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Everyone knows these - Scots 'crisps' are potato chips to us Yanks, 'chips' are french fries, 'biscuits' are cookies (most of the time), that sort of thing. Watch BBC for a few hours and you'll pick up the easy stuff.

'Gammon' is ham steak (although sliced ham in sandwiches is just 'ham'), 'Marie Rose' sauce is a flavored mayonnaise usually served with shrimp, and 'coronation chicken' is a curry-mayo sauced chicken. We often had to ask what some particular term meant on the menu, but no one seems to mind.

"Full Scottish Breakfast"

While I suspect that the existence of the full Scottish Breakfast is a direct result of the tourists, the assurance that you'll be able to go on until dinner after one is probably true. Fried egg, bacon, sausage, haggis or black pudding, potato scone, clootie dumpling, mushrooms, and tomato seem to be the usual offerings every place that we went. Served with fruit, cereal, yogurt, toast and tea/coffee, and it would set you up for hours, if you managed to get up from the table at all and resisted the urge to nap.

Me, I can't get used to the fried tomato. It just sits there, like a blood clot, on the plate. Ugh. However, fresh mushrooms and the potato scone are pretty tasty. The "Full English" is much the same - egg, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms. The Irish add black and white pudding, and occassionaly beans. Apparently 'beans on toast' is a popular breakfast meal, too. Can't quite figure that one out.

After the first couple of days, we usually opted for scrambed eggs and bacon on toast. It was the only option that let us stagger up from the breakfast table and set out into the world. Anythign else, and we'd just sit there, logy and overy-full, until mid-morning.

If you're just a toast-or-yogurt sort of person, be prepared for a few odd looks if you stay in B&Bs. I don't drink hot beverages, and I got more questions about why I don't drink tea or coffee ("no? neither? are you sure? Are you feeling well?") than about anything else. Most B&B hosts will look askance if you don't eat something sturdy and filling for breakfast, as if you might collapse on their front steps and cause all sorts of trouble becuase you're subsiting on air and fairy dust.

Ignore your diet. Eat the full-on Scottish breakfast, at least once in a while. It's worth it.

Local Specialities

Bacon: If you're read either of the other travelogues, you know that I adore bacon in Scotland and Ireland. It's not even close to what we call bacon at home - more of a cross between our bacon and canadian bacon, but without the weird canadian bacon flavor. Great slabs of smoked or cured rashers. mmmmm. I could eat bacon at every single meal. (and in some cases, I have!). I have yet to find a good source of rasher-style bacon in the US (Amazon keeps saying that they do sell it, but it never seems to be in stock).

Haggis: Yes, everyone knows the horror stories about haggis - and most people respond to the suggestion that they try some with a full-body shudder and barely repressed gag. Sure, the idea is kind of gross - take the inside bits of a sheep that you'd not normally eat, chop them up with onions and oatmeal, and stuff them into the stomach of the sheep, then boil the resulting blob until it's solid. By itself, it's often on menus as 'haggis and tatties and neeps" (potatoes and turnips) as a main dish.

It's just sausage, people. You probably don't want to think too deeply about what goes into your hotdogs and bratwurst, either. Chopped up, unidentifiable leftover bits...yeah, just don't think too much about it.

Haggis is actually pretty good. It's often part of the "full scottish" breakfast, so you can get a small taste without having to commit to the whole thing. Try it - in my experience it's usually a somewhat spicy, toasted sort of sausage, a bit crumbly and without any real "skin". There are, of course, dozens of different recipes, and nearly every town butcher has their own. Some are more oatey, others more meaty, some are made with beef (although most are lamb). There is even, inexplicably,Vegatarian Haggis. I can't even imagine what that is. Eeu.

Avoid, at all costs, haggis in a can. Yes, they sell it - mostly at tourist sites. Once you hear the moist and somewhat obscene slurp of the thing as you shake the can, you'll understand why I suggest you leave it on the shelf (except, perhaps, as a gag gift -- take that as a pun, if you must!)

Clootie Dumpling: This showed up as a breakfast option in quite a few places, and we were stumped. It's a sort of dark, dense fruitcake, cut into slices and fried. It's a holdover from the days when people had to carry their meals with them (to the fields or travelling) and this sort of high-calorie, dense cake could be wrapped up and carried easily (in a sporran, one of our hosts assured us). It's pretty tasty, but awfully heavy for me for breakfast food.

Potatoe Scone: Scones are usually what we Americans calls 'biscuits', so I was a little surprised by this one. A potato scone served at breakfast is a thick potato pancake sort of thing, also fried, and served as a wedge. Quite tasty with butter!

Cullen Skink: a soup of smoked haddock (specifically Finnan Haddie, a traditional smoked variety from the town of Finnan), potatoes and onions. Haddock is one of the most common fish we saw in Scotland for fish-and-chips, and it turns up in a lot of other dishes, as well. Very tasty with dark bread, and nice on those dampish Scottish days.

Arbroath Smokies: another variety of smoked haddock from Arbroath, often served as a breakfast dish. I could never quite stomach fish, especially smoked fish, for breakfast. They are smoked in a very traditional way (in barrels, after salting and drying) and are quite distinctive.