Category Archives: Scotland

Salad dressing so good you could eat it with a spoon (and a few thoughts on how you dress your salad may reveal your social class)

Salad cream.”  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?  It is.  I’ve traveled twice to Scotland, and I don’t know if this is true of all the U.K.*, but everywhere we went, there was ONE salad dressing, and it was like Thousand Island without the relish, a gloppy travesty to put atop the most wonderful vegetables I’ve eaten anywhere.  My salads went bare.  Good veggies deserve a good dressing.  Even mediocre veggies can be made palatable by a good sauce.

I will buy grocery store standards if I can get a screamin’ deal on them.  I bought two bottles of Kraft dressing last night for $0.17 each, due to a sale plus a coupon.  It’s hard to pass that up, especially when I know that my 11yo son will likely hyperventilate with joy over the Bacon Ranch that’s now chilling in our fridge.  However, my love is for all natural, somewhat quirky dressing flavors that Kraft and Wishbone would never dream of producing.

Into the dressing discussion enters my son Wesley.  Due to serious digestive issues, Wesley can eat no gluten and no dairy.  It’s fairly easy to find gluten-free dressing, but gluten-free and dairy-free poses a challenge.  Rather, it poses a challenge if you’re 7 years old and don’t like vinaigrettes.  His standard dressing for a good 2+ years has been a store brand, Kroger’s Private Selection Honey Dijon.  It used to be $2.99 a bottle, often going on sale for $2.00 – 2.50.  I can handle that.  However, its price has recently shot through the roof, and is now normally priced at $4.39.  I refuse to pay that much for salad dressing, no matter how spectacular it is.  So, I’ve been on an especial hunt for a good gluten-free, dairy-free salad dressing that is not too vinegar-y, is creamy, tasty, and preferably all-natural.

I found one!  Maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but for a boy whose diet is severely restricted, and is picky with what he can eat, on top of what he can’t eat, to switch salad dressing allegiances is nothing short of miraculous.

Following is a glowing review of Briannas ‘The New American Dressing.’  Before I get to that, though, I want to address a couple of things:

  1. What’s with the apostrophe avoidance???  Did some marketer tell them, “Those dumb Americans.  They don’t know how to use punctuation, and possessives positively confuse them… If you keep the apostrophe in your company’s name, it will surely drive away customers, because they’ll think you’re too biggety.  Cut it, OK?”  So, now it’s Briannas — which brings to the imagination twenty girls named Brianna, making salad dressing in a factory — instead of Briannas, which would be a company named for its creator, or the owner’s daughter or something.  Like Wendy’s.  Or, even better — plural possessive — Bashas, which is a local grocery chain — owned by a number of people with the last name of Basha — that makes me want to shop there just to support them sticking to their punctuation guns.  Hey, Briannas:  this book is for kids, but you might wanna check it out.
  2. And, what presumption!!  Everyone salad-eating American knows what Italian dressing is, or even French dressing.  There are other standards, too, like blue cheese and ranch.  However, it’s my guess that Italian dressing did not establish itself by a bunch of Italian guys banding together, coming up with a recipe, then hiring a marketing company to promote its new product as “The” Italian dressing.  So… I find it a bit off-putting that Briannas has decided, on our behalf, that as Americans, this will be our dressing.  It’s kind of like crafting your own nickname, and trying to make it stick.  Didn’t George show us, lo these many years ago, that such action is folly (“The Maid” — episode 19)?

Anyways.  Despite its wanton disregard for punctuation, and presumptive naming practices, Briannas has crafted a dressing that is just about perfect.  It is tangy without tasting solely of vinegar; a bit sweet (from honey!) without tasting like you’ve dumped liquid candy on your lettuce; the perfect consistency — slightly thickened, but not gloppy (and creamy yet not containing dairy!); all-natural, made without gluten- or milk-derived ingredients, though not actually labelled as gluten-free or dairy-free.

It meets with both my hearty approval, and my 7yo son’s, too.  He puts it on his salad.  And his chicken.  And his carrots.  He’d eat it with a spoon, if we’d let him.

The price is at least reasonable.  Though it is $4.19 at my “regular” grocery store, it’s only $2.99 at the natural grocery I go to every couple of weeks, and where I found it on sale for only $2.00 a few weeks ago.

It may or may not become the standard American dressing, but its a new standard in our home.  Yum.

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* According to my favorite British blogger, salad cream usage is tied to social class:

The UK has changed a lot as far as food goes – but it’s quite amazing how much of it is still down to social class. … My parents, who were from the North of England, used salad cream.  I loved it as a child but would regard it as an utter horror to put salad cream anywhere near a salad now.  I’ll either use nothing or a plain olive oil/lemon/ground black pepper type thing dressing.  Or just a little olive oil.  With balsamic vinegar, perhaps.  But usually nothing.  You certainly won’t find salad cream in any London restaurants (not even the chains like Pizza Express) though you will find it in McDonalds.  Basically, the middle classes within the M25 stopped using salad cream a long time ago.

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I’m hard to please.

Musically, that is.

I just spent a lot of time listening to the music of a new-to-me musician named Sufjan Stevens.  I mostly like his stuff, but not entirely.  I mean, I like it, but it doesn’t cause the joy of perfect music to rise up in ne and fill my heart with delight.  If I were to buy a CD of his, I think it would be Seven Swans.  But, I’m probably not going to buy it any time soon, and since I do not hint, that’s not any kind of hint for any of you who know me IRL, and who might be thinking that I’m hinting, since it’s close to Christmas.

