Brits Battle Over ‘Oatcake Day’
Should the Scottish or Staffordshire variety be celebrated?
Every dog has its day. In a more literal sense, every food has its day as well. There’s World Egg Day and International Beer Day. Last Thursday was National Watermelon Day. This coming Sunday is National Filet Mignon Day. Most of these days are simply dreamt up as marketing tools or hashtag opportunities and pass with little fanfare. But in the United Kingdom, one food holiday is resulting in a surprising bit of controversy: Oatcake Day.
Oatcakes exist in many forms in Britain. The most common type of oatcake is a Scottish oatcake (similar to Irish oatcakes, if you are more familiar with that name). These oatcakes tend to resemble dense circular crackers (“biscuits” as the Brits call them), and though they have plenty of culinary uses, to American sensibilities, they are a perfect edition to a cheeseboard. Meanwhile, England has a much different type of oatcake, typified by the Staffordshire oatcake. In the past, I’ve described these oatmeal concoctions as “occupying a middle ground between a thick crepe and a savory pancake [kind of like] a stodgy English tortilla.”
According to The Evening Times, tomorrow will be the UK’s seventh annual Oatcake Day. But the Scottish paper has an issue with that: The day, which was originally organized in Staffordshire, is only meant to celebrate Staffordshire oatcakes. It’s easy to see why the Scots would consider this a slight: The larger, flatter Staffordshire version is highly regionalized and can be difficult to come by in other counties; meanwhile, Scottish-style oatcakes can be picked up at pretty much any grocery store in the U.K.
As a result, Scottish chef Shirley Spear has an idea for a new day: “Perhaps we should launch our own Scottish Oatcake Day?” she said yesterday in a piece for the Scottish paper The Herald. “We incorporate traditional Scottish dishes into all kinds of summer events and festivals it seems, from porridge to haggis, smokies and tattie scones. Shouldn’t we also celebrate the humble Scottish oatcake more widely?”
“Our Scottish oatcakes are so much part of our food, heritage and culture, and we really ought to be celebrating it more widely. It’s a healthy option to eat and easy and inexpensive to make. It’s something that we should be getting people involved with from school age because it has a real nutritional value,” Spear further explained to The Evening Times. “Staffordshire oatcakes are nothing like the ones made in Scotland. It’s a completely different recipe with a different use of oatmeal.”
In the end, though, nothing better befits Oatcake Day than a debate over which style of oatcake is the best. As with any regional cuisines, the arguing based almost entirely on hometown pride is almost as enjoyable as eating it. That said, as an oatcake outsider who has regularly eaten both, I'd have to say, to my taste, Staffordshire oatcakes are clearly superior. Grilling up a Staffordshire oatcake with some meat and cheese filling is just something a simple cracker can’t compete with. I look forward to being banned from Scotland for life.