Smells of Scotland hit the valley
By THERESA HOGUE
ANDY CRIPE | Gazette-Times
Former Army cook Tracy Johnson loads a tray of
sheperd's pies into the oven Saturday afternoon at
the annual Oregon Scottish Heritage Festival held at
the Linn County Fairgrounds. Johnson said this is
the first year for the Sheperd's pies and the
hundred they made are flying out the door.
Wallace might have faced some tough opponents in his day,
but staff members of Mary’s Kitchen at the Linn County
Fairgrounds had their own battles to fight Saturday as they
faced a long line of hungry Scots, all growling for scones
The annual Oregon Scottish Heritage Festival has been at the
fairgrounds for four years, and each year the menu has
expanded, under the guidance of Mary Wallace Kelsey,
granddame of the festival and emeritus OSU faculty member of
nutrition and food management. Thus, the title “Mary’s
Just after noon on Saturday, Kelsey was whisking around the
kitchen, looking a lot calmer than she likely felt. A number
of kitchen volunteers had just left for the day, and the
kitchen was suddenly getting slammed with customers. As the
line grew, and the pace grew more frantic, it almost
appeared that cookies and meat pies were flying off shelves
of their own accord.
Kelsey said the festival started producing its own food
around seven years ago, when it was located at the State
Fairgrounds in Salem. At that time, the festival had a tiny
facility to use and could hardly fit the staff in to cook
and serve up meals. The Linn County location offers a lot
more room, although staff members still do their baking in
other locations, and only do the meat preparation on site.
“This is our most ambitious menu,” Kelsey said of the long
list, which included shepherd’s pie, Scotch egg plates and a
rainbow of scones. “It’s all Tracy’s (doing).”
Tracy Johnson, former military cook and baker extraordinare,
was whisking past in his kilt, hauling huge trays of
shepherd’s pies and shouting congenially for everyone to get
out of his way. The Lacomb man’s speciality is scones, and
he said the breakfast crowd was appreciative of his skill.
“I believe it was my blueberry lemon scones that flew out
the door,” he said.
His mother, Sandra Johnson, raised her three sons at her
side in her kitchen. Each son has his own cooking skills,
but Tracy is her premier baker, she said.
“He was my right-hand man,” she said of his early days in
the kitchen. The family is of Scottish and English heritage,
and has always celebrated their origins.
Meg Finlayson was stacking cheese and bread on plates and
recalling the days when the volunteer cooks had to grill
bangers (sausages) on outdoor grills at their former
location. At one memorable festival it rained.
“I remember having to use a pot lid as an umbrella,” she
Finlayson traveled to Scotland in 1991 to visit the land of
her ancestors and loved it.
“I’d go (back) in a heartbeat,” she said. “I’ll go again,
that’s a given. It’s a beautiful country.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of other fans of Scotland and its food
waited just outside the kitchen doors for a chance to sample
the ploughman’s lunches Finlayson was speedily preparing.
Sometimes, celebrating your heritage means a little extra
patience, but no swords were drawn during the lunch fray,
and everyone seemed to agree that the shepherd’s pie was
worth the wait.