– 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.
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.”
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.