Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Scottish Family History in Nova Scotia

My Itchy Travel Feet, a site for Boomer Travelers, recognizes that many of us add family history searches to our reasons to travel.

Anderson Tartan

The Anderson Tartan, from MacIsaac Kiltmakers in Nova Scotia

You can see my article on Checking out Family History in Nova Scotia at My Itchy Travel Feet. I talk about four places I discovered things about my Scottish ancestors, even though they did not enter North America through Canada. See my pictures at My Itchy Travel Feet, and here are a few more.

McCullloch Center, Pictou, Nova Scotia

Scottish clans, pictured at McCullloch Center, Pictou, Nova Scotia

Deck of Hector

My sister on the deck of the Ship Hector, Pictou, Nova Scotia

 living quarters in Hector

Below decks, living quarters in Hector

Ship Hector, Pictou, Nova Scotia

Mast and rigging, Hector

Oats drying by a stone house in Highland Village, Nova Scotia

Oats drying by a stone house in Highland Village, Nova Scotia

Highlands Village, Nova Scotia

Kitchen in 18th century log house in Highlands Village

At the Gaelic College, we took part in a “milling frolic” or “waulking, where a loop of woolen cloth is rhythmically passed around a circle and beat on the table. Accompanied by music of course!

See more about these Four places in Nova Scotia to track Scottish ancestors and their culture at My Itchy Travel Feet.com
Do you include some family history searches in your travels? Or are your travels totally centered around family history? Share your stories, please!

Ancestors of Oatmeal Cookies: Oatcakes

Scottish old house

My Scottish ancestors would have lived in this kind of house before immigrating to the United States. A sod-roofed stone house from old Scotland at Highlands Village, Nova Scotia

Visiting Nova Scotia, I was immersed in the Scottish culture of my ancestors, and of course that included FOOD.  In Pictou, at the McCulloch Heritage Center, I picked up a cookbook that shows recipes in both English and Gaelic.

I couldn’t wait to get home to try the most typical cookie/biscuit of Scotland–Oatcakes.  When we attended a ceilidh–a musical gathering–in Baddeck, there was a break during which audience members could buy a cup of tea and an oatcake.

tea cups and oatcakes

Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh intermission–tea cups and oatcakes

One of the musicians remarked that the Baddeck Gathering is the only place he knows of where the audience members are served tea in real cups rather than cardboard or Styrofoam! That makes it memorable, but it is the music and the oatcakes that I remember. I suspect that I will never again have an oatcake without thinking of the joyful, friendly weekly musical event in Baddeck on Cape Breton.

Baddeck Ceilidh

Baddeck Ceilidh

Have you seen the Gaelic language?  As I mentioned in my article about making a kilt, we tried a short class, just enough to convince us we would never have MacBeth’s ghost of a chance to speak the musical language! But we certainly enjoyed listening to the music that comes from that language.

By the way, the Gaelic cookbook from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, categorizes this recipe as “Bread”, but I think of it more as a cookie, or the ancestor of oatOatmeal Cookies.

Here’s what the oatcake recipe looks like in Gaelic:

Oatcake recipe in Gaelic.

Oatcake recipe in Gaelic. From Ás an Abhainn Mhóir: English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County

Have fun baking an oatcake using that recipe.

No? Okay, here’s the English version from the from the same cookbook, Ás an Abhainn Mhóir: English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County.

Scottish Oatcakes

Serves 18-24
Prep time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 37 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
From book English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County


  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water


1. Combine all dry ingredients and add butter.
2. Cut butter into dry ingredients.
3. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and mix and cut in with knife, adding more water if needed.
4. Mold with hands and roll into long wedge.
5. Chill dough.
6. Slice chilled dough about 1/2 inch thick
7. Place cakes on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


Preparation time includes an hour in refrigerator to cool.

I cheated and added 1/2 tsp vanilla for additional flavor.

I shaped the dough before chilling into a log approximately eight inches long and two inches high.  It flattened on the bottom as it cooled, and I did not try to make it round.  I don't know what size cookie the cookbook writers had in mind, but that made a fairly large cookie, so you could easily make the log longer and narrower for more cookies.

I placed the cookies a little too close together, because they did spread a little bit.

(As you see, I'm calling it a cookie, even though they call it a bread.  Anything with a cup of brown sugar is a cookie in my book!)

