Archaeology and cookery reads

SHETLAND Heritage Publications has added two new books to its catalogue this week: Cookery for Northern Wives by Margaret B Stout and An Outline of Shetland Archaeology by John Stewart.

Both have been previously published but have been judged by Shetland Amenity Trust as meriting a reprint as they are still relevant to Shetland today.

Cookery for Northern Wives was first published in 1925 by T. & J. Manson. The new edition is a facsimile of the first edition; the only additions are a foreword by Stout family member Margaret Stuart and a preface by Scottish food historian Marion McNeill, which was included in a revised edition of the book titled The Shetland Cookery Book.

Margaret Stout (1894-1982) was born in Lerwick and studied at the Anderson Institute before graduating from Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy in 1915. She promptly applied her new qualifications to the war effort, lecturing and writing on wartime cookery and supervising a canteen for returning troops, for which she was awarded a Red Triangle.

Returning to Shetland in 1921 she decided to collect material for a Shetland cookbook to both: encourage young northern wives to cook simple, inexpensive and wholesome dishes; and to research and record traditional Shetland recipes.

During the Second World War island women turned to their native dishes, with the first edition of the book selling out, while Stout gave talks on war time cookery and make do and mend. With the green food agenda and global recession, the trust believes this book is just as important as it was when it was first published.

The book contains dishes from basic recipes, such as baked fish, to what we would now consider quite exotic, such as roast starlings and ebb cocks.

The recipes use local produce, a cause which is now championed by many celebrity chefs, and many are based on cheaper cuts of meat, which are now returning to fashion.

An Outline of Shetland Archaeology began as a series of articles in The Shetland Times in 1956, which were later incorporated into a book published in 1958. Again the new edition is a copy of the first, with the addition of a foreword by Val Turner and two new sections of Stewart’s previously unpublished work which were found in the archives.

John Stewart (1903-1977) was born in Whalsay and studied in Shetland before graduating from Aberdeen University. He remained in Aberdeen, where he was a teacher and later a deputy headmaster, but always had an interest in Shetland’s past, including its dialect, place-names and Scandinavian origins as well as its archaeological sites, and returned every summer to carry out research and excavations.

He was a well-known Shetland scholar who gave lectures and published many papers on subjects close to his heart. His earliest recorded excavation was at Houll Loch in Whalsay in 1935, records of which are held in the Archives, and he is known to have excavated many sites in Whalsay over several years.

In the book Stewart made the first attempt to write a chronological narrative of Shetland’s past from earliest times. Although 50 years old, his research and many of his theories on Shetland’s past are still relevant today, in fact many have since been scientifically proven.

Shetland Amenity Trust com­munications officer Davy Cooper explained why the trust wanted to republish these books.

He said: “Although the books are quite old it is amazing how relevant they still are in a modern context. Both books deal with important aspects of our heritage and the trust felt it was important not only to preserve this information but make it available to the public.”

Both books are priced at £9.95 and are available from the Shetland Museum and other local shops.


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