Sir, I was much interested in Gretchen’s remarks about sowens in last week’s issue but was surprised that she was not familiar with their composition, seeing that she is so well acquainted generally with the customs and practices which were prevalent in North Ayrshire in the not very remote past.
I do not know whether or not I have seen many more summers than Gretchen but possibly I have. However, I have often partaken of sowens when staying with an aunt during my schoool holidays in north Ayrshire.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, I may say that sowens are made by steeping for a day or two in water meal seeds, with a handful or two of oat meal added (or hashed oats). The mixture is then strained and boiled till it is of the consistency of well boiled porridge. This makes a very wholesome dish when served with milk and was considered a good summer diet.
As Gretchen says, some good day’s work was done on this diet which would compare favourably with oats now considered a good day’s work on a far more expensive diet. It was thought however by some men that this diet was served too often and that it had not much sustaining power.
A good story is told of a ploughman who was of this opinion and instead of partaking of his allowance of sowens put them in the horse poke and hung them on the hames with the result that at the end of the yoking they were reduced to a liquid condition and this was thought to prove that the same took place when partaken of by the ploughman.
To show that sowens are still considered a delicacy, I may say that I have an order on hand at present for a supply of meal seeds to be used for making sowens,. My customer, an Irish lady, thinks that there is nothing like sowens for a delicate stomach. I should have said that the manner in which I have seen sowens served was that enough was made at once to serve two days .
They were taken warm the first day and on the second day they were cut into cubes as referred to by Gretchen and warm milk was poured on them.