Nasty weather yesterday and last night. Ominous force 5 winds rocking Chantilly as if she were little more than a dinghy in a hurricane. In the morning, I stay below deck and, purely in an effort to settle my stomach, help myself to a dram of Laphroaig, a smoky, peaty, medicinal whisky from Islay (ISLE-la), the first stop on our wandering adventure.
But before we put in at Islay, I’d like you to meet Topi Morris. Topi is the cook on our cruise. She’s also vegetarian, which worried me until dinner last night when she whipped up a Cullen skink that was as fine as anything you’d get in a good Glasgow restaurant.
Most of you, I’m sure, are perfectly knowledgeable about Cullen skink, but for the two or three of you out there who aren’t, a slight digression.
Cullen skink is to the Hebrides what clam chowder is to New England. In fact, it’s very similar to clam chowder, the main difference being that instead of clams, Cullen skink calls for smoked haddock. Topi’s Cullen skink is brilliant, neither too thick nor too watery.
Anyway, this afternoon, Topi and I came to an unspoken understanding. She will let me sit below deck sampling from the plethora of single-malts cached in a cabinet beneath the dining table benches in exchange for me gushing about her culinary prowess. It’s an arrangement I think we’ll both find suitable to our needs.
“Topi, what was that fabulous concoction you served us for breakfast this morning?” I say as I pour myself a touch more of the Laphroaig.
“You mean the bacon butties?”
“Oh, now, now, Mr. Lansing,” she says, blushing. “Wait ‘till you try my haggis and neeps tonight. Lovely with a wee bit of the Lagavulin. Have you tried that one yet? Let me just reach under the bench and get it for you.”
As she give me a good two-finger pour, I think to myself that Topi and I are going to become very good friends.