Breakfasting Aberdeen style

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days up in my home town of Aberdeen, Scotland, this week.

Home sweet Home

I miss my “Granite City” often and fondly, for it’s a funny ‘ol place.

With a population of two hundred and twenty five thousand dwellers, the city dubbed the “oil capital of Europe” and perhaps more tellingly the “Dallas of the north,” was a rather fascinating place to grow up in.

I vividly remember the oil rush of my childhood in the ’80s when US oil companies were literally buying up streets upon streets of brand new houses in the suburb where we lived. Before long, it wasn’t uncommon to see a Texan dad heading out for his Sunday paper wearing a cowboy hat.

Houses were being christened with names like “the ranch,” and star spangled banners and golden eagle gnomes were adorning doorsteps all over the area. It was boom town. Seventeen year olds were driving BMWs and private jets were being chartered. We even got an American candy store!

At one stage, the American tenants of the house next door to ours bought two little lambs to graze their back garden, justifying it along the lines of “when in Rome.” I recall sitting high up in the branches of our cherry tree watching the lambs bound about in the 20m x 20m patch of grass attached to the modern four bedroom new build house next door.

…And I wasn’t even allowed a goldfish. Pah!

Needless to say, the tenants were deployed to their next oil field town when their two years in Aberdeen was up, and the lambs presumably grew up to be chops.

The next tenants built a huge sauna in that same house. Again, an alien concept for us locals back then, particularly when they used to prance around in the garden after dark as a way to cool off.

My mum still comments today that if shopping in town, she can tell immediately if a child is from our suburb as we all have a transatlantic undertone to our Scottish accents. Even today, people occasionally ask if I am Canadian.

Although there are perhaps fewer culture shocks to be had in Aberdeen today (or rather we locals are more used to them), the oil industry is booming once again. I don’t see quite as many Americans and Dutch nationals when I am home, but instead, we welcome many Korean, Chinese, Nigerian and Indian families into the area.

There was also a period recently when the Aberdeen taxi drivers were rubbing their hands with glee because a Japenese oil company had booked out all of the rooms in a well known luxury hotel for six months. Great news for the local economy…as long as you don’t need to book a taxi anytime soon!

Breakfasting like a true Aberdonian

In an ever transient and international community like Aberdeen, I suppose one thing that always stays the same when I go home is the best breakfast in the world ever (well, my opinion)!

Yes, I always look forward to tucking into a local speciality breakfast item known as the “rowie” aka the “buttery” aka an “Aberdeen roll.”

With around ten million thought to be sold in the city each year, the rowie is about as quintessentially Aberdonian as you can get, but be warned – it is not for the faint hearted (literally).

Available in any shop, cafe or hotel in town, the rowie weighs in at a calorie content of three hundred calories thanks in main to its main ingredient being lard. Veggies take note! There are slightly more “healthy” versions available made using vegetable oil, but as with all things “diet,” the original recipe is definitely the best.

The best way to describe the Aberdeen roll would be to say its a kind of savoury Danish pastry.

The story goes that the buttery was first designed as a food for sailors, as the high content of salt and fat meant that they didn’t go off during long trips at sea. I guess the same now applies to the oil rigs and supply vessels that Aberdeen is famed for, apart from the fact that pretty much everyone in Aberdeen eats them these days.

I always recommend that visitors to the city try a rowie. They are simply delicious. One can approach them in many ways, my personal favourite being to heat in the oven and then serve with butter. They are equally delicious cold however if you are on the hop.

Although only recommended as an occasional treat for those even remotely health conscious, I always stock up on these wee delicacies when home as they can be frozen and eaten later.

I’m currently writing this whilst heading to London on the train, where I have absolutely no intention of trying their speciality – jellied eels – anytime soon. If you do ever find yourself in Aberdeen, please do give the rowie ago and let me know what you think.

Does your home town have a speciality food or quirky nature? What would you recommend visitors try when stopping by?





9 thoughts on “Breakfasting Aberdeen style”

  1. I love local specialties! My nearest home town (Gloucester) Has two cheeses and a sausage. We’re also close enough to the apple orchards to be obliged to sample local cider, too 😉


  2. Good morning. All things are almost always better with the original than a changing of a recipe. I live in the Southern US. Years ago, my grandmother made the most amazing biscuits (not as you all call them over the ocean) – more like what you call a butterie. She made them with lard and not just any lard, but lard we obtained from our own hogs. Pure white and a luxurious fat to add to baked goods. Flour, baking powder, lard, buttermilk, salt. A quick bread made and a bread quickly eaten – tender, flaky, substantial without being leaden, it was a perfect thing to use to sop up gravy or upon which to spread homemade butter and jam or, if any left the next day, split, spread with butter and toasted. Her orange marmalade was a joy. I’m glad I saw this posting of yours because it reminded me so of my Ninny’s biscuits. it is hard to find lard nowadays which is a pity; shortening just doesn’t always have that bit of flavor. A specialty in Richmond (a town of foodies), is something called a Hanover Tomato. Around Richmond is lots of acres of farmland. In Hanover County,much produce is raised: sweet tender corn and tomatoes. they have a huge festival every summer devoted to the tomato. the Hanover tomato is deep red, juicy, and has quite a bit of a tangy bite. Nothing bland or mealy about these tomatoes! Krispy Kreme donuts are also made in Richmond and when batches of them come out of the fryer and are glazed, a HOT DONUTS sign is lighted in their windows. When hot, these things literally melt in your mouth – a dozen can be inhaled with no problem. People watch for that sign to be lit. If you ever come to Richmond, VA – come after July when the tomatoes are ripe and wonderful and have several dozen Krispy Kremes before you go back home. thank you! this has been fun. I found your blog on Don Charisma.


    1. Wow, your Ninny’s biscuit/butterie sounds lovely! I also love the sound of the tomato and Krispy Kreme idea, although it’s making me hungry! I have relatives somewhere in or maybe near Richmond, VA (my great aunt, Glaswegian, was a GI bride who started in Charlotte then had a daughter in Richmond). My parents have been over to visit and so you never know, I might just get over one day to try! Thanks for stopping by- Great connecting with you 😉


      1. BTW, those tomatoes are wonderful on a hot buttered butterie/biscuit for any meal of the day. How interesting about your Aunt. We Southerners are different. Those “keep calm” thingies one sees about? I saw a woman with a tee shirt that proclaimed….Keep Calm? I am a Southerner. Calm is my first, middle, and last name…..I am looking forward to your posts. I enjoy finding out about food and life in other countries. I’ve visited Edinburgh but not Glasgow. Methinks I missed much.


      2. I have been to Louisiana and Savannah (and Florida as a child but it was Disney so maybe doesn’t count) and just LOVED the southern hospitality and different regional cuisines. You would laugh if I put a Scottish grown tomato on a buttery and took a pic, it would be more like a grape in comparison to US tomato I’m sure 😉 Edinburgh is beautiful isn’t it. Glasgow is the kind of town that gets under your skin. Beautiful architecture and so on. I shall keep trying to capture your minds eye in my posts and look forward to reading yours too.


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