Why marriage is like chutney and oatcakes.

I recently bought the River Cottage Everday cookbook because I love everything about River Cottage and Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s approach to food and lifestyle. I didn’t expect to get a meaningful, philosophical insight into my marriage from it, but that’s precisely what I got. This is one inspirational cookbook!

As I’ve just stopped work to have our second baby, I’m keen to really revert more to my natural inclination towards living frugally. We have two professional incomes but my soul properly sings when I can grow food, reuse things and hunt for second hand stuff. It just makes me happy.  It just costs a little more time that can sometimes be snaffled during a working/parenting week.

I was looking through Hugh’s cookbook in a browsy way, wondering if I could make something nice for our 11th anniversary on Saturday. One recipe caught my eye as it said “perfect with home-made chutney”.  Richard had just crafted a delicious batch of home-made chutney last week with our plentiful supply of green tomatoes.

The recipe is called Bill’s Rona Oatcakes, and when it dawned on me that this was from the Isle of Rona near Skye, I had to know more. With a quick search online, I found out that the recipe was from Bill Cowie who is the only permanent resident on Rona.

After reading the Isle of Rona website and seeing Bill’s  Images of Rona collection, I was besotted with the place. Next time we travel to the UK (which we do every few years) I feel determined that we’ll have a family holiday there. I feel drawn.

Richard and I have spent lots of time in Scotland and have a deep love of the islands, and they form a large part of my mystic/romantic dreams of the ideal place in terms of the natural world.  Growing up with Scottish parents probably sowed the seeds of my love for that wild landscape, but now having also spent time in Scotland, that feeling of awe and love is so easily conjured. When I listen to celtic music, memories of all the times we’ve spent in the highlands and islands flicker throgh my mind and fill my heart – so brim full. Sometimes I can so vividly summon up the landscape, I feel like I can go there anytime I need to. My favourite holiday of ours was cycling and camping some of the Hebrides, and I have a soft spot for Sutherland on the mainland, and love the islands I’ve so far visited which are Iona, Mull, Skye and the Orkneys. But not Rona yet….not yet…but I can dream!. .

Rona sounds truly like the idyllic wild holidays that Richard and I love. No shops or roads, one permanent resident and only a few holiday cottages – a place where you can walk in rain and sun showers, catch fish and cook them on an open fire, relax by the fireside in the evening with whisky or heather beer, gaze at the clear night sky, eat kippers for breakfast while watching a rainshower, look for plants and wildlife on land and sea – generally just adore feeling little in nature’s big beautiful vastness.

Suddenly, this oatcake recipe was just not about biscuits for chutney  – it had leapt off the page into my dreaming mind – and the oatcakes became symbolic  – little oaty tokens that represented a taste of a future ideal – a family holiday on Rona.

It wasn’t long before I was  infusing the kitchen with some delicate tunes from my celtic playlist –  and the mood was well and truly set.  I had decided to make some of these oatcakes for Richard as his wedding anniversary present!

A well-baked tune -click to listen
Click to listen
Oatcakes made with love

I accept that in terms of gift-giving, some little oaty cakes might sound a bit cheap, and like my frugality has gone a little over the top – but we don’t generally do anniversary presents anyway. Also, being just a week away from giving birth means we’re not really up for going out for a meal anyway, and are planning to have a normal Saturday together with Fionna – and have something with chutney for tea!

Yes, a first attempt at baking oatcakes are probably going to turn out to be imperfect, and experimental as I’ve never made them before – but homemade gifts appeal to my quest to use money for living experiences – like holidays to the Island of Rona!  Lets just hope Richard doesn’t mind a few half-baked biscuits instead of something made of stainless steel for 11 years of marriage! (I did after all make him a minature cosmos for our 10th!)

Anyway, cheers to Shug and Brian for putting this recipe into a cookbook and consequently, mixing all the ingredients in my head into a hearty, wild family holiday dream.

Romancing the oatcakes

Let’s hope Rona oatcakes and chutney turn out to be a marriage made in heaven. But it’s not just about chutney and oats –  there’s more to enjoy – these oatcakes go well with cheese and marmalade too!  This is how I came full circle with my great insight (bear in mind, I have a crazy pregnancy brain) to  think of our marriage as being just like chutney and oatcakes too: we compliment each other, both mature with age, and yet, are equally and individually enhanced by some lovely condiments…er…children.

In my experience of marriage, it’s just as  romantic being a mother and father together as it is a husband and wife. Now to me, that sounds like the right sort of ingredients in a recipe for happy times ahead. 😉

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