WEEK THIRTEEN – Ena Baxter/Tony Singh

>> Ena Baxter

Tony Singh <<

ena baxter            tony singh

Food culture in Scotland has had no trouble reaching extremes, in the eyes of popular culture at least. After all, what could be more polarised than a deep-fried Mars Bar and a side of smoked salmon? But neither of the ‘icons’ we feature this week can be accused of falling for such an extreme take on the nation’s culinary habits. Perhaps more identified with an older generation’s predilection for ‘plain food’, Ena Baxter was the doyenne of the soup and sauce company Baxters of Speyside. Her contribution to the preservation of our traditional fare – and I use the word preservation advisedly – is second to none. But tastes change and the generic ‘curry’ is now often cited as the nation’s favourite food. Fighting its corner we have the popular chef Tony Singh, whose career has taken him from the Royal Yacht Britannia via a range of his own restaurants to TV stardom. Thus the inventor of the haggis pakora, meets the creator of Royal Game soup, though both are united in their use of only the best of Scottish ingredients.

Ena Baxter Soup
by Elspeth McLean

As Gordon Baxter was fond of saying:  “Where’s Mrs Heinz? Collecting French Impressionists…Where’s Mrs Baxter? In the kitchen making soup!”
Ena Baxter, Soup Entrepreneur – Obituary, The Telegraph, 20th January 2015

Take a douce childhood on a couthy Huntly farm,
a mouth for a good recipe,
the perseverance of Greer Garson’s Marie Curie,
a husband who’s a son of Moray and has a canning factory,
game from the hill, fish from the burn,
an artist’s eye,
and a stockpot.

Leave the teaching of art.  Pick up a wooden spoon.
Invent Baxter’s Chicken Gumbo Soup.
Sell a million cans in the first year.
Move on to Royal Game, Scotch Broth, Cock- a -Leekie,
the Lobster Bisque that’s kept for best,
the Cullen Skink Prince Philip likes.
Much more than just a tin of soup.

Don’t stop there, work on the marmalades and jams.
Pioneer the twist top jar.
Pickle beetroot, can haggis, preserve pheasant in wine jelly.
Send Scotland to Japan, Korea, and the USA.
Appear on TV in a pinny.
Be seen in the kitchen with the stockpot, the secret recipes,
not at all like Mrs Heinz.

Write a Scottish Cookbook for industrious housewives.
Feature on the cover having a picnic in your kilt.
Explain how to salt a herring and sew up a haggis.
Remind us of the wholesome food we didn’t used to like:
Feather Fowlie, Powsowdie, Hough Soup,
Mealy Pudding, Clapshot, Clootie Dumpling.
Just don’t mention opening a tin.

Keep it in the family. When the time is right,
hand over to Audrey .
Pick up your paint brushes.

by Russell Jones

Leith’s infused in spice, cracked pepper
terraces, knock-off shops, bric-a-bracs,
renovations simmering along its waterside.

In caboodled Caledonian kitchens
rubia turbans sing and sizzle, wet summer
fruits jam for the right caster and seasons.
A lick will bring the blood to boil; veins
pulsed from the nuptial pots of Delhi
to stalwart queues in Scottish diners.

Picture a bowl: snaw-white, braw
by the pound of spice snoozing in its belly.
Think mulligatawny, kedgeree, tikka masala,
haggis pakora (with chips?) and the steam
of history engulfs the room. Tear the morning
roll, naan, Mother’s Pride – it’s not just the dish
that makes the meal, but the appetite.



Elspeth McLean 1MB versionElspeth McLean
 grew up in Edinburgh and lives in Liverpool. Her recent pamphlet (with Shirley Jones) The Aquatic Ape defends and celebrates swimming. Her poems have appeared in The Open Mouse, The Accent, and A Different Kind of Rocking (2009). She won North End Writers’ Nature in the City competition in 2011 with a poem about travelling on the bus with a tree, and she writes songs for Liverpool Socialist Singers.

R JonesRussell Jones 
is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He has published 4 poetry collections and edited Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK. He is the poetry and deputy editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a new sci-fi magazine from Scotland, and writes novels for young adults. He can be followed at www.poetrusselljones.blogspot.com




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