Tag Archives: Edinburgh

HOLYROOD PARK

When making my preparations to go to Edinburgh, I knew that, given the diet of fried foods that defined my trip, I would need to spend all the time that I was not eating being active enough to turn my body into a big, albeit slightly flabby, calorie furnace. Fortunately, Edinburgh is a city hilly enough to rival San Francisco, with the added benefit of a royal park full of giant hills smack dab in the middle of town.

Hiking is not exactly my deal. It’s actually pretty far from my deal.

God bless the hikers of the world, but I’ve seen trees and rocks before. I enjoy trees and rocks, and I like seeing them.

However, I don’t feel the need to spend several hours clambering over uneven terrain in order to see more trees and rocks. I know it’s a matter of personal preference, but whenever I hear my friends raving about how much they love hiking, I can’t help but think that maybe I’m not enjoying it because I’m doing something wrong. It’s like I’m playing Modern Warfare 2 without knowing that you’re allowed to shoot people.

However, after two days in which I consumed a haggis burrito, a deep fried cheeseburger, and a deep fried pizza, I knew that the only way I could make it out of Scotland without heart failure as a souvenir was to hike my nuts off, and the place to do that was at Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, home to Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. The fact that I did this on a day so hot that a runner in the Edinburgh Marathon died of heat exhaustion should also be noted.

Right away, I realized that this hike probably couldn’t be classified as a hike – not because it wasn’t difficult, because it definitely was, but because I was actually enjoying it. You see, while I don’t like hiking, I do enjoy panoramic views of major cities, and the advantage to these hills being in the center of a major city is… Well, really, do I need to explain?

The hike where I first learned that I was not a hiking enthusiast was a muddy slog through dense forests, affording no real views of the surrounding landscape and, more importantly, no way to look back at how far you’d come and think, “Well, I’m covered in mud and sweat and there isn’t a bathroom for miles, but look what I’ve done!

For all I knew, we could’ve been going in circles. Furthermore, there was no tangible goal to what we were doing, save for “Get to the end of the trail so we can hike the entire trail backwards and then go home.”

Climbing the steep, uneven path up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, 823 feet above the city, was an awe inspiring experience. No, like, literally.

I would stop and turn around and see the tiny brown path I’d taken snaking up the sheer edge of the hill with the entire city of Edinburgh laid out in the distance all the way to the North Sea, glimmering in the afternoon light, and awe was actually inspired within me. And along with that awe was ambition to keep climbing up to the top, which was also within sight, because the view only got better the higher I went. Refreshing cold winds off the North Sea also helped.

Maybe 50 feet from the summit, the hill leveled out into a wide, grassy plateau where several other hikers were sitting with books or lying on their backs for a high-altitude nap. From here, you could turn 360 degrees and see everything for miles in every direction.

I could see from the docks at one side of town all the way to where houses and deep fried pizza shops gave way to lush green fields and farmland. A city the size of Portland laid out underneath me, like I was some sort of sweaty alien riding on a floating grass disk.

Edinburgh is probably the second most beautiful city I’ve ever seen (after Portland, which, if it were a woman, would be Christina Hendricks). I don’t think I’d ever want to live outside the United States, for reasons I’ll elaborate on in a later update, but if I had to flee the country after pulling a massive casino heist, Edinburgh would be the place I’d go to start my new life.*

*Not that I’m planning a casino heist.

And what’s more, I’d use my newfound wealth to bribe city council members to let me build a modest house up on that grassy plateau, that little disk in the sky. Every morning, I’d be able to walk out my front door and see everything in the city I called my home, and at the same time, if the police tried to catch up with me, they’d be forced to run single file up a narrow path, which gives me a clear advantage, tactically speaking.

Truman Capps has all sorts of other interesting travel tidbits on his blog, Hair Guy.

Eating in Edinburgh

– Truman Capps

Between the round trip train tickets and three nights in a hostel, my trip to Edinburgh cost me roughly 130 pounds, which comes out to nearly $200. I consider myself to be a slightly cultured person, but the simple fact is that no art museum or guided history tour alone will encourage me to drop $200 on a weekend trip.

An international reputation for deep fried food, on the other hand, is exactly what it takes.

You name it, Scotland deep fries it – hot dogs, rotisserie chickens, ribs, pineapple rings, eggs, McNuggets, doner kebabs…

The only limitation here is that whatever you want to deep fry has to be solid enough to be coated in batter and dropped in the fryer, hence why the Scots have yet to develop deep fried whiskey.

This penchant for deep frying anything edible has made Scotland late night talk show joke fodder in recent years, which I think is wholly unfair. Firstly, up until this deep frying craze began, Scotland’s best known food was haggis, which is made of sheep’s lungs, heart, and liver minced with onion and oatmeal, heavily seasoned, and then simmered inside the sheep’s stomach.

When your jumping off point is inedible bits of animal jammed inside another inedible bit of animal, anything is an improvement.

Incidentally, they deep fry haggis, too.

