Morning Rolls are as vital to working-class food culture, as a roast chicken dinner is to the middle classes. They are perhaps only bested in cultural recognition by the Scottish plain loaf or a Tunnocks teacake.
Before morning rolls became a staple of Scottish breakfast, griddled wheaten scones, oatcakes and Bannocks were the norm. These were popular for the simple fact that they can be cooked on a griddle or covered pot over a fire, the most popular method of cookery in Scotland even into the 20th century. During this time, bakeries became popular, catering for the expanding Victorian towns and cities. For this reason, morning rolls have never really been an endeavour for the home-baker.
In 1923, Florence Marian McNeill, Scotland’s foremost food writer, wrote in her Book of Scottish Breakfasts “…no Scottish breakfast table is complete without its “Floury baps” — a delicious sort of roll- from the bakers.” with a classic recipe of flour, salt, lard, yeast sugar and milk. She notes that for a crispy roll you can ”brush with milk or water (to give a glaze” and if floury baps are desired, then to dust with flour after brushing and again after they have proofed.
I, like many people in the west of Scotland, am flooded with nostalgia when I eat the ‘right’ kind of morning roll. Growing up in the 90s in a council flat in Paisley, Saturday morning was all about breakfast. My dad would head out early to queue for a dozen crispy rolls for the baker and pop next door to the butcher for bacon and square sausage. These crispy rolls would be eaten with tomato sauce, Lurpack and tea. That is what I mean by a ‘right’ kind of roll.
One of the reasons why morning rolls are important to the west of Scotland, is because everyone’s ‘right’ morning roll is different. Square sausage, potato scone, links, haggis, black pudding, bacon, eggs, fried onions, brown or red sauce; there are endless combinations. There’s a good chance that if your grandparents ate a floury bap with bacon and black pudding, that food tradition has been passed down to your parents and then to you. If your parents had brown sauce, then you’ll probably reach for that first as well. It is in variety, we find a sort of identity as a family; our morning roll order becomes part of our working-class story.
A lot of the time, working-class Scottish food is the butt of the joke. We do not see the food we grew up eating being celebrated. While you might think it to be juvenile, I would suggest that the Devon vs Cornish cream scone debate is no more valid than our soft vs crispy bap feuds. Nor the “what belongs on a roast dinner plate” question be any less divisive than “ Lorne or link?”