The vital part played by oats in Scotland is summed up comprehensively by David Kerr Cameron in his fascinating history of the Scottish farmtouns which had their heyday from about the 1880s onwards. " Oatmeal was the great sustainer: there was never a time in Scotland's long history when a little meal in your poke was not better than coin in your pouch. It was more than a food; it was a currency that in its time was a unit of rent; the stipends of ministers; the fees of schoolmasters; and payment for hardy Highland postmen. Gamekeepers sent into the hills for something to fill the chief's pot took oatmeal in their pockets, their only provision on an expedition that might stretch over several nights in the open before they brought home the venison. Like the laird's firlot or two of barley or oats to the tradesmen, oatmeal honourably settled debt and was welcome as dowries. About the farmtouns it was both a scourge and the very substance of life itself. And as a part of his perquisites, it was an important part of the ploughman's fee."
Writing from Inverness in the early part of the eighteenth century, Captain Burt was not slow to observe an undue dependence upon oatmeal: "
By the small proportion the arable lands hereabout bear to the rocky grounds and barrren heaths, there is hardly a product of grain sufficient to supply the inhabitants, let the year be ever so favourable; and therefore, any ill accident that happens to their growth, or harvest, produces a melancholy effect. I have known, in such a circumstance, the town being in consternation for want of oatmeal, when shipping has been retarded, and none to be procured for Love nor Money. There are but few in this town that eat wheat-bread, besides the English and those that belong to them, and some of the principal Inhabitants, but not their Servants."
The Statistical Account for Bendothy, in Perthshire, comments: "
The common people live on oatmeal pottage twice a day. It is the most wholesome and palatable of all their food, being purely vegetable; not withstanding the reflection in Johnson's Dictionary, that oats are eaten by horses in England, and in Scotland by men. Such food makes men strong like horses, and purges the brain of pedantry."
To Scottish Cooking