30 April, 2012

Learning by Trial and Error

In November 2011, I had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with several American and British friends at Brian and Kellie Ingraham's house here in Glasgow. I had signed up to make a couple of apple pies and a couple of pumpkin pies. Since tinned (canned) pumpkin isn't really a Scottish staple I assumed that the challenge I would confront in making these pies was to locate and purchase cans of pumpkin. A local specialty store called Peckham's had a shelf full in stock (for all the Americans), so I had no trouble at all. The pumpkin pies came together like a breeze and then I was on to the apple pies. 

After getting the dough all set for the crust, I began to peel apples and prepare to make the filling. It was then that I realised I didn't have corn starch. Back to the store I went. After searching long and hard for corn starch and asking a store employee, I concluded that the Scottish folks must use another product entirely for thickening. Eventually I found a container of "Thickening Granules" which were white and appeared to be a suitable alternative to corn starch. Satisfied with my find I went back home and finished making the pies. Everything looked great and I was quite happy with the way the thickening granules had worked!

Thanksgiving meal was potluck style and absolutely delicious. Finally it came time for dessert (or "pudding" as desserts in general are called here)! I sampled various sweets and then decided to try a slice of my own apple pie. As I took my first bite something tasted slightly off. I couldn't quite pin it down. I asked others if the pie tasted a little funny, but everyone seemed quite happy with it and ate their pieces without complaint. As I continued to eat the rest of my piece I finally decided that it was almost as though there was a hint of gravy flavour. I thought through how I had prepared the pies and finally concluded that the only thing I had done differently was to use thickening granules instead of corn starch. 

When I arrived home later that night I pulled out the container of thickening granules and took a sniff. Sure enough, they smelled faintly of gravy! As I looked closer at the side of the container I realised that it's suggested use was primarily for thickening gravy and soups!!! I'd found the culprit! 

I have since learned that the exact equivalent for "corn starch" does exist in the UK and is called "corn flour." I was reminded of my discovery by trial and error just this past week when I made a couple more apple pies for some friends of ours using corn flour. This time I had complete success! No more "hint-o-gravy" apple pies for me! ;)


  1. Funny but at least it was edible. Maybe you should have added some raisins and steak and had an interesting pie? LOL! Live and learn! Hugs across the ocean!

  2. Thanks Becky! I'll just try to make it with the normal ingredients from here on out! ;)

  3. Monica,

    My name is Erica McKibben and my husband, Alisdair McKibben (who is a Scot), and I are planning a move to Scotland in September of this year. We are currently living in America (Austin, TX) and have always planned to move to Scotland since we got married a little over a year and a half ago. Yesterday, I was researching blogs from Americans who are living in Scotland just to hear more about their experiences and to try and prepare myself for the move and I happened upon your blog. What a delight and comfort it has been! We too have felt called to Scotland to do ministry and it’s been so amazing to hear of another Scottish/American couple who are doing the same thing. Initially in September we will be living in the Aberdeen area (close to Alisdair’s family) until we get on our feet. I would love to hear from you and just get your continued perspective on what the move has been like and what ministry has been like in Scotland. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Scotland. I am grateful to God for them! Oh, and congratulations on the pregnancy!

    Erica McKibben