Kippers @ Dawn

It's BBQ time and a neighbour has not only roasted a few cows but has now started on the fish. Not ordinary fish you understand. These smell very much like kippers and Janice has been forced to take the washing in because of the backyard odour.
Not that there's anything wrong with kippers you understand.
Sublime and full of good fishy 
protein and splendidly sumptuous maritime fat the health benefits are well publicised but the smell lingers for days and I really don't relish sharing a drink or two with fellow hacks in the theatre bar tomorrow wearing a kipper-strewn shirt.
It's the same with bread. A quite splendid piece by Felicity Lawrence graces page 34 of today's Observer. After highlighting the fashionable obesity crisis, she bashes the 45p supermarket white-loaf. Again, I am not against the white loaf - how after all can you achieve decent toast except by the use of thick-sliced white bread. In my youth we relished the plain-loaf. A factory produced delicacy if I ever saw one, these slabs of well burnt bread still excite my taste-buds. Butter and jam laden, they made a mockery of the munchies. No Mars Bars for us. Bring on the toast!

And what has the picturesque village of Torphins got to do with buttered toast? Well only that the Bread of Life charity shop occupies the former bakery occupied by a famous shortbread maker. 

Run for many years by the Calder family the business was, until quite recently, operated by local bakers Robbie and Agnes Garden who fired up the ovens one final time in the September of 2013 prior to retiring following a quarter of a century of 2am starts.
 A tad prior to that, in slightly far-off 1852, Walker’s Shortbread founder Joseph Walker, borrowed £50 from his local bank to take on the lease of the Craigour Road premises.

Alongside traditional bakery products, he began baking batches of shortbread with the intention of perfecting the finest shortbread in the entire world and soon locals and even swanky shooting parties from Deeside estates were beating a path to his door.

As word spread and demand increased, Joseph’s business outgrew the Torphins bakery and, in around 1910, he moved to the Speyside village of Aberlour where he expanded the business and invested in a horse drawn bakery cart to deliver his produce around the area.

By the 1930’s petrol driven delivery vehicles had replaced the horse drawn variety and by the 1960’s, just a few years after Joseph Walker died, the company operated a fleet of some 14 delivery vans and were supplying the newly emerging supermarket outlets.
Expansion continued and nowadays Walkers produces 40,000 tons of shortbread each year using a staggering 50tons of flour, 10 tons of sugar and 20 tons of butter daily.

Not bad for a fifty-pound micro-business which started off in a wee back street baker's shop in Torphins.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire


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