The St. Andrew's Day Service in Edinburgh.

Above the Crags that fade and gloom
Starts the bare knee of Arthur's Seat;
Ridged high against the evening bloom,
The Old Town rises, street on street;
With lamps bejewelled, straight ahead,
Like rampired walls the houses lean,
All spired and domed and turreted,
Sheer to the valley's darkling green;
Ranged in mysterious disarray,
The Castle, menacing and austere,
Looms through the lingering last of day;
And in the silver dusk you hear,
Reverberated from crag and scar,

Bold bugles blowing points of war.

'From a Window in Princes Street - to M.M.M'B' by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

I love Edinburgh, it's my favourite city. Yes, of course I love Paris, Milan, Adelaide and New York, but Edinburgh is a capital city on a human scale. You can walk right across it in an afternoon, catching glimpses of the shining sea and the ancient mountain in the centre of the city. I love the mix of architectural styles, the dark closes and the elegant squares. I love the Waters of Leith, the charity shops in Stockbridge, the ever-so-slightly scruffy streets round the university, the fabulous galleries and museums, the narrow pubs and the upmarket stores of New Town.

But it's more than that. In some profound way the city speaks to me. It stirs some deep atavistic memory, as if once long ago in some former life I scrubbed steps there or sold vegetables or gutted fish or maybe even tripped along on the cobbles in my pattens behind some grand mistress. I am always at home in Scotland's first city and l've never lived in it.  

About eight or nine years ago l found myself there for a weekend in December. I had a wonderful time, it was my first visit for years and l had fun reminding myself of how beautiful it was. On the Saturday morning l fortified myself with a bowl of porridge laced with a wee dram in the best Farmers' Market I've ever been to. On the Sunday I thought I'd go to St Giles Cathedral for morning service, just to listen to the singing.

I didn't know it was the Sunday of the annual St Andrew's Service. All the great and the good of the city were there. The Edinburgh Establishment turned out in force and in their best. The city worthies in their kilts and wigs and vestments, processed up the aisle with much pomp and solemnity. I sat at the back and drank it all in, then sang my heart out with the rest of the congregation. Wonderful. Maybe that's the reason I've been listening with much interest recently to the debate on the referendum to grant Scotland independence. Because I think if I didn't live here, then I'd like to live there. 

It's a literary city too and for me it gives another dimension. It's a city that Boswell and Robert Louis Stevenson would have recognised, but it's also the home of Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh. It's where Arthur Conan Doyle was born and Sherlock Holmes was conceived....

My most recent visit to Edinburgh was only about a month ago. I went up by train from Yorkshire so I could meet up with one of my oldest friends who lives not too far away. I stayed in a University room in the centre of town, much used by visiting academics. It was much more homely than being in a hotel and prevented me feeling like a tourist. Kathy and I had an elegant vegetarian lunch and talked non-stop whilst we wandered around the city and then caught our respective trains home. We sat for a while in the gardens on Princes Street and I took the lovely shot of autumn foliage and the backs of the Old Town houses. 

So I'm cooking something which is not particularly Scottish, but reminiscent of the delicious lunch we had. Good autumn fare for a hungry vegetarian. A reminder of a happy time in a beautiful place.

The traditional accompaniment for jerusalem artichokes is hazelnuts, but I only had walnuts.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Walnut Bake (for 2)

About 8 large Jerusalem artichokes (get the un-knobbly ones if you can)
1 tin of tomatoes
1 onion
1 clove garlic
olive oil
a thick slice of stale bread
1 oz walnuts
1 oz parmesan cheese

Boil the artichokes in their skins until just soft, but not squashy. Drop into cold water and then remove the skins. Slice thickly. Make a rich tomato sauce with the tomatoes, onion and garlic, add a splash of red wine if you have it. Put a layer of the sauce in the bottom of a gratin dish, layer over the artichokes and cover with the rest of the sauce. 

Make a gratin top with breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and crushed walnuts. Sprinkle over and bake for thirty minutes in a hot oven. 

Best with a green vegetable.

I like the English tongue fu' weel
In writin' an' in readin';
But 'tween the English an' the Scotch
There's lack o' truth an' breedin'.
It's England's meteor flag that burns
Abune oor battle plains;
Oor victories, baith by sea an' lan',
It's England aye that gains.

From: 'Auld Mither Scotland' by Janet Hamilton (1795-1873)

PS. I know St Andrew's Day was yesterday, but the service is the nearest Sunday - and I so wanted to do a post on Thanksgiving, which took last week's slot. 

Have a good week.

1 comment:

thecatalanway said...

that was lovely Liz and interesting to read about your deep connection with Edinburgh. I went to university there as did all my family. My mother was born there and both my parents lived there until they died so I do know it well but strangely I have never felt at home there. I love to visit and I enjoy all that you describe but for some deep and unknown reason I have always felt a stranger there. I feel more at home in Barcelona, isn't that odd? But I love the mystery this suggests, why some places feel they are in our blood and others remain forever outside us.
But I have said that if Scotland becomes independent then I would be sorely tempted to go and live there.....but perhaps in the Highlands where I do feel truly at home.

Do unknobbly artichokes exist?

love Kate x