One of my favourite quotes is from the British scientist JBS Haldane. When asked by a theologian what could be inferred about the mind of the Creator from a study of His works, he replied, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” I began to wonder what could be inferred about the people of Westray from a study of their shopping habits. The answer I have concluded is, “An inordinate fondness for rhubarb.”
Rhubarb grows almost wild on Westray. Cycling along the roads, there is rhubarb in every garden, rhubarb at every road junction, rhubarb with three foot high flower stalks, rhubarb with stems the thickness and length of an arm. The shop stocks the rare Baxter’s Rhubarb and Ginger Conserve (blended with Scottish Victoria Rhubarb it says on the label). Then there’s the canned rhubarb in syrup. Pierowall Fish have a marvellous Rhubarb Fool for sale (highly recommended and very mild) together with Orkney’s other love, cheesecake. One thing I have yet to see in any of the three shops, however is fresh rhubarb. Why would anyone pay for it when it grows ‘free range’? Soon we will be going to the Pierowall Hotel for a meal and I’ll be fascinated to see what pudding including rhubarb they have on the current menu (along with the cheesecake, of course). Maybe they’ll confound my expectations and have rhubarb cheesecake?
Needing a break from seeing rhubarb everywhere I make for Hume Sweet Hume, the elegant knitwear shop, with its stunning designs and fine Italian yarns, and off license. They have a great selection of local beers, wines and spirits. What’s that I see? An Orkney Wine Company wine called Strubarb:
Made with strawberries and Orkney grown rhubarb. A slightly sweet rosé. Intensely crisp, fresh and fruity, with a lingering finish. Lovely as dessert wine or on its own as a liqueur.
Some say it is an aphrodisiac…
On Westray, there is no escape from rhubarb.