Dùn Èideann

So perhaps a few of you knew that I was gone to Scotland for 6 days at the end of last week. I went to Edinburgh and then took a town bus out to Rosslyn Chapel for a day (confused? watch the Da Vinci Code), both of which were stunningly beautiful. Like, I can’t even describe to you this sort of beauty. So I’m going to include various photographs that I took that will hopefully describe my travels and include an anecdote or two to make my text seem worthwhile.

First of all, as many of you are probably ignorant of, I adore languages. And there’s nothing better than a good bookstore. Now, I know that lots of people say that there’s unnecessary hype about Blackwell book stores, that they’re a chain and that everyone makes a big deal out of nothing, but I have to say, they have a consistently great, academically oriented selection. Of course, I also tend to go into ones located in university cities. Maybe I’m biased because not many people have whole sections dedicated to linguistics and Anglo-Saxon literature.

Upon browsing the language section in Blackwell book store Edinburgh, I noticed that there were no books on Scottish Gaelic. Now, I’ve wanted to learn Gaelic for a while, and where better to get a book than Scotland? But none. Nothing. Not even Irish or Welsh. I was shocked! They had books on Urdu, Dutch, Basque! But no Gaelic? The original language of the Scots?

So I went up to the register and asked why they had no books on Gaelic in their languages section. The tweedy, buttoned-up fellow behind the counter looked over his glasses at me with a devilish smile and whispered, “Well, we’d get in quite a bit of trouble if we put the Gaelic in the foreign languages section.”

I was so embarrassed! I had completely forgotten that it wasn’t just “languages!”

Furthermore, I just have a newfound love of the Scots in general. They are more practical and lighthearted than the English, and a bit grittier too. It’s simply a different atmosphere, but, despite how much they would protest if they heard this, they are actually remarkably similar too. The English and the Scots both have a stick-to-it-ness that they’re individually proud of and claim the other group doesn’t have enough of. They’re both incredibly tidy (though I don’t think Edinburgh can represent Highland farms, just like clean Oxford streets doesn’t represent Liverpool). Literally, those lovely British buses were so clean, when I sneezed, I felt I had dirtied something precious.

Of course, not only were the buses clean, but also convenient. Edinburgh, while undergoing (endless) tram construction, has a bus system that makes sense. I’m not joking with you. It actually makes sense. There’s cafes and pubs on more than every street corner, literally 2 or 3 a block. Interesting restaurants, sketchy bars, tiny art galleries and tall-ceilinged antique map shops. It was undescribable!

-A/

The Scottish Make Money Through Murder

Well, perhaps not any more. But at some point, it appears that somebody did. Since I’m most likely going to live in the lovely Edinburgh next year, I find it deeply fitting that I should grace you all with a Scots-themed post.

Burke and Hare  Last night, I watched a brilliantly hilarious film called Burke and Hare, which, while not being at the pinnacle of the film industry, is a dark comedy about two men who murder — yes, murder — seventeen individuals for the sake of selling the bodies to a very competitive market in the anatomy schools of the University of Edinburgh. Two delightful laymen characters horrify themselves by attempting to murder people by throwing them down staircases, losing bodies rolling away in barrels, and make a small fortune in the business.

It stars the delightful Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg, two charming comedians who will be sure to give you the best of British comedy. But I’m not just here to blow whistles for Scottish cinema, because there’s a dark underside to this story.

It actually happened.

No, really! It actually happened. William Burke and William Hare actually murdered seventeen people in order to sell their bodies to the anatomy schools, and, here’s the twist: they had no criminal record of any sort before that. Their wives were both possibly into the act, helping them smother, knock out, and throw their victims off of cliffs. William Burke was actually Irish, in fact, who came over to Scotland in 1817, and could read and write. Unusual, really.

Burke and Hare

These are the real Burke and Hare (I’ll admit that I don’t know which one is which), and the way the story ends is a little different than in the film, but the same number of people die in the end. I can certainly say that this is a film you’ll want to watch if you’re with a gaggle of friends, wanting an early 19th Century basket of laughs with a little bit of squeamish squealing but no real gory horror. Pity the world isn’t like how it used to be, what with the possibility of being nabbed and murdered for the name of science at every dark streetcorner — or that four pounds sterling could get you into an exclusive nightclub. I’ll risk the former for the latter, if I can bring a ten quid note back with me!

Burke's Skeleton  This is Burke’s skeleton, now on display in the University of Edinburgh School of Anatomy Museum. The last shot of the film shows the “what happened to William Burke,” though I won’t give you the short end, since that’d be a spoiler, but we all know he dies eventually, and this is what happens to him. Propped in a fluorescent room, sticks all up in his exposed spine, sitting in a glass canister — in the name of anatomical science. Wonder if it’s what he would have wanted. Probably not.

For the second part of my Sunday post, however, I’d like to introduce to you a recipe for a bakery item that will murder. (Well, perhaps not as much as my Espresso Double Chocolate Cookies, but I’ll save those for another day when I give you Death by Chocolate.) More in line with the Scottish way, I’m going to give you my all-secret, never before shared, fluffy, luscious, scrumptious, Scottish Berry Scones.

I warn you. These are scones that contain sunlight in them, goldeny toasty with dripping blueberries if you get them in season. I’ve done them with chocolate chips and edited them for pumpkin when it’s in season, and when I spent time in Scandinavia, I put lindonberries in them. They work well with any juicy berry that you can find in season, but blueberries always steal the show.

Serve them with jam, butter, and tea, freeze them on a flat sheet and then in a Ziplock, and they’ll last months for your enjoyment. They’ve been doubled for hungry families and they’re in American measurements because most of our readers are American. If you’d like the European measurements, please leave a comment. Also, since they’re a family recipe… it’s more colloquial cooking language.
Blueberry Scones
A’s Murderous Berry Scones

  • 3.5 cup flour
  • 2 tbls & 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup salted or unsalted room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 cup milk (whole for creamier texture, but even skim works fine)
  • 2 cups berries
  • 2 egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven at 400 Farenheit (200 C)
  2. Mix baking powder and flour in a rather large bowl
  3. Rub butter and sugar together (literally, take it in your hands, it will be very sticky, and sort of cream it together) until crumbly.
  4. Add flour mixture.
  5. Add milk and berries and knead gently (still using my hands), as briefly as possible. Will be very sticky.
  6. On a thickly floured surface, roll until 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut out with a standard mug or biscuit cutter and put on a ban with baking parchment, smearing egg yolks on top (I use a basting brush). Sprinkle with Muscovado sugar (Sugar in the Raw, or other very unrefined sugar).
  8. Bake 15 minutes until golden and irresistable.

These are the moistest, fluffiest, most delectable scones you will ever eat. Use wisely.

-A

Information from:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1320239/

http://burkeandhare.com/bhperps.htm

Pictures from:

http://thepenningtonedition.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/burkes-skeleton.jpeg?w=240&h=320