The October break was a precious opportunity to spend the last of the warm days on a family holiday in Italy, stockpiling sunlight to prepare for our dark winter months.

Choosing self-catering accommodation, I really enjoyed daily shopping in the local market and preparing family meals every evening, a busman’s holiday so to speak.

Spoilt for choice, the abundance of cheap seasonal vegetables, fish and meat was exciting – not to mention our family food bill was a fraction of restaurant bills.

Our hosts were intrigued. You’re from Scotland. Surely you only eat haggis there?

It made me think. Talking to the locals, the message we heard repeatedly was that Scotland is beautiful, the whisky and Highland dancing wonderful, but your food is not so exciting. What was going on here?

You and I know that Scotland has the very best raw ingredients. Here in East Lothian, I don’t have to travel far to find world-class shellfish, pure-breed pork, lamb and beef, organic vegetables, cheese, butter, and flour.

To add to the mix, we also produce prize-winning beer and malt whisky.

So why is the message of our food heritage still not a huge draw to entice tourists to our shores? For me, it is top of the list.

About 25 years ago, there was a great resurgence in interest of Italian regional cooking in the UK when ‘cucina povera’, the ‘food of the poor’, became a marketing tool to promote the variety of Italian regional food.

Simple but exotic-sounding dishes like ‘calamari’ squid, ‘polpetini’ Italian mince balls and ‘cavolo nero’, a type of kale, have become as familiar to us as pizza.

Perhaps it’s time to promote the Scottish equivalent of ‘cucina povera’: porridge oats with local honey and blueberries; cock-a-leekie soup; or a good beef steak pie, all traditional hearty Scottish dishes that are tasty, nutritious and won’t break the bank.

I’d market it as the ‘food of the brave hearts’ – it might just catch their attention!