Spik Doric: Lesson 98

Saps. Common noun. A mix of torn bread/buns and warm milk. Pronounced exactly as it looks.

There was almost a ritual belief throughout northern Scotland in the first half of the 20th century and before in the restorative powers of a bowl of stale bread or buns soaked in warm milk.

Saps were the first resort of grandmas faced with a poorly grandchild or an ailing spouse.

It was a sound choice medically: easy to digest and with some nutrition; it settled the stomach by lining it and bulking it out.

For many families, saps wasn’t just medicinal, however; it also served as a meal when money was tight. It had double the appeal because it used up stale bakery, rather than seeing it wasted. Parsimony was important in old Scotland.

A retired dietitian I know, who admits to having had more than the occasional bowl of saps when she was growing up, tells me that if saps night fell on a Sunday it was made more luxurious by sprinkling sugar across the top.

“Was it ever baked under a grill?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I don’t remember that, but I do remember one of my cousins bragging that they had their saps baked and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Affa fantoosh*.”

In the interests of research, I made myself a bowl of saps before writing this item. It was my first in more than half a century. I’m not that fussed if I don’t have it again for another half-century.

* Affa fantoosh = very fancy.

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