I Dinny Eat Tatties Any Mair

By Anne Brown

I dinny eat tatties. Folk always look at me wi that kind “Eh?” look when I say that. They think I’m nuts or somethin but tae me they’re jist a waste o’ good calories that wud be better spent on somethin that wud gie me mair in the way of nutrition and less in the way of bloatin.


That’s no the way it wis when a’ wis wee tho’ because a’ hud ma very ain tatties, jist fur me. They wur the best tastin tatties in the world, grown the right way by ma Dad.


He wis off Border farmin stock an was brought up tae be self-sufficient. When he grew up, he served his time as a gardener at Floors Castle in Kelso, then after the war he was groundsman for Beechwood estate in Stirling before workin for Alloa Toon Cooncil where he wis in charge o’ the greenhooses in the public park an’ the plannin fur a’ the plantin roond the toon.


When we went tae the Borders tae visit his family, a’ the men wud congregate in each ithers gairdens tae compare the different kinds o’ each type o’ veg that they were plantin that year. They’d keep seed tatties from a crop that wis successful for them and swap them roond for others tae try.


The women would sit roond the kitchen table tae tell o’ the rasps that made the best jam an how many times they’d won at the local shows. I jist loved tae eat it a’ an got bored when we were shown roond everybuddy’s gairden tae admire the neat rows, marked oot at the end wi the variety an the date it wis planted.


The problem in oor hoose wis that I wis a fussy eater accordin tae ma mum. She liked “plain fare” includin they dry white floory tatties an I liked “waxy” tatties, or what my dad called yella wet tatties, but her word, an choice, wis the law! She’d pile they mingin dry tatties up oan a plate an dollop butter oan the top then add grey mince or stew and cabbage, yuck. There wis nae “Ah Bisto” fur us. She’d fry chops in a wee bit lard then stick them oan a plate an pour the exta grease oot the pan ower they boggin dry tatties, boak. Ma pals got fish fingers an chips fur their tea but captain Birdseye niver visited oor hoose.


Ma dad hud oor back gairden planted oot wi fruit an veg but he also hud a plot that he rented fae the Cooncil an ma mum couldny see whit wis goin on there.


When I wis old enough, dad an I went on oor bikes tae the plot an planted tatties. Dad dug a trench, I forked in a layer o’ guid cow dung an the seed tatties were laid in aboot a foot apart. We didny use rulers, just eyed in, but I soon learned tae measure it right. I can still eye stuff in, learned at primary school age plantin wi ma dad. Then dad would dig the next trench which would cover the first row o’ tatties an so on till a’ the rows were done. There was a bed wi earlies an a bed wi lates. Noo ma surprise. A final row in each bed jist fur me! A row o’ yella wet earlies an a row o’ lates. Ma favourite tatties a’ year roond. What mair cud a wee lassie ask for?


We went back when the shoots started tae appear an he taught me how tae bank up the sides o’ the plants wi a hoe so that the roots where the tatties form would get longer tae get a bigger crop. By the time they were ready tae be eaten, the bankings must huv been aboot nine or ten inches high.


When the first yins were ready we went along and dug up a few shaws fur ma mum an a single shaw of ma tatties. Bliss!


Tae say ma mum wisny happy wis puttin it mildly because she hud tae huv a separate pot jist fur me. She muttered fur ages about wastin the wean an panderin tae hur. She went oan aboot being grateful fur even gettin a tattie wi a’ they wee starvin weans in the world, never mind gettin special grown wans just fur you.


Mibbee that’s why they tasted even better, jist because she wis fumin.


Even when I wis grown up an hud daughters o’ ma ain, ma dad still planted me a row o’ yella wet tatties.


That cud be why I dinny eat them noo, jist because it wisny the tatties that wur special, it wis him, an when he wisny able tae plant ma them fur me any mair I never found any in the shops that tasted as guid.


Thing ur different noo tho, ma daughters each huv a daughter o’ their ain. We dinny huv a big garden, jist a wee square. We’ve nae beds either jist pots an a bit grass fur the dugs tae pee oan but this year we bought tattie bags, guid peat compost, went tae the stables tae collect horse dung that hud been left a’ winter tae mature an then bought seed tatties. The granddaughters are growin yella wet tatties under the supervision o’ grandpa. They’ve planted them and they’ll fill up the bags a bit when the shoots appear so the roots will get longer tae get a guid crop. When the time is right, they’ll dig them oot an take them tae their mums. I know that their mums will be delighted to get them an the weans will have learned a lot aboot food an how it get tae oor plates.


You never know, mibbee this year I’ll even eat a wee bilin o’ their tatties, just fur ma dad.


Keywords: 
potatoes, Scots, memories, childhood, family, farming, scotland