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The Scotch Egg

So as I’ve probably said before, I’ve now been in Singapore for many years, I think over ten, it’s getting blurry with days right now, so years? No chance. But about a week after I arrived, I’d been invited over to an Aussie mates house, now the Aussie in question, the last time I had seen him, was leaving the church in Kings Cross with a can of fosters attached to his head. Now he was living in a 4-bedroom house with his wife and I think it was 3 children. It was quite a change.

I’d gone over to watch a rugby league game and it dawned on me that as the ball was thrown from a hovering Blackhawk helicopter, in the middle of the stadium, I’d grown up too “that doesn’t look safe”.

Now something’s hadn’t changed. There was plenty of beer, and the guy still had that cheeky grin on his face that gave anyone in his vicinity the anticipation that they were going to be stitched up at any moment.

“Here, have one of these”, as he passed me a thick pastry kind of thing with an imprint of Chinese characters on top. Now with my 6’4 frame and 125kh stature I’m not one to turn down a pastry so I took a big ole bite out of this pastry...

And immediately regretted it.

Now I’m not going to dwell on the taste as I believe that many people do like them and some people have been slightly offended when I’ve been offered one since and replied “oh. You want me to leave?” In my view it’s a bit like putting Robert Miles on at the end of the night, it’s a good indication that the host wants you to go home.

Now, a few years later a Singaporean friend told me the history of the moon cake, and to my surprise it wasn’t used in the Chinese version of the inquisition, not to my surprise however, I couldn’t remember exactly what she told me, something about messages stuck in the moon cake (anything would be better than what they do stick in it) so I’ve lifted this straight from Wikipedia. As follows.

“Mooncakes were used by the Ming revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The idea is said to have been conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisor Liu Bowen, who circulated a rumor that a deadly plague was spreading and that the only way to prevent it was to eat special mooncakes, which would instantly revive and give special powers to the user. This prompted the quick distribution of mooncakes. The mooncakes contained a secret message: on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, kill the rulers.”

Now, I’m not sure if the idea was to kill the rulers by making them eat Mooncakes or to just use them to relay message, but that’s beside the point, as that’s not my story here. My story here is that in the United Kingdom they have history by the reams of it, my local pub in Greenwich is where Drake planned the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Charles Dickens wrote “Great Expectations.” I have no idea if either is true. But we don’t really have history behind our food. The vegetarian once asked me, after I’d ordered a scotch egg in a pub, and told her what’s in it, “what’s the story behind that?” Now, I can tell you the history of the Kings and Queens of Westeros, and to a certain extent the Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom (a lot more confusing) but the story behind a scotch egg left me baffled. I obviously checked Wikipedia but was less than inspired with their information, apparently Fortnum & Mason creates them in 1738, but have no evidence to prove it. So here goes.

The Scotch Egg

Many people will not know the history of Bannockburn, as many people are not Scottish. But it was a great victory by Robert the Bruce, no, that was William Wallace, OK, to make this simple lets just call this Braveheart II. Robert the Bruce was fighting the English (who else) and had split his army into three divisions, now, he needed a way to communicate between the three divisions without the English finding out. So he had the messages wrapped around a hard-boiled egg, which was then wrapped in sausage meat, and breadcrumbs, which were then deep fried (this is Scotland after all). The “scotch” eggs were then distributed by the messengers to the three divisions and the Battle was won and the English defeated in the greatest Scottish victory. I believe the second greatest Scottish victory is when they got the Stone of Scone (Coronation Stone if you are English) back from Parliament, (I believe it was swapped for the North Sea oil).

Brave heart III

Apparently the same tactics were used in the battle of Flodden, a battle between James IV of Scotland and one of Henry VIIIs armies. However, as the messengers by that time realized how delicious scotch eggs were they had a tendency to sit down and eat the scotch eggs and forget about delivering the message. Scotland ended up losing the battle, James IV died and Scotland embarked on the straight and stony path to the Act of Union.

That is the story of the Scotch egg.

I’ve now decided to make it my life’s work to get that into Wikipedia.

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