Positively Scottish Humans of the US: the sisters bringing steak pie and haggis to America

A taste of Scotland is not easy to come by in the American west. There are plenty of bars and other establishments selling Irish fare, but good Scottish food is hard to come by. Two women from Greenock are now putting that right. For the past five years, they have been attending Highland Games and Irish festivals serving up the best of grub from their food truck, The Scottish Pie Shop. The menu lists everything from homemade steak pie and haggis to bridies and even shortbread. And it tastes delicious. According to the menu, the food is ‘true Scottish home cooking at its best…using time-honoured traditional family recipes handed down through the generations’. For Rosie Michaelis, who grew up in Greenock as Rosie Mooney, and her sister Eileen, the decision to serve Scottish food to the American public has been a huge success. The business is run from Rosie and her husband Art’s home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the truck is taken all over the south-west of America, including California, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Rosie (below, right) outlines her journey from the west coast of Scotland to the US:

We grew up in the Larkfield area of Greenock. I worked at the linen factory and then with National Semiconductor before I came to America. It was an industrial town, there were lots of factories up there at that time. We had a good life growing up there. Greenock was good, we didn’t know any better. There were eight children and my mammy and daddy.

I came over here in March 1975. My sister Catherine was married to an American and was pregnant at the time. Her man was out at sea so my mam wanted one of us to go out and help her. So, I went out, never planning to stay, I was only coming over on holiday. Then I stayed here and met my husband and that’s me still here after 40-odd years. That was in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s where she was and that’s where I met my husband.

Then my other sister Susan came over when we got married in Oregon. She came over on holiday, went back and married an American and now lives in Virginia Beach. The whole family eventually came over apart from one brother who moved to England.

When I first came, I didn’t like it. It was a culture shock, it was just totally different. I didn’t like the food, and I didn’t drive and of course everybody drives in America. I was 20 when I came and I didn’t have a licence. We didn’t need to drive back in Scotland. We got the buses and trains.

I was only here two months when I met my husband. We lived in Oregon for a while, it’s lovely up that end, a lot like Scotland. We moved back to Charleston where my sister was and I had my eldest son there.

We were going to move up to Washington state and we broke down in New Mexico in a place called Santa Rosa. We got towed into Albuquerque and the rest is history. The price of gas nearly doubled so we stayed here, and we’re still here after nearly 40 years.

The idea of the food truck came about five years ago. My son used to work with Lockheed Martin, and he was getting laid off at the time. So, we had talked about a food truck and we didn’t know how to go about it. I said ‘what are we going to cook?’ And he said ‘what about Scottish?’

We had the Highland Games here in Albuquerque, so we applied and we got in. We didn’t know what we were doing at the beginning. But we got an excellent response that weekend, so we decided to get a truck, and my husband and son built the business up. And we’ve been doing it ever since.

We get a great welcome everywhere we go, people just love the food. A lot of people say they have been to Scotland and they love the food or they want to give it a try. I always tell them if they don’t like it, I’ll give them their money back but they always come back and tell me it’s really good so I guess we’re doing something right.

We make steak pie, we make the shepherd’s pie, bridies, and we make our own bangers – my son and husband make the bangers. Sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, and then haggis, we make haggis as well. It really is a success. It’s been doing great. Each year it gets better and better.

The American people are fine, we get along with everyone we meet and they love to meet us. And the accent helps. You can get away with anything if you’ve got a Scottish accent over here.

We go all over the south-west. We go to California, Oklahoma, Texas and Nevada and elsewhere. We just do the Scottish Highland Games and the Irish festivals. Now and again we’ll do a renaissance fair.

The favourite place we’ve been to, and it was just once, was a little place called Lake Charles, Missouri. It’s mostly small towns we go to and that’s what we prefer, you see a lot more places and a lot more people.

When we take the truck, I see a lot of America that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. There’s a lot of talk about when we retire, which one of these places are we going to retire to. We’ve been in Albuquerque a long time. I want to retire to a small place.

We do go back home, but America is home now. When I was growing up in Greenock I never even thought I would come to America, that’s for sure.

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