Some years ago we met our new neighbours, a lovely couple. “Mike” and “Mary” had recently emigrated from Scotland. After a few visits my husband invited them to come for dinner. They accepted, and asked if it could be a truly Canadian dinner. My sarcastic response to my husband was “so what should I cook — poutine, peameal bacon, maple syrup, butter tarts and Nanaimo bars?” After careful planning I was able to conjure up a fairly “Canadian” menu of chicken breasts with a maple syrup glaze, PEI potatoes, veggies and, yes, butter tarts and Nanaimo bars for dessert. They loved it, and asked for recipes.
A couple of weeks later they said that they would like to reciprocate, by making us a traditional Scottish dinner. I was excited, as I love to try new dishes and add new recipes to my repertoire, especially if they have an ethnic twist. On the other hand, I was a bit apprehensive as my first thought was of haggis, and I hadn’t mustered up the courage to try haggis at that point in my life.
After arriving at their house we chatted while dinner cooked. Mike offered us “a wee nip.” I had no idea that a “wee nip” was a drink, but I think maybe that “wee nip” helped us with what lay ahead.
The table was set and dinner was ready. Mary served the plates and gave us a description of what we were going to satisfy our palates with. The menu included Scottish meat pie, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and onion gravy. I suddenly had wonderful thoughts of my childhood and how I loved onion gravy. I am the only person in our house who likes mushy peas so that, too, was exciting.
We sat down to plates of the meat pie and potatoes smothered in the onion gravy and a very generous helping of mushy peas on the side. Mary was suddenly confessing that she had planned to make the meat pie from scratch, but she had found the loveliest looking pies at the grocery store. She had her fingers crossed that they would be as good as her homemade pies.
As I went to take a bite of the meat pie in gravy I noticed a look of horror on Mike’s face as he choked and grabbed his glass of water. “Canadians don’t know how to make meat pie; put your forks down.”
Mary had gone to the grocery store and asked for mince to make pies. It was close to Christmas so the grocery attendant suggested that she buy the already prepared ones. The pies were made; they just needed to be baked. Scottish people say mince, Canadians say hamburger. She bought the pies not knowing that it was actually mincemeat.
We had potatoes, onion gravy and mushy peas for the main course. Dessert was the leftover mincemeat pie along with homemade Spotted Dick (a British pudding made from suet and currants) and a lot of laughs. Our friends have moved on but the yearly Christmas greetings always include a comment or two on mincemeat pie with onion gravy.