( Photo by The Packer staff )

Before visiting a new-to-me city or country I always try to do a little research to see what foods (or beverages) it’s known for or what (and where) the locals like to eat. Before a recent two-week trip around Scotland, then, I dug around online to see what we should expect to eat other than smoked salmon (yum!) or haggis (... um). 

Suggestions of sweets and seafood were abundant, and on one website I ran across a comment that said “Not everything we eat is deep-fried!” Apparently battered Mars candy bars are something of a national obsession.

It turns out that internet top-10 lists of “foods not to miss” don’t give a complete picture of a country’s cuisine, though. While there was plenty of steak pie, fish and chips or, yes, haggis, to be had, what impressed me most was the bounty of vegetables and fruit represented and the attention to vegetarian-friendly options. (While I’m not a vegetarian, I certainly like my vegetables). 

Besides the “neeps and tatties,” or turnips and potatoes, that came with traditional haggis dishes, we encountered an array of vegetable-rich soups ranging from classics like potato-leek to more adventurous (and spicy) options like sweet potato-chili. And I’m convinced that the Scots are as obsessed with lentil soup as they are with Mars bars, because almost every restaurant we visted had it on offer.

Another apparent obsession? Coleslaw. In almost as many restaurants as had lentil soup, sandwiches or other entrees came with a small side of bright, flavorful salad greens and a dab of coleslaw. “You don’t even want any coleslaw with that?” one server asked when we ordered just a sandwich. 

Scottish portions are also very generous. At one sandwich shop, when the owner asked me if I’d like salad on my cheese savory (the Scottish version of pimento cheese), I expected to get a couple of leaves of lettuce. I ended up with a huge handful of salad greens, tomato slices, cucumber slices, onion ... and more cheese. Talk about a sandwich and salad combo!

I also learned that Scotland is renowned for the quality of its strawberries and raspberries. We sampled both of these on multiple breakfast buffets and praise for the berries is well deserved; I don’t know the last time I had such a delicious strawberry. 

Berry love was also proudly displayed in several of the grocery stores we visited as well as in roadside stands advertising “Scottish soft fruits” or a pick-your-own strawberry operation at a farm we drove by. 

At Aldi and Tesco stores, top-seal containers of strawberries and raspberries sported Scottish flag graphics and “Scottish-grown” callouts, while blackberries and blueberries bore Union Jacks and the message “British-grown.” I also spotted “wonky strawberries” on discount. 

Though I eventually sampled Scottish specialties like cullen skink, tablet and Irn-Bru, I escaped without much more than a taste of haggis. But I’d take some more of those strawberries any day.

For a video tour of a Scottish Aldi store, visit Produce Retailer.

Amelia Freidline is The Packer’s designer and copy chief. E-mail her at [email protected].

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