Memoirs of a Child on a Farm
Grandpa always referred to soup as ‘thae’, meaning ‘those’. He wasn’t thinking about different soups, but one particular kind of broth, which was his absolute favourite. No Vichyssoise for him, but a crystal clear meat stock cooked with garden vegetables.
Forget about fridges, this was the 1940s; on the north wall of the farmhouse was a narrow, long room with three foot thick stone walls, no windows and a stout well-fitted wooden door. Inside, the deep shelves to either side were of a thick white-veined marble, and even on the warmest day, the pantry was very cold.
Everything came directly from the garden in the good months. I won’t say summer; Scotland was often very unclear as to what that really meant! In the winter vegetables were stored in specially made pits in the fields, the potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbages certainly, while the big golden onions hung on braided strands in the pantry, and the peas were replaced by large white haricot beans.
Frenchmen riding bicycles came around regularly to sell those onion strands, and very popular they were too.
Lunch was eaten at 11.30 AM, and was referred to as ‘denner’, since it was the main meal of the day. The cold meat was set out on a large white and blue oval platter, the potatoes were heaped in a large ornate ‘ashet’ (casserole dish) of the same style and pattern, usually sporting a fitting lid to keep ‘they tatties’ warm, and the soup, about three big cupfuls, was served in deep white and blue soup plates.
Once everyone had ‘thae kail’, the ‘denner’ could begin, and there was a definite method to the taking of it.
The bree, or broth, was supped off first with a huge dinner spoon, then the vegetables were pushed to the side to make room for slices of meat and the steaming hot ‘spuds’. There was new-churned butter on the table, which made the simple meal divine!
Two courses in one plate; yet after working a piece of bread around to sop up the last dregs, dessert arrived, and ended up in that same plate. My, eating was good in those days.
Fill a big pot with water and put in it a three to four pound brisket of beef.
Rinse out and add two-thirds of a cup of barley.
Bring to a good heat, but do NOT let it boil.
Cook until the brisket is soft and tender.
Remove the meat from the pot and set on a plate in the pantry to cool.
Clean and cut up the vegetables into small pieces: carrots, turnips, peas, onions, scallions, cabbage, and add them to the beef stock. Continue to cook slowly until the vegetables are done. Season well with salt, pepper and lots of fresh parsley.