Being of Scottish ancestry, I have always longed to attend a Scottish Games event where I could celebrate and learn more about my heritage. This past weekend I finally got my chance, at the 132nd Annual Scottish Games sponsored by the Caledonian Club of Sacramento, held at the Yolo County Fairgounds.
This is a food blog, so let me cut to the chase and tell you what we ate:
Being a traditionalist, I chose a meat pie meal with peas and gravy.
This was as good as one might expect for food found at a fair. The pastry was a bit chewy, the ground meat rather bland, covered with a potato topping and gravy. In short, it was rather uninspired. But it would be unfair to judge Scottish food by this fast food variety. The peas were better than I expected, however. I washed it down with an imported Scottish soda called Irn-Bru (pronounced "iron brew"), which was flavorful and tasted like a mild orange soda. As it turns out, I am very glad I chose the Irn-Bru, and I'll tell you why in a few paragraphs.
Of course there was a place selling fish and chips, as well as bangers (sausages) and various meat and pastry combinations.
My husband Jim ate a chicken pasty which he said had large pieces of chicken in it:
Our son Ethan had some kind of meat filled dumpling:
As we ate our lunch, we watched the opening parade that featured bag pipes, representatives from many clans and District Scots, persons in period dress, drums and pipes and drum majors.
Most of the afternoon we watched bag pipe band and drum major competitions, featuring competitors all the way from Scotland, Ireland and England as well as prize winners and competitors from the United States. I think the youngest we saw was a very talented young man of age six (pictured in the first photo above during opening parade). It was thrilling to hear the music and watch the precise movements of the drum majors, especially the teen and older men who tossed and flourished the mace (a long staff) with incredible dexterity.
We saw a man demonstrate his team of majestic clydesdale horses, each weighing about 2,000 pounds, that could walk sideways and turn on a dime in an old traditional carriage set-up.
When the sun got a bit much, we retreated into a building and lisitened to a fascinating leture on tartan and the clan family system taught by a Professor MacRae (I hope I am recalling that name correctly!) who was a geneology expert, having taught at University of Edinburgh.
It was from this man that I learned that my great-great Grandparents, the MacPartlands, from Loch Lomand, were from a family name that is a variant of the MacFarlane clan name. (It comes from a word which means "parson" or vicar). While I do not have proof that my family actually belonged to the clan, (a certified process), I like to imagine that I might be part of the MacFarlane Clan lineage. Maybe some day I will be able to apply what I learned from the speaker that day, and find out if I have living relatives in Scotland.
During his fascinating lecture, our speaker mentioned that one day while traveling in his native land of Scotland, he happened to stop at a little wayside store in order to buy something to drink-- his favorite Scottish soda called Irn-Bru, which "tastes like a rusty nail" because it has iron in it. As it turns out, Herself, (the Queen of England) happened to be in the store that very day also! The guard at the door allowed him to enter and shop for his soda while Herself was there, with a little basket over her arm. He told the story as an illustration that the Scottish people are not class snobs even though persons may have noble titles.
The kicker to the story is, when he mentioned Irn-Bru I was able to lift my half-empty bottle and say "like this?" and he was very delighted to see that vendors were selling the import at the games. He read the label aloud and sure enough a type of iron was on the list of ingredients. Irn-Bru is known as "the other Scottish national drink" (other than whiskey) and has successfully competed with major brands of soft drink that are sold here in the states. (Note to self: Consider attending the Scottish whiskey tastings next year....)
Of course we watched the Scottish Games themselves: competitions in traditional and very old Scottish sports such as the caber toss, (both men and a woman's division),
as well as heavy weight toss over the bar, and demonstrations of border collies, highland dance, piping, drumming, etc.
Ethan looked longingly at the claymore (long swords) being sold, but refrained from a purchase. Maybe next year. I however, reasoned that since it was the week of my birthday and my first Scottish games, it was time I finally purchased a tartan. After long deliberation, and with the new information from the lecturer, I selected a beautiful MacFarlane tartan sash, in honor of my MacPartland forebears, even though I do not have official proof of their clan membership.
There were vendors selling kilts of course, and it was wonderful to see so many people wearing the tartan and/or kilts, from the extremely traditional to the new and very modern stylings.
My dream is to go to Scotland some day, but until then I hope to make it an annual event to attend the Scottish Games. Am I ready to join the local Caledonian club? That could be fun!