Just what IS a sprat, anyway?


Scraps and sprats! Splendid! I love how everyone here looks so relieved that it all came together.

That phrase has stuck with me since I heard it years ago on a favorite BBC television show: Monarch of the Glen. In this episode from series 6, Donald saves the day by assembling an impromptu fancy dinner of leftovers (aka scraps and sprats) for Lucy’s pretentious parents, who are meeting her new boyfriend for the first time (with the old one in tow.) Awkward!

According to Merriam Webster a sprat is, specifically, a small European marine fish (Latin: Sprattus sprattus – really a stretch there) and, generally, a small fish used for food. A bit like we use the word sardine here in the U.S. to refer to any small silver food fish. In fact, sometimes a sprat is a sardine. And scraps? Well, that seems self-explanatory. It’s everything else you might put on the table to eat. I’ll be using the phrase a bit more liberally on my blog. There will be “sprat” posts relating to food, and “scrap” entries related to, well, everything else.

I love this idea, and it fits so well with my life. Assembling a bit of this common thing and a bit of that everyday staple; adding a favorite morsel tucked away for a special occasion, setting out the pretty China, arranging some flowers from the garden, and using it all to set a spectacular spread fit for your favorite people, or the hoitiest of toities.

I’ve started several blogs over the years – mostly with the aim to keep family and friends up to date on our doings. I always began with good intentions, but back in the day it mostly seemed to involve a lot of time uploading photos and designing pages. By the time I was finished with the post, the birthday or vacation was often long over and we were on to newer adventures. Eventually facebook and smartphones became so ubiquitous that it became ridiculously easy to post pictures and “microblog” events as they happened, so I ended up giving up on more formal blogging. Aside from keeping family updated, however, I had other reasons for attempting to blog. I’ve always had a desire to “be a writer,” but neither the time nor discipline to get it done, at least on a formal basis. I would begin a draft of a post on a given topic, but then give up when I got distracted by the next interest du jour, because inevitably, it wasn’t related to the topic that I’d decided upon for the blog.

However, I recently needed a writing sample, so I decided to start another, if only to house one post. Then, I had so much fun writing about one of my recent favorite pass-times, mushroom hunting, that I decided I’d like to keep it up. I ran into the same problem as before, though, trying to fit the many things I love, am interested in, have tried, and feel passionate enough about to write of, into a common theme. After all, most of the books I’ve read on the subject  say you should have a focused subject if you want to earn a readership. It’s a problem I’ve had in life – narrowing down my interests into a major, a career, a home-schooling curriculum, a hobby, etc. At least, I used to think of it as a problem until I read several of Barbara Sher’s books on “Scanners.” I learned that, rather than having a weakness, (starting hundreds of things, but never “finishing”) I had stumbled upon a strength. I could relate to someone always out scanning the world for things of interest, then intensely researching and focusing on them for defined periods of time. Going “all in” up until he or she had gained whatever it was they were looking for, and then, being done. That’s when I was “finished.” Not always when others would consider the task or hobby completed, and often, just when others felt I’d “arrived”. (Why would you quit now!?!) For me, that point is often when I’ve discovered the best teacher for a given interest and then found a way to overcome any barriers to working with them. I’ve also pursued enough disparate interests by now to have a pretty good grasp on how those seemingly unrelated things may actually be connected. Knowledge and experience in one area often helps with a new area.

So. I’m interested in Alot of things and I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I try to learn something new everyday. I’ve had a number of hobbies and gained enough fluency in a few to teach them to others. In fact, that’s how I learn best; when you know you will have to teach something, you pay a lot more attention to the learning of it. I hope THIS blog will be the one I keep up, because it’s a place that helps me learn, since I know I’ll be sharing posts with others. A virtual table we can all gather around, share some food, and enjoy a conversation.

Lately I’ve been interested in foraging wild foods and learning more about mushrooms, so there will probably be a number of posts on that topic as various plants and fungi come into season. Perhaps a few recipes (which is ironic, as I’m not sure I’ve made anything EXACTLY to a recipe in years.) No, I take that back – the previous parenthetical statement does not apply to recipes from Outlander Kitchen and America’s Test Kitchen. Those tend to be so well-crafted that I stick pretty close to recipe the first time. Regardless, for the time being, plan for lots of “sprat” posts that have to do with food, but be prepared for just about anything else I may come across that I find interesting.

After all, if Seinfeld can have a successful show about nothing, surely I can have a blog about everything?

P.S. Check out the links if you are so inclined…most are just what they appear to be, but you might find an Easter egg from time to time.

P.P.S. These are not the sprats we’re looking for…but they are amusing.

P.P.P.S. While looking up this episode of Monarch of the Glen, I was reminded the series was based on a book of the same title by Sir Compton Mackenzie, which I had somehow failed to read. Since rectified. A highly recommended and amusing farce that you could consider as a prequel to the TV series. I would love to listen to it as an audiobook so I could hear what this sounds like: “‘Ooav na…’ the bard choked. In his endeavor to make the ‘laoigh’ sufficiently guttural, the ‘gh’ broke away from the preceding vowels and entered his windpipe.”

As always, contact me if you have comments, suggestions, or questions for the blog.

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