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?