You never know when the stars will align. This past weekend they aligned for me for just a short while and I tried to make the most of it. An evening of perfect weather, good food and longtime friends only happens in a blue moon — especially if your friends are from Scotland.
I remember well my first trip to Scotland. I arrived at Heathrow Airport in London with my backpack and my guitar ready to spend the fall months with my parents, who were living in Aberdeen.
At the border control, the clerk asked to see my passport and told me with a straight face, “We don’t accept Americans on Tuesdays!” I replied, “Well, the last time I came on a Tuesday, there was no problem.”
And with that, I found my way to King’s Cross railroad station. The train ride to Aberdeen was long but beautiful. Once out of the huge conglomeration that is London, the train flew north. And once past Edinburgh, it hugged the coast going through towns with pleasant sounding names like Arbroath, Montrose and Inverbervie. As I sat and watched the scenery out the window, I imagined the new culture I was entering and hoped for the best.
My parents met me at the train station and we took a taxi “home” to Desswood Place. Upon hearing the taxi driver’s speech, I asked my father if he might be Dutch. My parents just laughed. “No,” they said. “That’s the local accent.” My ears were not yet attuned to the heavy rolls of the Scottish tongue. But by the time I left, I had fallen in love with that accent.
There were days of chilly damp weather coupled with piping hot tea. I put my wool sweaters to good use and tucked a hot water bottle in my bed to warm it up.
I remember rain falling on the rose city, making the granite buildings shine like silver. The rain made everything so green and when the sun did come out, it underlined the many variations of that colour.
During my sojourn in that northern place, we took trips to see the Highland Games in Nairn. The bagpipe competition and caber tossing were my favorites. I learned the intricacies of cricket at the side of a kind bed and breakfast host. I ate fresh caught salmon along the river Spey and had dried fish for breakfast.
In Aberdeen itself, I spent time at the university where my father was studying. I walked the downtown streets with my mother to go shopping. I listened to the Scottish fiddle at a concert with my father. I went to the park to take in a sheep-herding dog competition. And at least once, when it was sunny, I went to the beach to take in the sea air.
So when Margaret, Carla and Simon came for supper, all those memories flooded back. Talk ran freely and more memories were made.
Since it was such a beautiful evening, we once again fired up the woodfired oven in the backyard and the first thing I made was my favourite guacamole. As dusk fell, the stars aligned and everything was right with the world. I hope you have one of those moments also.
Roasted guacamole with oranges
- 1 orange, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- ⅓ cup cilantro, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ red onion, sliced in half rings
- 2 or 3 jalapeños, cut in half
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 ripe avocados, chopped
- Put the jalapeños, garlic and red onion in a pan. Toss with a little olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees, stirring every now and then until toasty brown. When done, mash with a pestle.
- While those are roasting, gather the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
- Add jalapeño mixture and serve with chips.