So, without any further ado, please enjoy my reviews of the three deep fried foods I consumed during my time in Edinburgh. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Deep Fried Cheeseburger

I am a tried and true burger lover. I’d say that it’s probably one of my favorite foods – juvenile a choice as it may be, there’s nothing quite like a big, high quality cheeseburger when you’ve had a long day and all you want is to clog your arteries in the most efficient way possible.

So when I saw the deep fried cheeseburger on the menu at Café Piccante, a chip shop near my hostel, I knew I had to go for it.

Deep frying is a tricky proposition – you’ve got to drop the whole business into a vat of boiling oil, which makes frying small things (M&Ms) or multi-layered things (burgers with their buns) difficult, as it’s very easy for everything to come apart and sink to the bottom of the fryer. That’s why I was interested to see how they handled a deep fried cheeseburger – a layer of cheese on top of the patty would all too quickly separate and disappear into the fat. It’s for this same reason that you can’t deep fry a pizza with any toppings that are liable to come off when submerged.

As it turned out, the Swiss cheese was inside the patty, an ingenious and effective delivery method that I would’ve taken a photograph of had it not been so delicious that I devoured the whole burger before I could think. The act of forming the raw patty around the cheese and then cooking it put me in mind of the South Minneapolis ‘Jucy Lucy’ burger.

Jucy Lucy

Deep Fried Pizza

When I mentioned it a second ago, maybe you said, “What? Deep fried pizza!? He’s joking, right?”

No, I wasn’t.

The deep fried pizza was something I’d been itching to try ever since seeing it on a Food Network special about deep fried foods, and my trip to Castle Rock Chip Shop in the Grass Market was the culmination of many months’ planning and fantasizing.

The closer I got, though, the more apprehensive I felt – was I actually going to go through with this?

I already felt bad enough for my body after the previous day’s deep fried cheeseburger – a battered and fried pizza would surely be adding insult to injury. I paced outside the chip shop for a minute before forcing myself to go inside, having already come this far.

“I-I’d like a d-deep fried pizza, please,” I murmured to the woman behind the counter as though I were asking for a volume of deep fried hardcore pornography.

She cheerily went to work, pulling a cheap frozen pizza out of the freezer and covering it in batter before dropping it into the fryer. Just like top quality steak never goes into a steak sandwich, you’re going to have to look far and wide to find a brick oven deep fried pizza.

To my knowledge, virtually every chip shop in Scotland buys the bottom rung school cafeteria-style cheese pizzas to throw into the fryer. Buy a pizza at WinCo and you’ll know what I mean.

Thing is, you’re not paying for the pizza – you’re paying for the fact that it’s deep fried, and I can tell you that when you’re experiencing the novelty of eating something cheesy and tomatoey that’s also been beer battered, you really don’t care that much. The deep frying process covers for a lot of ills.

The experience was not that enjoyable for me, however. They dropped the whole deep fried pizza into a box and shoveled in a liberal amount of fries along with it, and then sent me on my way. Yes, as this was a take-away establishment, I was going to have to find a park bench and eat this embarrassingly unhealthy meal in public, bearing my shame for all to see.

It was good enough, I suppose, but I felt so bad – psychologically, I mean – about what I was eating that I only finished about three quarters of it and maybe half of the fries before dumping the remains in a garbage can and fleeing the scene, promising that my next meal would involve bean sprouts in some way.

(Also, I washed this meal down with a can of Irn-Bru soda, the Scottish soft drink so popular that in Scotland it outsells Coke and Pepsi combined. It tastes like a combination of orange and cream soda and has so much sugar and so many additives that it is allegedly illegal in Sweden. I have never in my life tasted a soda so steadfastly committed to being gross.)

Deep Fried Mars Bar

After my PTSD-inducing experience with deep fried pizza, I promised myself I would abstain from trying a deep fried Mars Bar. However, on my last night in town I caved and slipped out of the hostel under the cover of darkness, making my way to the Clam Shell chip shop on the Royal Mile with the dark and insane drive of Martin Sheen going to kill Kurtz at the end of Apocalypse Now.

I could practically hear Jim Morrison echoing in my head when I approached the Indian guy at the counter and said, “One deep fried Mars Bar, please.”

Verdict?

Don’t do it.

The Mars Bar is what we in America know as the Milky Way bar, which is actually one of my preferred brands of candy bar. But something about coating it in batter and throwing it in the fryer turns it into a sugar-charged orgy of molten chocolate and nougat coated in enough grease to render multiple sheets of paper clear as a car’s windshield.

It was a dark but delicious three days. Also, in case you were wondering, I was able to make it through the weekend without turning into 1970s Elvis by doing uncharacteristically athletic stuff, like climbing these volcanic rock formations:

Of course, I guess I’ll only really know if I ducked the consequences when I die of natural causes at a very old age, instead of succumbing to a heart attack before I finish writing thi

Truman Capps also recounts his experiences with haggis and Scottish hiking on his personal blog, Hair Guy.