I’ve had to fix a few ovens in my time as a chef.
However, the last place I thought I’d be fixing one would be on a farm deep in the Highlands.
After an uneventful drive from Dundee, Jeremiah and I had arrived at Darnford Farms. Fresh faced from his full meal, 3 pints and a nap, Jeremiah was clearly excited to have reached his destination. As we passed rows of fields filled with strong looking cross-suckler cows, his nose was practically pressed against the window, trying to get a better look at the specimens. Trundling over the last stretch of the long beaten track leading up to the farm house proper, it felt like we were suddenly surrounded by the beasts. They dotted the landscape for what felt like miles around, in truth, I found them a little intimidating.
I tried to imagine them as steaks on my plate back in Cornwall, but balked at the idea of my sirloin mooing at me.
As we pulled into the drive outside a fine looking, wide-built Victorian farmhouse, a perplexed looking farmer emerged from the front. I knew he was perplexed because he was scratching his head and biting the lower corner of his lip. I knew he was a farmer because he was wearing faded blue dungarees, wellington boots and a checked shirt. I’m not usually one to stereotype but I felt that these markers were pretty much a dead giveaway and, as it turns out, my suspicions were correct.
Mr. Watson was scratching his head because, as he was about to fire up his gas hob to cook prepare us some of his award-winning steak, the oven had inexplicably stopped working.
A large land owner and successful business owner, you could hardly call him a man with few talents, however this particular set back had surprised him. The confusion had remained as he’d heard our van pulling in. Still rapt with perplexity, he’d come to greet us with the expression fixed on his face.
Thankfully, fixing an oven is something I’ve done before and the task proved not too difficult. Of course, if I were at home in Cornwall, cooker repairs would be a job for an outsourced company. But, being in the middle of nowhere, I thought it best to pull my sleeves up and get on with it myself. With the help of Jeremiah, I pulled the beast of an oven away from the side of Mr. Wastson’s delightfully retro kitchen. No wonder he was having problems with the thing, it looked about 30 years old. After some tinkering around with a few loose wires, we soon discerned the problem and got the hunk of junk working again.
Finally, both of us had the opportunity to try out the Scottish beef that had won so many awards, as well as my heart. But before this, the farmer was keen to show us his land as well as how he ensured that his beef was the ‘best for miles around’, which would have been a boast if it weren’t for the miles of empty fields around his own holding. As he proudly strode through the land that his family had owned for decades, he pointed towards the ground, claiming it to be his secret ingredient. Jeremiah looked a little crest fallen. His hope of eking out the secrets behind the rich taste of Scottish beef had ended somewhat flatly – however, he wasn’t completely disheartened.
Upon our return to the farmhouse, Mr. Watson pulled out a selection of freshly hung steaks and a well-used griddle pan.
This journey might not have been wholly educational, but it had given me a chance to meet new people, broaden my horizons and get the wind in my hair.