A witty celebrity once stated that he didn't care whether critics liked his show or not, as long as they wrote about it. It brings to mind similar attitudes in other fields. Take, for example, traditional English cooking that has long been the butt of all sorts of ribald jokes. But at least it gets talked about. Scottish cooking, on the other hand, tends to be ignored.
A strong voice has come along to rectify this void in our culinary awareness. Kay Shaw Nelson's wee bit of a book, "A Bonnie Scottish Cookbook" (EPM Books, $10.95), not only presents an array of about 100 appetizing recipes, but she also sprinkles a wealth of good humor, history and information along the way.
A happy bonus to these recipes is the fact that many use oats, a traditional Scottish grain since it flourishes in Scotland's cool northern climate. Only within the last few years have nutritionists seized upon oats as a great giver of good health.
Few American towns don't have families with roots in Scotland. Some have large populations, many of whom celebrate St. Andrew's Night on Nov. 30.
Ms. Nelson explains, "St. Andrew is regarded as the patron saint of Scotland. He looks after all Scots at home and abroad. Scots celebrate the apostle's feast day, Nov. 30, with a festival that may be a St. Andrew's Society Ball [as in Washington] or an elaborate dinner [as with the St. Andrew's Society of the state of New York]."
But who needs a big bash to lift "a cup o' kindness" and enjoy solid, tasty Scottish fare? Even if you're not Scots, you can still use the occasion to have a different kind of dinner party. Bet it will be the only St. Andrew's Night dinner in town.
Make a note on the invitation that the dress code is "something plaid." Men don't have to dress in kilts, but a plaid handkerchief tucked in a jacket pocket qualifies as keeping the spirit of the evening.
Ladies, of course, have a much broader range to choose from, from a plaid ribbon in the hair, to a full dress, or even stockings.
There is no need to invest in a plaid tablecloth, but plaid ribbons stretched along a white tablecloth will pick up the mood. Baskets of beribboned oat bran muffins in the center of the table carry out the theme.
Now the menu. As Ms. Nelson, the author of 13 books, puts it, "This book reaffirms the Scots' keen sense of humor. Who but the Scottish cooks would have created fare called Clootie Dumplin', Fatty Cutties, Fitless Cock, Hattit Kit, Howtowdie, Inky Pinky . . ."
Believe it or not, there's still more, and all the curious names are explained in the book. In fact, when the origins are explained, the names make perfectly good sense.
Oh, yes, haggis is there. How could it be ignored when Scotland's great poet Robert Burns immortalized it in his satirical ode "To a Haggis"? Ms. Nelson provides a thorough explanation of this national dish and even addresses where it can be bought. She discourages novices from attempting it.
Smoked salmon would be the most festive way to begin the meal or nibble with cocktails. But kipper pate, potted shrimp or Scotch eggs should also get serious consideration. Soup is popular fare in Scotland, so consider the famous Cock-a-Leekie, which, of course, contains leeks and chicken.
To end the meal, reach for a bottle of Drambuie, Scotland's oldest and most famous liqueur. It is not for the cook to drink, but to use its very special flavor to enhance Caledonian Cream.
If Drambuie is served after dinner, accompany it with readings of some of Robbie Burns' poems.
Caledonian cream Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup orange marmalade
3 tablespoons Drambuie
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Combine marmalade, Drambuie and lemon juice in small dish. Leave at room temperature 30 minutes.
Whip cream in large chilled bowl until soft peaks form; gradually add sugar. Whip until mixture thickens. Fold in marmalade mixture.
Spoon mixture into 6 stemmed dessert glasses, dividing equally. Garnish tops with a bit of orange peel from marmalade, if desired. Refrigerate up to 2 hours.
"A Bonnie Scottish Cookbook" can be ordered by mail from EPM Books, Box 490, McLean, Va., 22101; $12.95 postpaid.