May 2013

Keith in a Glasgow Puddle

In January 2012, most of my life disappeared in the game Skyrim. The game is heavily influenced by Norse mythology, and the game world is so engrossing that I found myself enjoying little things in-game, like collecting herbs and basic foodstuffs. Something about the simplicity of the food struck me with envy: There were fruits, vegetables, meat, and some herbs and spices. No complexity, no nefarious chemicals. I thought about the people inhabiting Skyrim and how they couldn’t help but burst with vim and vigor eating such a pristine diet (I had also been reading many books on the modern American industrial food system at the time).

I remember this moment clearly, for it was when the idea for my book hatched. Read more...

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Shetland’s skin is a green tarpaulin hammered by the sun, scoured by the wind, and measured in sheep and stones and fence posts. The west mainland is a beguiling array of coastline notched with tongues of sky-blue water. There are coarse beaches studded with green, brown, and blue chunks of seaglass gone round and frosted from untold years tumbling in the surf. I pick up the sandy baubles and tuck them into my flanel’s shirt pocket, another small act that reminds me of distant loved ones. My guy ropes have come undone. I think Shetland must be the last place in the world to say goodbye to the sun. Read more...

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Moncreiffe Hill, Perthshire

You’ve gotta hand it to the Picts – they really do choose the best views. The bones of ancient Pictish hillforts have been found up and down the length of Scotland, though aesthetics, I’m sure, were certainly a secondary motivation. The tops of hills provided the best defense against those who meant you harm, and, judging by the preponderance of these forts, Iron Age/Dark Age Scotland looked to be a pretty harmful place.

The times are different these days. We can walk freely through the hills of Perthshire, once the seat of the kings of southern Pictland, without fear of spear, axe, or arrow finding a new home in our fleshy bodies.

There are plenty of hiking options…

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The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

This is just a quick note to share a couple bits of news. First, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is going on right now! The festival runs for five incredible days and includes more than 350 events themed around whisky (of course), food, history, and the natural beauty of the Speyside region. My time at the festival last year was one of my favorite experiences in all my trips to Scotland. I highly recommend you click over to their Web site, have a look around, and start planning your trip to the festival in May 2014. Start with this brochure.

Or, check out my lengthy series of posts from last year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. I culled some notes from my tasting diary as the festival ended, but I recommend you start with my overview of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Read more...

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I am on the path beside the River Tay, watching that blue band of glass slide into the heart of the sunset. The ancient town of Dunkeld, standing just beyond the trees, is a quiet guardian of the sanctity that hangs in the air like dawn fog. A ghost of the in-between times. I sit in the grass overhanging the gurgling river as sticks float past, unable to think of a time when I’ve been happier doing nothing. Couples stroll by me on the path, smiles on their faces like petals on flowers. They are older than me, wiser, full of secrets that no tongue can tell.

Scotland superimposes itself over you. Every winding track, stony ridge, and forested glen takes you deep…

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