I’m not going to mince my words here, the perception of Scottish food abroad is quite frankly appalling.
For three days I have been holding seminars in Bangkok as an ambassador of our nation’s food as part of Visit Britain’s “Great” campaign on this very subject and to be honest I’m shocked at what people think we eat! Don’t get me wrong, we did invent the deep fried mars bar and that’s not something to be proud of, so we probably haven’t helped our already damaged reputation by doing that.
Our ingredients are treasured the world over, whether its scallops, langoustines, lobsters from the west coast or game from the Scottish Borders. These are all of our own produce shipped all over the world. The rest of the world appreciate our ingredients, they just think we don’t know how to use them. Which I have to say is wrong, we do know how to use them, very well in fact, and I think we use them better than anyone.
Scotland’s farmers and producers are very proud of their farms and produce; they look after them well and are very dedicated to only growing or farming the best. Our climate helps a huge amount, our rich pastures for the animals to graze and the slow growing berries are a real treat when they are in season. Not to mention the rich game that naturally inhabits our beautiful countryside.
I think my time here in Bangkok has been hugely beneficial. As part of this role I am working with ten Scottish tourism businesses to show the Far East how amazing we really are. I am on a mission to let people know what it is that makes our food so special and why they should come to Scotland. The perception of Scottish food is bad and I am out here to change that. So far, my work here has gone some way to try and dispel the myth that we all live on a diet of fish and chips, roast beef dinners and deep fried chocolate bars, that all of our food is bland and tasteless; it’s simply not the case at all. Look at all of our fantastic restaurants we have in Edinburgh, our quality of food is just superb.
It is a great privilege to be asked to represent our country, especially at a time when we have a right to be proud of where we stand in the culinary world. My aim here in Thailand is to show how we can be innovative, taking our classical dishes and improving them even more, giving them even more flavour.
I have been putting a strong emphasis on Scottish produce during the seminars, talks and cookery demonstrations here in Thailand because after all I am Scottish and I believe it is the best. I want to tell the world how great all of our local produce is. Europe uses our game and our seafood because it’s just fantastic. Our Aberdeen Angus Beef is the best in the world as is our Welsh lamb, you just can’t beat it. There is a lot of local press here which is a really good opportunity to show off just how great we really are with food and to shine as a country.
For the Scottish tourist trade, I think that the more we can educate the tourists, all the better for the dining scene in general really. We host food festivals annually and send our chefs all over the world to do cooking demonstrations, so in some small way we are constantly chipping away the reputation but we do need to do a lot more.
This is the year of creativity in Scotland and I think as a nation we need to start being a wee bit more creative in our ideas to promote what is great about our country, and what is great about our ingredients and our food in general.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom – our reputation is far better than it was say ten years ago – but we can always do more as there seems to be a huge amount of media interest around the subject at the moment which can only be a great thing since it will help spread the word and hopefully one day people will be coming to Scotland for the wonderful food as well as the beautiful scenery and historic sites.
So what’s great about Scotland?
Mark Greenaway is head chef at Restaurant Mark Greenaway at 12 Picardy Place in Edinburgh, www.restaurantmarkgreenaway.com
Who ate all the pies?
Scotland tops the pie eating charts for the whole of the UK, with sales at a 30-year high. The average Scot eats 22 pies a year – compared to just 13 for the typical Welshman, according to research by market analysts Nielsen.
Deep fried mars bar
The infamous Scots delicacy was born in 1995 when the Haven Chip Bar in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, deep fried the chocolate bars for local school kids. The gastronomic innovation was reported by the local paper and within days Keith Chegwin was doing taste tests on TV’s The Big Breakfast before it went global via the BBC World Service.
Sunk by fish suppers
Passengers on Scotland’s island ferries ate 78 tons of chips and 15 tons of fried haddock last year, accounting for more than a third of the meals sold on Caledonian MacBrayne’s Hebridean fleet. CalMac also sold a record-breaking 100,000 full Scottish breakfasts, but only two per cent went for the healthy option of a smoked salmon salad.