Ivor Matheson re Food for Cowards

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Beadh Fir an Diaigh Feach

Food of the Cowards, or Pothead

This dish is known in the North of Scotland as Beadh Fir an Diaigh Feach, translated as food for the cowards. It is also known as Fuidheall feachd or army reject. The former name was derived from an unfortunate incident involving one Ivor Matheson of Shiness, Sutherland(shire).

In the 15th century, a great battle was in progress at Tongue between the MacKays on one side and the Sutherlands and Murrays on the other. Many of the other clans in the region were expected to participate on behalf of the Sutherlands.

Ivor Matheson chose not to participate as he was new to the area and bore no allegiance to anyone. However his wife was a local with strong Sutherland sympathies and was vexed by her husband's indifference. To show her displeasure, she served Ivor pothead for breakfast on the day of the battle. Upon his asking what prompted such an unusual meal, she replied it was the proper meal for cowards. He left his house in wrath and hurried to join his neighbours at the scene of the battle, only to find that it had ended in defeat for the MacKays.

However, Ivor came across the elderly MacKay chief surveying his lost men and slew him. Therefore, Ivor became a wanted man and was eventually captured by a band of MacKays and executed. An historian of the 19th century credits Matheson with the advent of the Gaelic name for the dish of pothead and also describes it as "a dish which no person of spirit in this country will deign to taste as it has been reckoned since Macmahathan's time....."

1 calf's or pig's head
2 diced onions
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sage or mace

Take calf's or pig's head and brush teeth, remove ears, snout, eyes and reserve the brains. Soak for 6 hours in cold water to extract the blood.

Barely cover with fresh cold water. Add onions, simmer for 2 to 3 hours until meat is ready to fall from the bones. Drain but reserve the stock. Chip the meat off the bones and dice it. Reduce stock by 1/2 and cover the meat with it. Add salt, pepper and sage or mace. Cool for 1/2 hour. Pour into a mold and cover with a cloth. Chill to jell.

Cut into slices and serve with diced cooked brains.

Do not serve it to a Matheson, or to a MacKay.

From: Cooking With Our Clan: Clan Matheson Society of Nova Scotia
with permission of Glen Matheson, 1995.

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