We have a great group of English and Scottish friends with whom we usually celebrate what we call the Trifecta of the High Holy Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. In fact, we have so much fun on these occasions, we’ve been searching for years for other suitably hallowed events on which to gather. Finally, someone recommended Burns Night, a traditional Scottish festivity celebrating national poet Robert Burns. Our schedules didn’t let us get together until a week after the official date, but everything else was planned according to tradition.
Of course, that meant a haggis. Most of us don’t think of Scotland as exactly the epicenter of grand cuisine and some people would cite the haggis for that reputation — unless they bring up deep fried Mars Bars. Haggis, as you may or may not know, is a pudding of sorts, involving lambs lungs, other offal, oats and all steamed in a sheep’s stomach. Our Scottish friend Jan assured us it was “lovely and spicy”, but since we couldn’t imagine anything Scottish being spicy as we would know it, we didn’t have a clue what to expect. As time ticked closer to our Burns Night, Andy and Rob began to get worried and plotted to bring proper British bangers to the feast. Just in case some of us lost our nerve when faced with a haggis.
We needn’t have bothered, as the English would say. The haggis? Absolutely fabulous. The nearest I can describe it was a bit like a proper British black or white pudding (which is a sausage). But the oats in it give it a wonderful texture. The spices? Well, I would say more savory than spicy as in Mexican or Indian spicy. But perfectly wonderful. The traditional sides of “neeps and tatties” just added to the homey, warm flavor of the meal.
Of course, any meal that features aged single malt Scotch at every course has got to be a winner. Then there was the dessert which was a sort of trifle, heavily featuring cream, more Scotch and oats. In fact those oats, with their cholesterol reducing properties, were probably counteracting all the cream, organ meat and alcohol that we were consuming. Hooray for oats!
And Scotch Andrew’s kilt outfit? Now we’ve made it mandatory for all occasions. In fact, Andy and Rob are feeling miffed that England doesn’t really have a national costume. What would they wear? Bowler hats? Skinhead outfits? Renaissance Faire Morris Dancer tights? They’ve settle on the idea of Celtic robes and woad daubed faces. Coming soon: Midsommer Eve Druid Style.
In conclusion, I’m allowing no more jokes about Scottish food. If all they could offer were haggis, neeps and tatties, they’ve secured respect.
Read Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” here (with translation because you’ll never understand the Scots). So let’s end with the traditional Selkirk Grace by the esteemed Rabbie Burns:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
For other pictures of our Burns Night, click here.