Monday, May 23, 2011

Oatcake Fiction

    Nathanael and I enjoy reading to each other in the evening while dishes are being washed or pecans being cracked. Most of the time the book captivates us enough that we find other times to read, like having one person brush their teeth at a time, which is one of the current methods as we read Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald. It is best if there is some activity going on, because if we choose to read while just sitting, especially before bed, Nathanael needs to watch me carefully to make sure I am legitimately awake...actually even if I am the one reading, I may in fact be sleeping. During graduate school I read an entire chapter of Harry Potter to my roommate Lucy while she knitted, and despite the pages having been full of excitement I could not recall a single thing that had happened once I stood up to get ready for bed.
     Most of the books we read together are classic literature, and we especially enjoy the unabridged works of George MacDonald. His novels are the epitome of fiction which does not leave your brain to sit idly by, but engages it to play with philosophy, expand vocabulary, and envision situations and scenes rich with detail and feeling. I know some people who only read non-fiction, but I think they would appreciate a book such as Sir Gibbie, The Castle Warlock or Malcolm as evidence that edifying truth can often be more poignantly delivered through substantial fiction than through biography or historical reflection (though no author conveys the whole truth of course; some are much closer than others).

A friend gave us a neat little notebook where we record the books
we've read and movies we've watched...with ratings of course.
     Since George MacDonald was Scottish, his books are mostly set in Scotland with characters who enjoy Scottish fare, and quite often oatcakes. Nathanael would probably have made a good Scotsman back in the day. Of the 30% of Nathanael that is not water, about 60% is oats. We enjoy our oats in many forms around here. We nearly always have hot cereal, often have granola around for a snack, and sometimes we sprinkle oats into the crackers or sour dough bread. And whenever Nathanael needs to pack a lunch and we have no bread or convenient eaten-cold foods, he packs oatcakes and goes merrily on his way. Oatcakes are a plain food, and very healthy tasting, which I enjoy and Nathanael could eat every day. They're not junk food. I think they are an excellent medium for butter and jams, or savory spreads, but Nathanael delights in them just as they are with their roasted oat essence as the main attraction.

Scottish Oatcakes
from A Feast of Scotland by Janet Warren
1 1/3 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/4 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon of Butter or Lard (Oil would probably work out alright)
6 Tbs hot water (approximately)
A bit of flour to dust the rolling surface; any variety will do.

1. Mix the oats, soda, and salt together.
2. Melt butter and pour into the center, then add enough water to make a stiff dough. Stir briefly with a wooden spoon.
3. Turn the dough onto a flour dusted surface and knead well. Divide in half, and roll each into an 8-inch circle about a quarter of an inch thick.
4. Cook the oatcakes in a dry, heavy based frying pan. They should take about 3 minutes on each side and be golden brown and slightly crisp. Alternatively they can be baked at 325F (160C) for about 30 minutes.
Serve with butter, honey and marmalade for breakfast or with soup and cheese for lunch.

Do you read to each other in your family (or with your roommates)?
What's on your summer reading list?
I would love some good recommendations! (And yes, we read non-fiction too!)


  1. I love the whole concept of reading aloud to each other, hubby and I do it sometimes, but not often enough:):)

  2. You guys are just adorable! Mike and I read to each other too, we like to read a lot of young adult fiction and mysteries. The Harry Potter series started us on reading together as we could then only afford one copy and couldn't agree on who got it first. :) We are finishing up a trilogy by Suzanne Collins (1.Hunger Games 2.Catching Fire 3.Mocking Jay) they are fun quick reads.

  3. I love reading fiction; I couldn't live without always having a good book by my side:) I've never tried oatcakes, I don't think. They sound good though.

  4. They look yummy!

    My summer reading list includes a bunch of books like "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingslover, "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, and the one I'm most excited for: "Bright's Passage" by Josh Ritter. He is actually a musician and phenomenal lyricist so I'm super curious to read his novel.


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