|True Farm Food!
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Posted 14 Mar 2006.
On my grandparents' farm in Nether Lochty, my Granny kept hens and hatched out chicks in an incubator, plus she had a few 'clocking' hens who laid away and reared their own chicks. Surplus eggs were sold to help out with the housekeeping. Four or five milk cows were kept to provide milk and butter. It was my grandmother's and aunt Jean's job to milk the cows, early every morning and in the late afternoon. Before milking time in the morning the huge kitchen range had to be cleaned out, the fire lit and the porridge pot put on and left to simmer till milking was over.
A sow was kept, which was my Aunt Jean's 'perk', as; every time it farrowed she got the proceeds from the sale of the young pigs. One pig was always kept to supplement the larder. When a pig was killed I’m sure the family lived on pork in all its various forms for weeks after. Of course, the bacon was home cured and was hung, in a muslin bag, from the kitchen ceiling. I can honestly say that I have never tasted a better piece of bacon since those days. Sunday morning breakfast was always fried bacon and egg(s), (two for the men). There were no 'freezers' in those days and a lot of the pork was salted to help preserve it.
Butter was made on a regular basis; my aunt Jean made the butter, using the 'kirn' (churn), which was barrel-shaped, with paddles inside it, and attached to a frame so that it could be turned round and round when filled with cream, to make the butter. Both my Granny and Aunt Jean were good bakers as well as being good cooks. As far as I can remember, Saturday was the main baking day. My Granny would make girdle scones, bannocks and oatcakes. I believe the word 'bannock' is used in different parts of Scotland to describe different things, but in this case accompaniment to bacon and eggs I know. I am glad to say that Elspeth carried on the tradition and for most of our married life made girdle scones and bannocks for me every Saturday morning. My Aunt Jean made cakes, shortbread, gingerbread and sponges. She won many prizes for her baking at the local agricultural shows both at the 'Wee Show' at Crail' and at the bigger East Fife Agricultural show held in Colinsburgh. The shortbread tin was never empty. On occasions my uncle Alex and I would raid the shortbread tin, which was kept in the parlour cupboard, and when asked what we were eating would reply 'magic bannock'!
Our meals on the farm were plain, but wholesome. Porridge, as mentioned above, for breakfast, followed by tea and toast. A toasting fork was used to hold the bread in front of the kitchen range fire bars. That job fell to me when I was on holiday there. The more leisurely breakfast on Sunday mornings was, as previously mentioned, bacon and egg. The main meal was always in the middle of the day, consisting of soup (nearly always), followed by the main dish of either home reared chicken or pork, and occasionally beef from the butcher (curried mince was a favourite!). Rice pudding (baked) was also a favourite, as were steamed puddings.
We had curds quite often, bread-and-butter pudding and the old faithfuls, sago, tapioca and custard with fruit in season. Dinner was eaten at the large plain wooden kitchen table, it was large enough to seat 8 people, and after the meal was finished, before work started again, all the adults would sit for a while, generally arms folded, and have a nap. That was one part of the day I used to hate and would clear out of the house to try and find something to occupy myself with in the farmyard.
The necessities of life were brought to the farm by Alex Terras, the grocer, from Arncroach, Fife, Bowman the butcher from Anstruther and the baker from Crail, who, I'm almost certain, was Fisher and Donaldson, whose main shop was in Cupar. They visited the farm weekly. Occasionally a fish hawker arrived from Pittenweem, on his bicycle! The postman brought the daily paper, the Dundee Courier and Advertiser. Alex Terras used to take me with him for the remainder of his rounds and deliver me back home on the return journey, but he would never allow me to have a go at driving the vehicle. The van was an old model T Ford and as far as I can remember there was no gear lever. The throttle and accelerator were levers under the steering wheel.
To get back to the food theme. A 'piece' was always carried to the men, mid-morning, when they were working in one of the outlying fields. This consisted of sandwiches and tea and, during the hot weather, some oatmeal in water made a very refreshing drink. At the end of the working day, a light tea was served and supper was at about 8 o'clock, after everyone had cleaned up and had a bit of relaxation. The parlour fire would have been lit and it was there that the local paper, the Dundee Courier and Advertiser was read. The front page did not carry banner headlines and news, but contained all the small advertisements, like Job Vacancies and Article for Sale. It was many, many years later that the 'Courier' changed its format. Occasionally we would play cards, Snap, Sevens and 'Old Maids' or even have a singsong, my aunt Jean being a proficient pianist.
I learned all about the facts of life on the farm; it wasn't the birds and the bees, but the cows, the mares and the sows! A bull would mysteriously arrive at certain times and lived with the cows for a short while. The man with the stallion walked round all the various farms and the old sow would disappear for a while. I have been present at the birth of foals, calves and little piglets. I spent many happy days on the farm.