Why the Bay Wrap?
Updated: Jun 1
Why the Bay Wrap?
‘Their natural bread is made of oats of barley’
We’ve had a go at inventing a wrap https://www.thebayhealthfestivals.org.uk/post/all-wrapped-up but why?
Quiz question. What connects the following three things: oats, The North and the first English Dictionary?
First oats. It's amazing to think that what we consider to be almost a superfood was historically seen as no more than the food of barbarians and horses by ancient cultures. Indeed, even up to very recent times, this lovely grain was cheap and often seen as food for the poor. Maybe that’s why the only thing that people think of when they think of oats is an acquired taste for porridge and a ‘worthy’ breakfast.
In terms of poverty, my own grandfather, growing up in tough circumstances in Scotland would recall: ‘Porridge four times a day until I was sick ae it.’ Yes, oddly, even at the end of his life, he would have porridge for breakfast with, of course, a pinch of salt! We don’t give enough attention as to how the food that we eat can tell the stories of our lives.
Secondly, the North (or should that be North and West), oatcakes of various types have a long history, for example: clap bread, clap cake, haver bread which is a thin oatmeal bread dried out on a griddle, traditionally eaten across the North of England. Indeed, the Duke of Wellington even had a regiment of men from the West Riding, known as the Havercake Lads.
The North. is a place of fluidity and shared culture. The border between Scotland and England has fluctuated over the years (ask Berwick upon Tweed about that one). Lancaster Castle was attacked by the Robert the Bruce (what’s a border to the Scots?). The activities of the Border Reevers were essentially organised crime by family syndicates, to such an extent that on occasions when the Scots and English went toe- to- toe, they would refuse to fight because Scots and English had become ‘business partners’ through inter-marriage. As for bagpipes. Scottish? Well, possibly, but what about the Northumbrian pipes?
What is true of history and politics is also true of food and culture. What is a Havercake if not a variant of a Scottish oatcake? Oats, and most definitely for the poor, were the food of the North, not wheat.
In a beautifully produced book: ‘Oats in the North, Wheat from the South’, the food historian, Regula Ysewijn, traces the history of British cuisine through the food of each area. And, yes, it does contain a recipe for clapcake. In a time of rediscovering locally sourced food, why can’t we rediscover historically significant food?
Finally, that English Dictionary. Yes, it’s Dr Johnson, who is also responsible for the quote at the head of this blog, taken from his: ‘A journey to the Western Islands of Scotland’ and who, in his dictionary defines oats as: ‘a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland to support the people’. His dictionary appeared in 1775 and Johnson travelled to Scotland in 1773 – smart move timing wise, Samuel - although he clearly bypassed Lancashire.
All of which brings me to the Bay Health Festivals 2022. This year we are launching the Bay Wrap. But you will have seen we aren’t launching, we are rediscovering a traditional, locally sourced, healthy sustainable food that belongs to the people. No big food miles here.
We've put together a recipe, but we’re not precious. We want you to play around with it, change the ratios of the ingredients, think of novel ways of cooking it. Make the wrap your own; because whether it’s a wrap, an oatcake, a haverbread, it’s our own.
Local cuisine, let’s celebrate!