The free and open hospitality which characterise Scots everywhere may be found in different forms in other civilised countries. As the march of civilisation continues over family unity, community spirit and dietary self-care, at least some countries are tackling the issue of a good national diet. Scotland is amongst them. It is suggested, however, that Scotland was subjected to an unsatisfactory diet during its history. This was due, in part, to the starvation and control imposed from the outside, and particularly imposed by its own landed gentry.
With wider publicity for the negative factors contributing to such a diet and the promotion of awareness of the many positive factors within its dietary history, Scotland may come to terms with the idea that it needs to improve its diet.
At certain stages in Scotland’s history its people were well fed comparative to other peoples. It is suggested in this book that until around the mid-nineteenth century, Scotland was sometimes a century behind in the general social and economic developments enjoyed by its nearest neighbours. This is probably quite evident in the account given of the role of agriculture in the lack of progress made.
Everyday life and its problems as experienced in earliest times are described sometimes generally, sometimes specifically in terms of good and bad drink usage, and sometimes in terms of social control. Access to the food supply is the most significant treatment of social control within this book and access higher social status is an important further dimension of it.
The food supply is also shown as an important factor in the development of civilisation and stages of this development are also identified in cultural terms. Changing social uses of food and drink are shown as thresholds in the development of Scotland’s table.
The constraints imposed by Scottish society both informally at the table and formally, through laws relating to the use of drink are identified as characteristics of the changing social uses.
The social uses are sampled at various points in history and occasional comparisons are made with England and elsewhere to determine the extent of dietary and cultural progress. Certain social uses are seen as emanating from France as well as England, and the dietary, if not linguistic influence of France is shown in looking at the Auld Alliance.
Food, hospitality and social control are shown to interact with one another in the context of social and economic relationships and development of other social uses both at home and in substitute domestic feeding. The distinguishing characteristics of the Scottish diet are discernable in both the social and gastronomic analyses and the promotion of any distinctions is looked at finally in terms of the image the Scots may want for themselves.
The book is an appraisal of the historical influences on the Scottish diet. The influences are identified as being economic, social and political, with emphasis on social control.
Chapter One sets out the main methods of approach in considering Scottish Gastronomy from both theoretical and practical stand points. The initial theoretical considerations incorporate an overview of the civilising process and a preliminary evaluation of the relationship between agriculture and economy.
In Chapter Two the civilising process is shown to start with the creation of a food surplus and to end with modern living standards including tableware. The gradual introduction of tableware and changing eating patterns are used as thresholds in assessing the process of civilising the Scottish table, and such thresholds relate to the development of hospitality enjoyed round that table.
Other aspects of social control are the focus of Chapter Three and hospitality is appraised from economic as well as social perspectives. The control of the use of alcohol is also discussed. Social control is evaluated in Chapter Four in terms of access to the food supply when agriculture dominated Scottish life. The detail of the hardship suffered by a range of people is provided.
Chapters Five and Six examine the social background of the occasions and situations in which Scottish food and drink were used within the framework of influences on the present day diet. The concluding chapter assesses the acceptance of the absurdity of the status quo over the years and points to ways in which the unsatisfactory modern diet might be influenced. The final discussion concerns the acceptance of a substandard diet in relation to the Scottish self-identity.
Points are made using the expertise and research of experts and others whose interest in their topic caused them to record their thoughts or experiences. Sometimes it is a visitor to Scotland, sometimes a Scot.
The book is aimed at the reader with an interest in Scotland and especially if that interest includes food. It is for those who know little about the Auld Alliance, the influence of agriculture or the culture of Scotland’s table. It is also for Scots who can stand back from Scotland a while to gain various perspectives, and can show that we accept a little criticism along with accolades concerning, say, our hospitality.
This book is a gastronomic history, it is not historical sociology. Sociologists and historians need not to look, therefore, for any sociological analysis of historical situations. A gastronomic history does not demand a high degree of analysis involving the use of sociological concepts.
The book should be accepted in the spirit with which it was written. Come with me on a tour to Scotland and sample its people’s hospitality. If I asked Scots to be able to stand back it is probably because I have done so myself. The research and main writing was done in 1983 . A move to the South of England, and later employment in numerous other countries, have enabled the process of reflective digestion to take place.
The born again author was able to revise the work with renewed vigour. Considerable exposure to the cultures of other people may have broadened an otherwise restricted outlook. If in my previous writing, the theme of man is what he eats was explored the present work certainly bring out the notion of ‘eating-man’ being the product of his social experience.
So it is from Ross with love of a Scottish gastronomic heritage which is now placed before the reader. The descriptive quality of this account I leave to the readers judgement. The national response I leave to Scotland.
The proof o the pudden's in the pree-in [tasting] o't [of it].