24 January 2011

We are Haggis Fed

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembing earth resounds his tread.
Clapped his large fist a blade
He'll make it a whisle
An' legs an' arms an' heads he will cut off
Like the tops o' thissle.

You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis!

'To a Haggis', Robert Burns

ALTHOUGH ROBERT BURNS was born on the 25th of January, we celebrated our very first 'Burns Day' a little early with some friends on Sunday afternoon. My colleague (who hails from St. Andrews) provided all the necessary elements for an authentic tribute to Scotland's greatest poet. And that included, of course, haggis.

This was my first time. I've heard all about this savory pudding but have never actually seen it before, let alone tasted it. For those who may not be aware, haggis is a dish that dates back to the 13th century and was quite common among the poor in Scotland throughout the middle ages. It is basically all the left-over bits of a sheep (including the heart, liver, lungs, insides, and the whole lot) that is mixed with oats, onions, and a variety of spices, then simmered for about three hours inside the animal's stomach lining.

I know! How could I have missed out on this for so long?

On Sunday the haggis (which in modern times like these is now cooked in an artificial casing, not the actually stomach) was served with the traditional 'neeps' and 'tatties' -- yellow turnips and potatoes. As our host read 'To a Haggis' she cut into the haggis and meal could begin.

I'm going to keep my review very short and to the point: delicious!

Look, I'm not going to clamour for haggis twice a week or special order it from the market, but I've got to be honest and tell you it was very good. Patrick and Henry absolutely loved it. Kerri even allowed me to give her a spoonful and she had to admit it was quite tastey. The key, of course, is the spices. It reminded me of a middle-eastern dish because of the cinnamon, cloves, onions and other fragrent spices. When I mentioned to another Scotish colleague that the spices were quite nice, he said, 'You know why it's so full of spices, right? To cover up the taste!'

So we've done haggis. If I don't ever have it again that will be fine with me. But if January 25 roles around in a few years and someone invites me to a Burns Day feast, I'll probably look forward to going.

But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis!

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