Ever tried an oatcake?

Oatcakes are a Scottish savoury biscuit traditionally made of oats, lard and water. Legend has it that oatcakes are called ‘oatcakes’ because oats are the main ingredient, though perhaps the real origin of the name has been lost in the mists of time. That aside, the whisper round the croft is that oatcakes have been munched by Scots since the Roman times.

An oatcake I ate last week

Growing well in the Scottish climate, oats were the primary staple of the Scots’ diet in the olden days. They were consumed in many ways, including as porridge, an ingredient of haggis and of course in oatcakes. They were also likely complained about from time to time by those who had to eat them for breakfast, lunch and tea.

The first recorded mention of oatcakes was made by the French poet and chronicler Jean Froissart. Whilst out enjoying a good chronicling, Jean observed a Scottish soldier who carried a metal cooking plate and a stash of oatmeal. He was moved to chronicle thus:

”…he casteth this plate into the fire, he moisteneth a little of his meal in water, and when the plate is heated, he layeth his paste thereon and maketh a little cake, the which he eateth to comfort his stomach. Hence it is no marvel that the Scots should be able to make longer marches than other men.”

Robbie Burns (see The Domain and the Bard for more on Rabbie) loved the fizz, and chose oatcakes to satisfy his beer munchies (seeing as there were no kebab shops on the way home from the tavern in the 1700s): ‘Oatcakes are a delicate relish when eaten warm with ale‘.

Our Mum was a Scot, and introduced us to oatcakes when we were bairns. Around Christmas time Mum would always buy oatcakes, or at times make them herself. As commercially available oatcakes are very stable (they are now made with vegetable oil), and if kept dry remain edible for about 150 years, they make a very good hiking food. I always have oatcakes in my backpack, and can vouch for the claim that they do indeed provide energy and sustenance during a long march.

So next time you are out warring and need to comfort your stomach, or want a bar snack with your ale, or are just heading off on a walk, why not try an oatcake?

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Chicken Kyiv, Gyros, Giros and Yiros

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2 responses to “Ever tried an oatcake?”

  1. Vicki Avatar

    I remember making oatcakes with Mum to take to a multicultural lunch at work. They had the slightest greenish tinge. Not sure why. My colleagues were very polite and tried some anyway, but they looked a bit pathetic next to the fried rice and African stews!

    But I do love an oatcake and the other day I made porridge for breakfast.

    Oats is what gives Scots the energy to chuck large things around (trees, boulders…).

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      I don’t think anyone has ever tried to pass off the humble oatcake as particularly flash but by God they’re honest

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