Into the text
Diana Gabaldon's texts are amazingly descriptive, but also refers to many things that a reader can't recognize. This part of the page is to help you see what the author is talking about! Feel free to e-mail me any questions you have, but I strongly suggest reading The Outlandish Companion
first because it addresses most things not on this page.
The word Dirk conjures an image of my cousin from texas, what type of knife is the author talking about?
A dirk is the traditional knife of scotsmen, that first came into use in the early 1600's. Some of the websites that I looked at described it as male jewlery because they can be so ornate. A dirk could be used for anything from battles, self defense, utlilty, to utensils.
What is Bannock? Bannock is a type of bread. Ingredients include flour, lard(which may be optional), baking powder, salt, and water. You can mix currents or raisins into them for variation. I googled Scottish Bannock specifically and that recipe included oats, butter and sugar. The good thing about bannock and one of the reasons it is a staple in the Outlander books, is because you can cook it over an open fire. I've only ever had it in a twisty breadstick form, but that may only be a Canadian thing.
What is a sporran? Jaime's purse?Well...Sort of.. The sporran is like the pocket you don't have in your kilt. It seems like a purse because Jaime keeps a large range of things in there, (Though it's nothing compared to the randomness in my purse!) but it's really just things he needs to have on him.
What did highlanders really look like? I found the image below and it's actually the official Fraser highlander dress in the period of the books. I'd rather not picture Jaime dressed like this.
The casual dress that Jaime is so often described in is similar to the picture below.
Though to be perfectly honnest Jaime is very well groomed for the times... Ever seen Braveheart? True the film does take place in the 13th century, but you've heard Claire's bathing descriptions. Jaime is hot... But how clean can he be on the road?
What do Claire's dresses look like?
I found some pictures of a typical 18th century dress, which you can see below. I had a really hard time conjuring the images in my head (Though Gabaldon's descriptions are quite vivid), and seeing the basic picture below helped me to picture Claire's looks.
Is Parritch Porrdige? Yes. While looking this up on the net I found a ton of scottish poems dedicated to this breakfast food, which should show you how truly engrained in society it was.
What exactly is Heather? It's a plant native to Scotland that is used from everything from roofs to beds to Ale. It's apparently called the carpet of the highlands for the way it covers the hills.