Reading in a new story of Crockett’s that his hero had sowens and skim milk for supper, I had to inform myself again — for about the 50th time — of the composition of sowens.
“Mashlam” scones my mind can grip as having some sort of relation to modern food but “sowens” remains for me, in spite of explanations as undefinable as nectar and almost as poetic for the word recalls the poetry of the simple country life which vanished long before we were born.
There is one story of my grandmother’s youth in which this old fashioned potage appears in a different form from the “butter’d sowens , wi’ fragrant lunt” of Burns but nonetheless captivating to my imagination. She used to tell me that when her brothers went to a distant farm to cut hay they took with them for dinner a can of milk and some sowens made the previous evening and wrapped in a towel. When cold it was stiff and easily cut into portions.
At the same time she would be telling of the wonderful feats of physical strength for which they were famous in their day. In the present day and in our neighbourhood, farm workers think they are starved on less than five meals a day with animal food at two of these.