Friday, October 14, 2005


In a moment I’m going to show you not only how you can make a very important decision about your family history, but also let you in on something that not only will turn a bad meal into a good one, but a good meal into the best!

Imagine my surprise when the only time in years that I’ve pulled out the old Thomson family tree was also the week I met a woman from the actual Scottish town that one side of my family comes from: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Thomson, Lizzie was born on May 25, 1851, on the old farm in Dhuloch, Kirkolm Parish, Wigtownshire, Scotland, and after traveling through Canada to the American Midwest, married my great-great-grandfather Samuel Allison Graham on June 3, 1869, in the Macksburg United Presbyterian Church, Iowa., and had a farm in Adair County.” The Descendents of Hugh Thomson, compiled by Donald C. Thomson of Stevensville, MD

Her grandfather, Hugh I, had three uncles who had been martyred during one of the persecutions in Scotland, which was one of the reasons, the Thomsons, like the Grahams (who had to leave Stirling and Dundee for Belfast and then South Carolina in time for the American Revolution), spent a lot of time in Ireland—a great number of Scots just kept moving west.

Now, Alison McQuade, who I met in San Francisco, reminded me of this back and forth between Ireland and Scotland, with the final run to the US of A. Her family is originally from Ireland, though she hails from Ayrshire, Scotland (where Hugh Thomson I first arrived back in Scotland): “a sunless place, where the moors stretch far”, but where her wee Granny McQuade prepared something so deliciously tropical—chutney!

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, and having spent 6 years in Singapore soon after independence from Great Britain, I have had a love of chutney ever since I can remember and jumped at the chance when she offered me some samples with which to experiment!

What is chutney?

As The Food Reference so well describes:
“The original chutney of India (Hindi: chatni) was usually a relish made from fresh fruits and spices. During the colonial era the British took it home (along with curry dishes) to their Island, and thence to their other colonial possessions, including South Africa and the Caribbean Islands. During this long journey the concept changed, until the commercially made mango chutney 'Major Grey's chutney' became the British standard chutney. Major Grey is a probably mythical colonial British officer who loved curries and made his own chutney to accompany them (no one has a copyright on his name - anyone can use it). These commercially made cooked chutneys are still popular in Great Britain, and are usually made of fruit (usually mangos, apples or pears), onions and raisins simmered with vinegar, brown sugar and spices for about two hours.”

Ask anyone about chutney and they always say it’s supposed to be served with Indian curry. Now, I can’t imagine enjoying a vindaloo, or tandoori without tamarind or mango chutney, but chutney goes a long further than that…especially with the numbers of chutney’s I’ve just been privy to through McQuade’s chutney product list....

I love figs fresh off the tree in our backyard and especially in chutney. That’s what I told Alison and within a week, I not only had her drop-you-on-the-floor-asking-for-more “Moray Fig and Ginger”, but also a jar of “Glasgow Spiced Apple” and “Mandarin Orange and Apricot”!

Now it’s a few days until duck season, and I’m out of wild boar, which would go well, I’m sure, with the apple chutney, but there’s fresh Columbian blacktail venison in the freezer and so after preparing my tried and true recipe I like to call Cerf aux Herbes de Provence, I matched it with the “Moray Fig and Ginger”.

First of all, if you know how to prepare good venison from field to freezer (age it a minimum of two to three days in 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) there is no such meal as gamey venison. Secondly, if you pick a condiment effectively, it’s meant to not mask, but bring out the wealth of flavors already in the offering—some chutneys ARE just for curries, but then there are the others….!

You can save time by clicking on this link to get directly to Alison McQuade’s chutney page: McQuade's Celtic Chutneys

For my special recipe (works very well for bison meat): Cerf aux Herbes de Provence

I’m a strong proponent of “doing it right” by culling and butchering your own. But, if you can’t, these guys can help:

And while you’re enjoying your slices of Cerf aux Herbes de Provence, you might want to see who can do your own family tree, perhaps yourself? I guarantee you’ll meet some very interesting people if you do!

Genealogy Resources:

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TORTURE is always the question that comes up in conversation when an audience learns that I spent 11 months in a Communist re-education camp on trumped up charges of spying for the CIA: “Were you tortured?…What has your personal experience taught you about torture?” Considering the controversy of the John McCain torture amendment, in the next installment I’ll fill you in on the personal facts of torture and its effectiveness; and I’ll then introduce you to a best-selling author, ex-high level military and DEA operator with TOPSECRET clearance… a true master of persuasion, who gets paid a lot of money to help you in your business and personal interactions, making them more productive and enjoyable: and everything but torture!

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