Paddling through the ancient landscape of Orkney with its hows and stone circles, you just can’t help but wonder how people lived here for thousands of years. Why, how, when and what did they do for food?

Or did the landscape look a lot different by then?

I guess not when you look at the neolithic village of Skara Brae. 5000 years old and you can still see the IKEA-styled furniture. Perhaps this Scandinavian-inspired interior is because Orkney is so close to Sweden, they must have had some Neolithic Swedish stylists back in those days.

And that stone dresser looks exactly like an early Billy. Although it probably didn’t contain books. I’m sure it would have displayed some highly desirable Neolithic stuff like a stone axe or… euh…grooved earthenware pottery. And look at that bed. If I check out the catalogue of IKEA there are beds looking very much like this one.

And the kitchen, what a complete kitchen! It has its very own lobster holding tank, like an aquarium right in your own kitchen! They were far ahead of their time with this invention! Everyone knows that langoustine and lobster are best cooked when they are still alive. Just put your earthenware pot on your cow dung fire and heat up some water. Put the crustaceans in and boil for 10 minutes. Let it cool down first and get some stones from the beach. Bash in the shells with that stone axe and…. Delicious!!

Oh yes, I’m totally inspired. I got to build myself a neolithic kitchen and get cooking!!! Do some experimental archaeology. Where’s the cow dung!!! Damn, I’m on an Orcadian island without cows. Or perhaps that’s a good thing, I don’t know. What do you think?

Ok, driftwood also does the trick but I might be missing out on some special aromas to recreate that typical Neolithic taste….

Another thing that is missing is some fish or fresh meat. It’s a bit blowy today, going out to do a bit of fishing is not an option and I don’t eat red meat. Next best thing is seaweed. I bet Neolithic people also eat seaweed as part of their diet. You must eat your five a day, don’t you? Seaweed contains a lot of nutrients so… let’s give it a try.

For this experiment, you definitely need an Orkney coastline. You need some nice big slabs of stones that only an Orkney beach can provide to build your kitchen area. Create a windbreaker with one of the big slabs of stone and choose a nice flat stone to put your wood-burning stove on. Another thing is seaweed, you need the low tide to find a nice variety. The bright green stuff is Dulse or sea-lettuce (also available in purpley-pink), the broad strip is sugar kelp, the string-like stuff is bootlace weed and japweed (which is a non-native seaweed. That’s why it should be eaten in large quantities!!!) All seaweed in Scotland is eatable, no people were harmed during this experiment.

Now, doesn’t that look yummy?

By lack of cow dung, chop the driftwood to size and start the fire. Cut the seaweed into smaller pieces that will fit the frying pan. Get the frying pan out and put some oil in the pan. Put some heat in the oil and toss in the seaweed. Let it sizzle but don’t let it burn! It only needs a minute!!! Put the fried seaweed on a nice clean(?) stone and cool down. As it cools down it becomes crispy. No salt is needed, just pop it in your mouth and let the seaweed crisps melt in your mouth, delicious!!! A flavour of smoky saltiness with a bit of a crunch. Every seaweed has its own specific flavour and texture. 

This is so good, I bet Neolithic people must have known about kelp crisps. Creating some crisps over the fire to keep the kids happy when they come back from school and not have them whining all afternoon until supper.

Charlotte Gannet

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