I’m a believer in the “meant to be;” things happen for a reason. I was lucky enough to study abroad for a semester in Scotland, and just like anyone else who has studied abroad will tell you, it was the best choice I’ve made. I took every opportunity I had to explore the beautiful country and learn about its history. One trip was especially serendipitous and memorable for an avid foodie and history buff, like myself.
On a gloomy lazy Saturday, my two Aussie housemates and I forced ourselves out of bed to travel to Callander in order to hike to Bracklinn Falls. We had some time to kill after the hike before heading back home so we took the opportunity to walk down the main street of this sleepy town. There we found a tiny antique shop with an old doorway intriguing enough to spark our interest. We crouched through the doorway, which was almost miniature. Inside was a collection of all things imaginable, from thimbles to old fishing poles to beautifully designed cabinets. Fascinated with old books because of the history they hold and their unusual elegance, I went straight to the bookshelf.
I picked up a beautifully detailed bound book called Book of Scotland’s Edinburgh that was dated to the 1800s. It was the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen, with gold fabric lining the cover. I was ready to buy it when the price tag popped out — 35 pounds, far too much for a college girl to spend on a book written in Gaelic. As I put it back, I somehow knocked over an old book that was falling apart at its binding.
I’m explaining the details in order to share how fate absolutely wanted me to find this book. At a closer look, it turned out to be a journal of sorts dated 1925. There were a lot of names in the front page with addresses, but it seems to have belonged to a Mrs. Walker. This interested me enough to flip through the aged pages. Written in old cursive with a quill pen is the biblical story of Joseph — from this I gather Mrs. Walker was a religious woman. After continuing to flip through the fragile pages, I found tons of recipes ranging from dessert to dinner. This woman must have been quite the baker because there were about 20 different hand-written cake recipes.
I took the journal over to the owner of the antique shop to price. He looked inside it for a while and then asked what I would give him for it. I sensed he knew he would never sell the old notebook to anyone else and I’m not a good haggler, so I offered 2 pounds. The man smiled from seeing my excitement and told me to take good care of it and to enjoy finding its secrets. I left the store feeling giddy and anxious to try out the recipes although I would first have to decode her cursive handwriting.
Here are two simple and ridiculously delicious recipes from her notes:
(I’ve converted her measurements into those we use in the U.S. and provided extra steps which Mrs. Walker left out.)
3 oz. butter (that’s about 3/4 of a stick)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. Beat butter to a cream. Add flour and sugar, then add well beaten egg, baking powder and mix all together. Additionally, add a little milk (I added a generous amount).
3. Bake for 8 to 16 minutes. Let cool.
The cake itself is simple but sweet. It has a light, fluffy texture with the buttery taste of a shortbread cookie. The cake is scrumptious on its own, but I decided to make it into a Swiss Roll cake. To do this, follow these next few steps.
4. Once it is cooled, place on wax paper and add whatever topping you desire (I added raspberry jam).
5. Use the wax paper to help roll the cake long-ways. Keep cake wrapped in wax paper and store in fridge for 1 hour. Bon appétit.
4 tablespoons citric acid
4 large lemons
heaping 1/3 cup sugar
1. Put sugar, citric acid and rind of two lemons in a bowl and add juice of lemons
2. Pour boiling water on top, mix together (start with less water and add more to taste). Let cool
The trick to this recipe is pouring the boiling water directly over the rind of the lemon. This leaves the lemonade with a beautiful yellow coloring as well as a perfectly refreshing citrus taste.
Sometimes the smallest things in life are what make us the happiest. I am never going to forget my adventure to Callander and how this recipe book, quite literally, fell into my hands. Enjoy these simple, delicious recipes courtesy of the mysterious Mrs. Walker.