• Tom Morton

Slorach: Say it, eat it, drink it

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

“Don’t try to talk with your mouth full.”

I can hear my mother’s voice as I munched, crunched, swallowed and crammed even more food between my lips, all the time chattering, nattering about...what? I don’t know. What do very young children talk about? Noise. I made noise, lots of it. I was a loud child, and a noisy eater. I loved to eat. I loved to talk about food.

Talking with my mouth full. That was always my problem. It still is. I have a tendency to slorach.

The Dictionary of the Scots Language defines the gloriously-sounding word (slaw-rach, with that last hard ‘ch’ as in “loch” and so a real test of your Scots pronounciation skills) as “to eat or drink messily and noisily, to gurgle, slobber, splutter, slaver”.

It’s delightfully onomatopaeic in origin. Imagine the sound of someone really, really demolishing a great Scottish football-ground mutton pie. A Scotch Pie, if you will. Sucking, chewing, swallowing. And all the time, conversing, gossiping, joking. Sloraching. Unappetising? But imagine if that is the best mutton pie on earth, the tastiest, the most wondrously meaty. And only by listening will you ever fin dout where you too can get one.

I have my own teeth, by the way, unmodified by implants or dentures, despite or because of being a dentist’s son, brought up on fluoride and Irn Bru. And what a cocktail that is.

According to Pauline Cairns Speitel of the Scottish Language Centre, “slorach” was first recorded officially in 1865 in a poem by Morayshire’s WH Tester: “We’ll lounge nae mair a gable en’, Nor slorach in yer deevil’s den.” Eighty-six years later it appears in another North East writer’s work, C Gavin’s Black Milestone: “It’ll get in a gey soss (a soggy mess) wi’ a curn (a few) sodgers slorachin’ roond aboot it.” But my favourite is from W S Forsyth’s Guff o’ Waur “Syne Kirty laid her teethless geems against the cuppie’s rim, And slorached in a moo’fu’ o’ the bree.(sucked in a mouthful of the brew).”

I eat and drink, therefore I am. I eat and drink not just to stay alive, though obviously you need food and liquid to survive, but to live. Food and drink are there to celebrate life, to mark all the rituals and relationships that make life colourful and worthwhile. The momentous occasions and the tiny moments of pleasure and connection.

I’m noisy and enthusiastic, naturally. It’s a Scottish thing. I’ve spent a lot of my life being told to pipe down, to keep my mouth shut (especially when eating). Occasionally I’ve made a mess of things. All right, relatively often.

But I slorach along, eating and drinking and telling people about it. I have some stories to share about how I learned to eat and drink well, and how Scotland, home of those who slorach, is a place where you can set politeness aside and, tencherman or trencherwoman, enjoy some of the greatest food and drink on the planet. How I went from inhaling plates of bad canteen chips and beans to learning, in self-defence, the basics of cooking. And a lot more.

And of course, food and how we eat it, drink and how we consume it...that means a lot more than just describing tastes and textures, production and recipes. What we are talking about is hospitality, conviviality, community. this is all about sharing our lives. Sharing Scotland.

Come with me. Sit down, tie that napkin around your neck. No need to dress up, because things could get messy. We’re here to eat, and drink, and talk. We’re to laugh, and maybe shed a few tears. We’re here to remember and we’re here to talk about the future. All the things that happen best at home.

So let’s begin.


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