The Full Meal Deal

 One of a miscellany of short observations from a trip to Scotland.


It’s a clear question, as she hesitantly pokes at a dark puck of mystery something-or-other on her plate, not even entirely sure that it’s meat.


It’s a clear answer from one of our tablemates, and we all nod sagely. What else can it be?

Although we are close to the end of our trip, we are at our first full-service breakfast. From oatmeal to marmalade to fried potato scones, we’ve all been exposed to foods well outside our normal breakfast range, one way or another, but with buffet-style service we’ve had enough control to be comfortable. Last night after supper that all went away.

Who wants the full Scottish breakfast?

About half the group opts in, me included. Having seen this offering on the buffet table, I know it’s not so appetizing — with sausage, bacon, and the afore-mentioned fried potato scone, it’s a bit greasy for my taste — but the alternative is worse. Cereal and milk, fruit and yogurt ““ not a breakfast made in heaven for the lactose intolerant. Unappetizing beats untenable, every time.

As our guide counts us off, I wonder whether she ever wonders whether it was worthwhile getting that master’s degree in the natural sciences. She’s a good sport, but it’s hard to see how ordering breakfast for foreign geezers was ever part of her career planning.

So far, the hotel has not made an entirely positive impression. No elevator, so we haul our own bags up to the third floor. Sloped treads with uneven rises and loose carpet make the climb a challenge, the descent an adventure. When we persuade the room door to open, the bed-room proves to be just that: sized almost exactly to accommodate the bed. But our just-completed dinner has been fine, so we order our full Scottish breakfasts with more confidence than we might otherwise have felt.

The next morning dawns showery. As we shuffle into our assigned alcove off the dining room at the appointed hour, the cold toast and hot breakfasts start arriving from the kitchen. In addition to being timely, the plate offers full measure: half a broiled tomato, rashers of streaky bacon, two sausages, sort-of-scrambled eggs. There is just the one surprise. But we are no longer the neophytes of 10 days ago: we are geezers of the world, now, or at least of this corner of it.



And so say we all. I eat around mine, having already had all the haggis I can enjoy. The Big Guy tucks in, without a word, but as we leave the breakfast alcove he draws aside one of our back-of-the-bus buddies.

That wasn’t haggis.

The query in response is not voiced but faced, as it were, and yet clear enough in context: So what was it then?

Blood sausage.

The Big Guy should know — I’ve seen him tuck into blood sausage as if it were a childhood treat as, indeed, it was for him. But a squeal of horror from the better half of this couple pretty much captures my feelings. As she scurries off to find her toothbrush and her floss, I check the menu.

Black pudding.

Ah, Grasshopper, there is yet something to be learned. Some of us have learned what they call ‘blood sausage’ on this side of the pond. Some of us have learned that if you try it without knowing what ‘it’ is, you just might like it. What could be worse than that?

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