Five years ago, I flew to Glasgow with a single purpose: to find someone named McTavish.
It’s a name that first came to my attention in the summer of 1992, when I tended bar at a remote hotel 15 miles outside Fort William, a small town in the Scottish Highlands that lies roughly two hours north of Glasgow. One afternoon, a coworker with a severe burr announced that he was heading into “the Willie” to stock up on provisions for the dingy caravans we employees lodged in, and I begged him to let me join him. While I didn’t find the USA Today I was looking for — or the Detroit Tigers score hiding within its pages — I did spot a restaurant on the main drag called McTavish’s Kitchens.
The odd pluralization so intrigued me that I took to exclaiming “Damn your kitchens, McTavish!” at inopportune moments for the rest of the summer. It kind of became my thing. But in six weeks of working in Scotland, and the dozen years that followed, I never once encountered a McTavish in person.
In 2004, I improbably convinced a magazine editor to send me to Glasgow in pursuit of this ridiculous quest.