By Dave Broom

Plentytosmileabout

BeingScottishisn'tbeingdepressed,youknow.Notallthetime,anyway
Therewasanintriguingstoryontheradiorecently.Amanclaimingtobesufferingfromdepressionhadbeenbafflingpsychiatrists,noneofwhomcouldworkoutwhattherootcauseofhisconditionwas.Eventuallyoneshrinkarrivedatthecorrectdiagnosis.“You’renotdepressed,”heopined.“You’reScottish”.Mywife–whoisEnglish–wasoverjoyed.AccordingtoherIonlyeverlistento‘depressing’music.Icounterthatcountrymusic(whichisbasicallywhatshe’stalkingabout–withanextrasmatteringofNickCave)isn’tdepressing,butcathartic.Letmegiveyouanexampleofalyric:“Anemptybottle,abrokenheart,andyou’restillonmymind.”Isthatdepressingorstrangelyuplifting?Ifitisthelatter,thenyoucanseethatwhatappearstobemaudlinselfpityisinfactacceptance–andacryofforgiveness.Seethis,andyouhaveanunderstandingofwestcoastsensibilities.It’sacomplex,paradoxical,stateofmind–somethingwhichwasbroughthomewhenIreturnedhometoGlasgowforWhiskyLive.ForthefirsttimeinmylifeIwasallowedintotheostentatiousbrownmarbleinterioroftheCityChambers,atriumphofVictorianmunicipalarchitecture–allhighceilings,giltandEscher-likestaircases.ItwasbuiltatatimewhenGlasgowwasthesecondcityoftheEmpireandhometosomeoftheworstslumsinthewesternworld.Contradictory?Glaswegian.Whereelsewouldyoufindaplacard-carryingprohibitionisthappilyhavinghisphotographtakenwithwhiskyrevellers?IwasdoingacoupleofmasterclassesatTheCorinthianwithGillianBellonwhiskyandfoodmatchingwhich,somewhatambitiously,becameanattempttounlocksomeofthesecretsofsevendramsbypairingthemwithgreatScottishfoods,usingthelatterasakindofmagickeytorevealpreviouslyobscuredaspectsofthewhisky–thewayinwhichLinkwood’shiddenweightgavesubstancetoapowerfulMullfarmhousecheddarandreplaceditsacidicbitewithswirlingflavoursofapplepie;thepairingofTaylor’sofBiggaricecreamwithCompassBoxAsylawherecoldmetwarm,creammetAmericanoakandturnedintobutterandspicesleaptaroundthemouth.AfterthefirstsessionwestartedchattingtoaKoreanprofessorwhoisstudyingatHeriotWattwhotalkedtousoftongues,tastesandneuralnetworks.Goodpairings,hesaid,worknotjustwhenflavoursarematched,butwhenothertastereceptorsarefiredintolife–andthatsometimespropellingthecombinationintoanewareaoftasteandflavour,necessitateshavingelementswhichmayinitiallyappeartobeopposites.Thejoyofthisisthat,forallourresearchintowhatcould(andcouldn’t)work,thetopcombocamedowntochance.We’dwantedtoseehowsoupbehavedwhenputnexttowhiskyandGillhadfiguredthataparsnipandchestnutonewouldwork.Troublewas,onthemorningofthedryrunshewokeuptorealisethatshe’dforgottentomakeit,afactwhichresultedinherracingaroundeverygreengrocerandsupermarketintheBordersat7ampleadingforparsnips.Whenthatapproachfailed,shefellbackonPlanB:gohome,grabthenearestingredients–whichhappenedtobecarrotsandcardamom–andstartafresh.Blowme,iftheresultdidn’tworkstunninglywellwithBruichladdich15.Infact,thesoupwassogoodthattheCorinthian’srestaurantstoleonepotofitandputitontheirmenu.Theinvoiceisinthepost,bytheway.ThebestnewsfromallofthiswasthateverythingwasScottish.Thiswasaboutmorethanjustfoodandwhisky,itwasacelebrationofwhatisbestaboutthecountry:smallproducersandlargeonestoo,craftsmenandwomenallofwhomhaveapassionfortheirproduct,beitcheese,bacon,oatcakesorwhisky,andapassionforflavour.Depressed?Notme.