta know the territory, the territory, in the words of “The Music Man.”) What's next? A charge for raisins? Truffles? Foie Gras?
Foie Gras? Don't laugh. The Scots have already found a way to work liver into a mixture that's all the rage in the Auld Lang Sod. I first learned about it when my Star Tribune colleague Ron Ross, a Scotsman, admitted to me he missed his homeland's national dish, called Haggis, which is oatmeal, sheep's liver and lights and onions. Stuffed in the bladder of ewe, boiled and served with a “gravy” made of 80 proof Scotch whiskey and nothing else.
“So if you're going to Edinburgh, be sure to eat at The Club Room; its Haggis is the best,” Ron told me and gave us directions on how to get there. How can we miss if Ronald Ross advised us? So off we went. At the Club Room, I drank three juniors of McEwan's “Wee Heavy,” a potent ale. (After all, I'm from Wisconsin, aren't I?) We made our way from the bar to the dining room, during which time I picked a fight with B.W., our first. (We were on our honeymoon.)
We both ordered Haggis, which came in its bladder, with rutabagas and mashed potatoes and a beaker of Scotch (gravy). After one bite, I was sober as a Scots Presbyterian preacher. And I must admit the mess before me was very tasty. So maybe my initial queasiness was a tad stuffy. Sort of like the landlord at our Edinburgh B and B. When I told him I had drunk three 6-ounce bottles of McEwan's “Wee Heavy,” “Reputable pubs,” he intoned, “would never serve anyone more than two.”
I guess that depends on your definition of reputable. I looked up a 2022 review of the current Club Room's restaurant and was told by the miracle of the computer that it no longer served Haggis stuffed in a ewe's bladder. Instead the chef stuffs his oats and guts combination into Phyllo dough! Is nothing sacred?
In the back of my head, there always rears the entry in Samuel Johnson's dictionary: “OATS—A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554