Haggis, Poetry, Drunken Revelry: Burns’ Night
I’ve got some great stories from when I went to Scotland as a bright impressionable 20 year old. It was the summer before I started at UCLA and I decided that I needed to enter adulthood with a completely independent trip to Britain (on a Contiki Tour, because I had never traveled by myself and wanted hand-holding!). Yes, I wasn’t the most intrepid of world explorers.
What I didn’t know (and my mother definitely didn’t know) is that Contiki Tours are party buses. We partied in York. We partied in Liverpool. We partied in Edinburgh, where I had my first (several) Long Island Iced Teas, with no idea what was in them. Before that night blurred into youthful oblivion, however, I had my first taste of haggis – that infamous Scottish specialty. And I loved it.
Haggis has a terrible reputation, somewhat deserved since the ingredients sound revolting. It’s all the bits of a sheep you wouldn’t normally consider eating – heart, lungs, liver – blended with oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, and then crammed into the sheep’s stomach (used like a giant sausage casing) to bake for 3 hours. No friends, I didn’t have the stomach to make this from scratch (get it? stomach? Hah!), so I bought it canned to make this year’s Burn’s Night supper.
Robert Burns wrote Address to a Haggis in 1787, and every year, on his birthday (January 25th), the Scotts hold a celebration in honor of their favorite poet, complete with reciting his poetry, a hilarious roast of the sexes (gents toast the ladies, ladies roast the gents), haggis with ‘neeps and tatties, and copious amounts of Scotch. Sounds like a good time, right?
Festivities begin with the Selkirk Grace, which Burns is believed to have delivered at a dinner hosted by the Earl of Selkirk:
The Selkirk Grace
- Some hae meat and canna eat,
- And some wad eat that want it;
- But we hae meat, and we can eat,
- And sae let the Lord be thankit.
Haggis is served up with ‘neeps and tatties – mashed root vegetables and potatoes – and then it’s time for the speeches. A Toast to the Lassies is when a gentleman thanks the ladies for working in the kitchen all day, and then goes on to give his opinions on women in general. After he’s done, the ladies get their chance to reply – giving their opinions on men in general.
Tatties and Neeps
While mashed potatoes are self-explanatory, the “Neeps” take a bit of work. They can be turnips or rutabagas, and are usually prepared the same way. I sauteed chopped leeks, garlic, and bacon to give my ‘neeps a savory twist, since they can be a little on the sweet side. I also added gravy to the mix, and topped it off with Yorkshire pudding.
And – if you’re going to be in Vancouver on January 27th, don’t miss Gung Haggis Fat Choy – a fusion blend of Burns Night and the Chinese New Year! The menu includes deep-fried haggis won-tons. Oh my goodness.
Photos by WanderFood3 comments