Did you know that other than the Scots and some other far-northern peoples, oats were not regularly used for food until the 19th century? The oatmeal cookie, that seems so traditional, is actually a newcomer in the United States. Unless you count oatcakes, which were surely baked by early Scottish settlers like my Anderson and Fife and McCabe ancestors. Read about how recently oatmeal cookies emerged as a favorite in the U.S., and get a couple more recipes at Revolutionary Pie.

oats for oatcakes

Oats drying by a stone house in Highland Village, Nova Scotia


All photos used here are my own. Please ask before reusing.


1960s Lobster Recipe

I must admit that I go a little bit crazy when I get to Maine or New Brunswick or Nova Scotia where lobsters are plentiful. I love lobsters, and to be able to get a full lobster meal for the price I would pay for a lobster salad at home—well, it is just heaven.

Catching Lobster for my lobster recipe in Nova Scotia

Lobster traps along the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia

My favorite memory of a meal while traveling was one summer when my husband and I and our three boys joined his sister and parents for a Cape Cod vacation. We saw a notice in a throwaway newspaper for a local organization’s Lobster Bake on the beach. The meal was heavenly. Someone took pity on us and gave us plastic utensils and paper plates (which we didn’t understand we were supposed to bring) and we stood around the huge pit while the smoke bore the aromas of roasting meat and shellfish and corn.

Soon the guys running the show shoveled off the dirt and rocks, scraped off the seaweed and dug up the wire baskets of clams, lobster, sausage and ears of corn. I’ve never smelled anything quite as good! That probably was where I first got hooked on lobster.

Lobster and Clam bake

Lobster and Clam bake

In Maine a few years ago, I pledged to eat lobster three times a day to make up for all the days I’d miss in Arizona. I managed to do it with the help of a friendly chef who made a lobster omelet for me for breakfast, and McDonald’s who serve a lobster roll along with their more plebeian offerings.

So here I am this year traveling in Nova Scotia where all things seafood are abundant–crabs, shrimp, lobster and everything else to make my mouth water.


However, when I think of my pilgrim ancestors and their approach to lobster, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Briefly–they looked DOWN on lobster, thinking it was kind of a cheap, everyday source of protein that they would eat only because their beloved beef and pork were not available when they first arrived in America. There they were in New England, the waters teeming with seafood of all kinds, and they didn’t like any of it (except maybe oysters.)

Not until the 19th century did lobster come to be seen as a gourmet item on menus. In the 60s, as a young bride, I chose this lobster casserole as my go-to gourmet company dish. I certainly could not afford to buy a whole lobster–let alone have a clue how to cook it.

But I’m happy I’m in Nova Scotia and New England and I can eat LOTS of lobster this week and I don’t have to take small chunks and stretch it with noodles.


Lobster Casserole

Serves 8-10
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Milk, Shellfish, Wheat
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Gourmet, Serve Hot


  • 8 rock lobster tails
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion (or fresh to taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon angostura bitters
  • 12oz package noodles (cooked)
  • bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup capers


1. Allow 8 hours to thaw lobster tails if frozen.
Cooking lobster and noodles.
2. Broil lobster tails 5 to 10 minutes; OR simmer lobster tails 8-12 minutes until meat is opaque. Cook noodles to firm texture (they will cook more in casserole), rinse in cold water and set aside.
Cooking lobster
3. Let cool while making white sauce.
White Sauce
4. Mix flour and seasonings. Melt butter. Whisk in seasoned flour. Add cream and milk, stirring constantly over medium heat until thickened.
5. Set white sauce off heat while preparing lobster.
6. Cut each tail in half lengthwise.
7. Cut one of the halves of each tail in chunks, and set the other aside to top the casserole.
Prepare Casserole
8. Stir the chunks into the white sauce and add sherry.
9. Put cooked noodles in buttered 3-quart casserole. Pour lobster chunks with sauce on top of noodles and stir gently.
10. Scatter bread crumbs on top of casserole
11. Bake in moderate oven until hot and bubbly.
12. Top casserole with reserved tail halves, brush with melted butter mixed with drained capers.
13. Return to oven for about 10 minutes.


Angostura Bitters was a commonplace for any decent home bar in the 50s and 60s, but if you don't make Manhattans at home, you may not have any at hand. The bitters have a distinctive flavor (supposedly more than 40 ingredients go into it) so be warned your dish will be different if you substitute lemon, Worcestershire Sauce or another sauce.

Some kitchens also do not regularly stock capers. If yours is one of those caper-less kitchens, consider buying a small bottle. They had a nice punch to this dish and other --particularly fish--dishes. Try them in tuna salad, for instance.