I wasn’t sure what to expect gastronomically from my pilgrimage to Scotland. I had hoped there would be some form of cuisine that was not saturated in starch (this was the land of the deep-fried Mars bar, after all). What I did not expect to find was a talented Italian cook. His name is Archibald Clark, and he is, in his own words, my mad, mental, Celtic cousin.
Archie is the kind of person who will very comfortably speak his mind with little concern for the impact of the truth on others. I took to him immediately. His effusive charm and hospitality were a delight, even while he was grilling me about my knowledge of Scotland’s military history. Thank goodness I had seen Braveheart. While showing me his study and some old family photographs he handed me a piece of paper to read — it was his Mensa membership certificate. When I asked him his IQ, he nonchalantly replied, “Oh, somewhere around 180.” After I removed my jaw from the floor I tried to picture him at a Mensa gathering, and couldn’t quite get there. Archie is in a league of his own. By the end of the night he had me in tears of joy and laughter with his family stories, a few bawdy jokes and a serenade with his guitar.
But I truly entered a state of reverence when he showed me his herb garden and cook’s kitchen. Everything was laid out meticulously, and all ingredients and gadgets were in immediate reach. I beamed with anticipation as I watched the pot simmering on the stove, the casserole bubbling in the oven. What was in store for our palates?
“Tomahto soup.” Crafted by hand from fresh tomahtoes and hand-picked herbs. Does this man know how to win a girl over or what? I’m not sure what they do (or don’t do) to the vegetables in Europe, but they are always far tastier than the ones I find here in the States. The soup was gorgeous, and I eagerly awaited the second course. It was a savory casserole of chicken tenderly bathed in a red sauce with spices and cheese. Heaven. The dish was a spontaneous creation, and I formed an even deeper bond with him as I discovered his cooking technique mirrored my own: open the fridge, take a look around and get busy with what you find.
So from this side of the ocean, cousin Archibald, I salute your passion for cooking. May your tomahto and potahto plants be plentiful this year, and may you continue to share your cooking secrets with me. I lovingly look forward to our next meal.