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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsies handed about their wine


[152] It is not unlikely that the "something like chalk," here mentioned, was nothing but a nutmeg, with which, and the eggs and whiskey, the Gipsy would make, what is called, "egg-nogg."--ED.

The country-girls, however, never could stand out the operations of telling fortunes by the method of turning a corn-riddle, with scissors attached, in a solitary out-house. Whenever the Gipsy commenced her work, and, with her mysterious mutterings, called out: "Turn riddle--turn--shears and all," the terrified girls fled to the house, impressed with the belief that the devil himself would appear to them, on the spot.

The Gipsies in Tweed-dale were never in want of the best of provisions, having always an abundance of fish, flesh, and fowl. At the stages at which they halted, in their progress through the country, it was observed that the principal families, at one time, ate as good victuals, and drank as good liquors, as any of the inhabitants of the country. A lady of respectability informed me of her having seen, in her youth, a band dine on the green-sward, near Douglass-mill, in Lanarkshire, when, as I have already mentioned, the Gipsies handed about their wine, after dinner, as if they had been as good a family as any in the land. Those in Fifeshire, as we have already seen, were in the habit of purchasing and killing fat cattle, for their winter's provisions. In a communication to Blackwood's Magazine, to which

I will again allude, the illustrious author of "Waverley" mentions that his grandfather was, in some respects, forced to accept a dinner from a party of Gipsies, carousing on a moor, on the Scottish Border. The feast consisted of "all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth." And, according to the same communication, it would appear that they were in the practice of stewing game and all kinds of poultry into soup, which is considered very rich and savoury, and is now termed "Pottage a la Meg Merrilies de Derncleugh;" a name derived from the singular character in the celebrated novel of Guy Mannering.

But the ancient method of cooking practised among the Scottish Gipsies, and which, in all probability, they brought with them, when they arrived in Europe, upwards of four hundred years ago, is, if I am not mistaken, new to the world, never having as yet, that I am aware of, been described.[153] It is very curious, and extremely primitive, and appears to be of the highest antiquity. It is admirably adapted to the wants of a rude and barbarous people, travelling over a wild and thinly-inhabited country, in which cooking utensils could not be procured, or conveniently carried with them. My facts are from the Gipsies themselves, and are corroborated by people, not of the tribe, who have witnessed some of their cooking operations.

[153] I published the greater part of the Gipsy method of cooking, in the Fife Herald, of the 18th April, 1833.

The Gipsies, on such occasions, make use of neither pot, pan, spit, nor oven, in cooking fowls. They twist a strong rope of straw, which they wind very tightly around the fowl, just as it is killed, with the whole of its feathers on, and its entrails untouched. It is then covered with hot peat ashes, and a slow fire is kept up around and about the ashes, till the fowl is sufficiently done. When taken out from beneath the fire, it is stripped of its hull, or shell, of half-burned straw-rope and feathers, and presents a very fine appearance. Those who have tasted poultry, cooked by the Gipsies, in this manner, say that it is very palatable and good. In this invisible way, these ingenious people could cook stolen poultry, at the very moment, and in the very place, that a search was going on for the pilfered article.


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