There is an oft-quoted piece of wisdom from Sir Billy Connolly on the subject of the humble Morning Roll and what it means to his home city.

“Go to Glasgow at least once in your life,” he says, “and have a roll and square sliced sausage and a cup of tea.

“When you feel the tea coursing over your spice-singed tongue, you'll know what I mean when I say: It's good to be alive."

Those of us who have had the pleasure of doing so (hopefully more than once) know exactly what the Big Yin is getting at.

Pictured: Peter Gilchrist accepting an award for his essay 'Make Mine a Doubler'Pictured: Peter Gilchrist accepting an award for his essay 'Make Mine a Doubler' (Image: Martin Behrman, Behrman Media)

They’re not flash, and far from adventurous, but there’s comfort in the knowledge that any café worth its salt across Scotland will serve its own menu of filled morning rolls whether it's Mortons or McGhees, well-fired or crispy, tomato or brown sauce.

Delving further into this with a Food Writers Guild award-winning essay is Peter Gilchrist of Tenement Kitchen.

In ‘Make Mine a Doubler’, penned just days after news broke that Morton’s Rolls was to cease trading in March 2023 he wrote: “Frankly, we were surprised by our own reactions.

“People took to social media to talk about their Mortons memories. Conversations about the perfect fillings broke out at bus stops. 

“Like many people in the west of Scotland, I am flooded with nostalgia when I eat my ‘right’ kind of morning roll.

“Whether Mortons is to be saved or we have had the last of the tangy, hard shell rolls, we have identified, as a people, that we care for this food and that it has value to us.”

There was, of course, a happy ending to this tale, as a consortium took over Mortons just weeks later and saved it from collapse.

Speaking to The Herald this week, Gilchrist remembered the impact this near closure had on communities across Scotland and argues that building on the connections between the food we eat and shared cultural heritage is the key to ‘reframing’ attitudes towards the staples of our diets.

“When I wrote the essay, I had just started to become really passionate about food heritage, history and the idea that traditionally working-class Scottish food is something to shout about.

“When Mortons was set to close, suddenly that’s all anyone was talking about.

“They were right where I wanted them to be, thinking about family memories, their own food history and sharing opinions on what they think the ‘right way’ to enjoy a roll is.

“There was this new appreciation for how important Mortons Rolls are.”

Having grown up in Paisley in the 1990s, Gilchrist fondly looks back on weekends when his father would nip out first thing to pick up a fresh dozen rolls and fillings from the local butchers to kick off the day.

Pictured: A Scottish morning roll should be celebrated as the best in the world, Mr Gilchrist argues (Image: Archive)

His love for the simple pleasure remains steadfast and adds fuel to the belief it should be held in the same high regard as artisan delicacies from across the globe.

He said: “If you think of France, no one would ever say that their baguettes or morning pastries are not worth celebrating.

“Because we’ve grown up with them, we don’t often consider the quality of our morning rolls and the fact that you could visit Scotland and spend weeks exploring all of our cities and towns finding out the different ways they’re baked or filled.

“Each one is identifiable by its community, the result of hundreds of years’ worth of bakers passing down techniques to develop their own recipes.

“No one would come to Scotland and say our Morning Rolls aren’t special.”

Part of the issue, Gilchrist suggests is a warped view of Scottish food which has developed over the years, resulting in a lack of connection to the dishes that make the country great.

“A lot of the time when Scottish food is presented to the world it’s on a tartan tablecloth or next to a BMI chart,” he said.

“Or it will be something like a whole boiled haggis or lobster which most of us rarely come into contact with.

“As a culture, we’ve lost a lot of pride in the food that we eat and allowed ourselves to become a bit of a caricature.

“When people talk about our affinity for deep-fried foods, what they’re actually talking about without realising is generations of poverty and people trying to survive by frying foods that were cheap and accessible.

“Or our obsession with potatoes, bread and rolls which were all things that helped to keep people alive.

“It’s easy to forget just how poor a lot of the West Coast of Scotland has been over the years.

“When a joke is made of that, it’s an unconscious way of telling you that what you eat is below par or not enjoyable which makes it difficult to find pride as a nation.”

Pictured: A page from the recipe book of Gilchrist's grandmotherPictured: A page from the recipe book of Gilchrist's grandmother (Image: Supplied)

The inspiration for Gilchrist’s work comes from researching his own family recipes and finding that word’s written in his grandmother’s script allowed him to initiate conversations that otherwise might never have taken place.

“When my dad’s mother passed away, speaking about the food they ate as children soon turned into discussions about his dad, who was a pacifist, learning to grow tomatoes in a prisoner of war camp.

“He later had a nervous breakdown and struggled to find permanent work which meant that the family struggled with money.

“This is the kind of conversation that would otherwise be difficult to have had it not been for an opening chat about tomatoes.”

So how do we rip up the tartan tablecloth and reclaim our pride for recipes that have graced tables across Scotland throughout the decades?

“Asking each other things like ‘how did your mum make her mince and tatties?’ or ‘what do you take on your morning roll?’ allow us to start to open up to each other.

“Finding ways to talk about the excellence of our family recipes and the food we grew up eating means it will be reflected back to us through others.

“That’s something that can be very powerful, especially if we can get someone like Visit Scotland or Scotland Food and Drink involved.

“Visitors come here for the ‘Outlander’ experience, and of course many people in Scotland do eat smoked salmon or Aberdeen Angus beef and drink expensive whisky.

“But if that’s all we talk about then there’s so much being missed out.

“There’s a real opportunity for us here to invest in showcasing real Scottish food and culture as part of our visitor experience.”

Peter Gilchrist is a Scotland Food & Drink Ambassador as well as chief executive and project manager of Tenement Kitchen, specialising in Scottish recipe development and food history research.