My problem with music is that I tend to like things that are not really mainstream.  There is something that grates against me when I hear slick, polished, hyper-produced, smooth-yet-characterless popular music.  Yet, I get annoyed by musicians whose music screams, “Listen to how weird I am!!!!  Aren’t I simply UNIQUE????  Listen to my dischordant bits and my lyrics that purposefully make no sense!!  I am SUCH an ARTIST!!!!!”

I also tend to like guitar-driven stuff.  But, I must be getting to be an old fogie because too much of the punkish music that I’ve liked forever sounds like a bunch of 22yo guys whining immaturely about something that’s happened to every other guy on the planet, and probably said better by 1000 other bands before them, of whom they’ve never heard, because they’re unaware of their own music’s roots.

We saw a guy on Austin City Limits on Saturday night;  I almost really liked him.  His name sounds decidedly Italian (Paolo Nutini), but his website’s bio insists that his family has been in Paisley, Scotland for “at least” four generations.  I have some dissatisfaction with ACL’s decision to forego its American Roots Music focus, and now featuring non-American, non-“rootsy” music, but I guess that’s not Paolo’s fault.  Also not his fault is that I also have an immediate distrust of musicians who are young and cute.  Why is that?  I’m not sure.  I guess it’s because, as hubby and I were talking last night, after seeing a commercial featuring Beyonce, too many musicians exploit their physical attributes, which end up getting more attention than their music…    

Coat update!!!

Having coats on the brain, I sent a link to this cute one, found here, to my hubby.

I’m always embarrassed to ask for gifts*, but I decided that this one was just right, and that I would really like to have it, and that my hubby would never know if I don’t ask him, and never know where to find it unless I sent the link.  Rather to my surprise, he accepted the schmoozing well!  He said, “I always like to know what you’d like for Christmas!  I like it!  It looks like you — what you’d like.”

Yay!

So, all you slightly-condescending, Burberry-wearing proper Scottish ladies**:  Next time I come, I won’t be wearing $1000 worth of impressive warm wool, but neither will I be wearing “gigantic mountain puffa jackets with 30 yellow zips and pockets.”  (Thanks to (un)relaxed dad for this giggle-inducing description.)

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*If you really know me, you should be able to read my mind, and just choose the perfect gift, right? 
**Note, if you’re a Scot and a lady and you actually know me, this is not directed to you.

I still cringe

It was November of ’02.  I, the desert-dweller, was soon to be departing for a ministry trip to the north of Scotland:  Fraserburgh, Inverness, and the Isle of Lewis, roughly equal in latitude to the southern part of Alaska.

The previous winter, my friends Stephanie and Laurie had regaled all of us with hilarious yet startling stories of how absolutely cold they had been on their trip to the same places — how bitterly the wind blew, and how frigid their hosts kept their homes — stories of frozen eyeliner carried around in the pocket of one’s slacks in order for it to thaw enough to be usable; frost on the inside of the bedroom window; of how they bundled in every sweater, coat, hat and scarf they’d brought with them, but how it still wasn’t enough to ward off the cold.

These memories were with me as I prepared for my own trip.  My biggest problem:  I didn’t own a winter coat.  The closest I had was a black leather jacket that had a zip-out thermal liner.  I told Steph what I had, and she cautioned me that this wouldn’t be near enough;  I had to have a warmer coat.  She’d loan me one.

This put me at complete ease.  Stephanie is one of the most stylish women I know, quite trendy, always impeccably groomed and dressed from head to toe.  Her children dress better than I do.  Stephanie would loan me a coat.  I was in good hands.

Right before we were to depart, Steph walked up to me in church.  In her hands was a masculine-looking, huge, puffy, bright yellow monstrosity of a ski coat, the kind with wide plastic zippers and plastic hooks hanging off of its 30 or so pockets.  (It looked rather like the one on the left, but black-on-yellow, instead of yellow-on-black.)  I gulped internally.  😯 Obviously, Stephanie was very concerned for my warmth, but this was nothing like I imagined she’d loan to me, or even own for that matter.  And, it was nothing like I could have ever imagined myself wearing.  Ever.  But, for the sake of shielding my tender desert skin from the cold, and because I was leaving for Scotland the next day and had no other options (plus I didn’t want to offend Stephanie and appear/be unthankful), I swallowed my pride, smiled and expressed my thanks and took the coat.

The whole trip, my sights were besieged by properly dressed Scottish women, smartly wearing attractive, double-breasted Burberry coats in a variety of tasteful shades.  Each would involuntarily throw a startled, wide-eyed glance my way, then quickly cast her eyes aside, empathically feeling the embarrassment she thought I should be feeling for wearing such a coat in public.  “Ugly, loud, American.  Shame she doesn’t know how to dress.  Poor girl.  Ugh.  What a coat.  What could ever have possessed her to wear such a thing??”

On top of that, the dumb thing was too hot.  I steamed in that coat.  My leather coat would have been the perfect weight.  It wouldn’t have been quite as stylish, but at least it would have been less-conspicuously-inappropriate. 

The whole trip was a tremendous lesson in humility.

I still cringe.   

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