Scotch Highland Chili3

This week, a Scotch Highland Chili I’ve been working on tied for first place in a chili cook off. Impressive though it may sound, there were really only four other chilies in the running. On the other hand, the competition did take place at a local brewpub whose staff knows a thing or two about cooking–and tasting–good food. This is the story of a chili that begins with a wager some fifteen years ago now in “a land of timeless beauty,” (it’s hard to think of Scotland without also hearing the trailer to Braveheart in my mind). The year: 1998. The bet: to eat an entire serving of haggis (exactly why that’s a bet should become abundantly clear as you read on). And hanging in the balance: a bottle of Irish liquor. It was Scott, one of my 14 flatmates in London, who threw down the gauntlet just prior to our leaving on a week-long furlough. He was off for the Emerald Isle (where Irish liquor could be procured) and I, for the enchanted city of Edinburgh and the Highlands (where haggis appears on the menus of local pubs). Read more

My vehicle jig-jagged north through the misty morning fog toward the Mackinaw Bridge on a well-known route (well-known because this was the same route one would take to our Family’s get-away on the rocky shoreline of Drummond Island). I was en route to meet with an individual whose farm is within a stone’s throw of the international bridge in Saute Sainte Marie, Michigan. He’s a university professor and ornithologist who raises an ancient breed of cattle: the Scottish Highland breed. This rare foggy morning in November, reminiscent of the opening scenes from Brigadoon, set the stage for an encounter with with these stately, primordial beasts. The fog enshrouded the Mackinaw Bridge, with the bridge’s towers–obscured by the mists–seeming to descend from some infinite point on high. The fog broke as I crossed into the overlands of Michigan’s northern peninsula, which far enough west, you’ll find the highlands of Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains. Rolling up to the farmhouse, I was greeted by Tom, who invited me in for a hot cup of coffee around the kitchen table where we soon began ruminating about the fascinating herd that was grazing just outside. Read more