Robbie Burns Haggis

Happy Burns Day to you!

Och, you look famished — hungry enough to eat a horse, or sheep entrails. Come, pull up a chair and have a wee nibble o’ haggis!

Fresh butcher-made haggis hot out of the oven

Haggis out of Focus (might've been the whisky), prepared by ethical butcher, cooked at home

Listen: (My Luve is Like a) Red Red Rose

Read: Got haggis? You should — it’s Robbie Burns Day (below)

Robert Burns was born Jan. 25, 1759. His birthday is celebrated all over the world. Best known for having written “To a Mouse” and “Auld Lang Syne,” he also wrote “Address to a Haggis,” an ode to Scotland’s notorious national dish. Burns called it the “great chieftain o’ the pudding race,” but if you find it hard to think of haggis as a delicacy, think of it as sheep recycling. In honour of Burns, let’s consider the haggis, which he immortalized with a “grace as lang’s my arm.”

They say those who love sausages wouldn’t want to know what goes into making them. That goes double for Scotland’s chieftain of sausages. How haggis is made is a simple question to answer: take a sheep’s heart, liver, lungs and anything tasty that might be stuck to them, mince them up with onions, oats and suet (or maybe sweat), fry it all up and sew it into the sheep’s stomach or intestine (whichever you find more appetizing). The next question is “why?” It is a way to enjoy and preserve those precious, tasty bits that might get you through a few cauld winter nichts.

Haggis, which basically means “hash” (or hacked up bits that no one would eat if they were identifiable), is not nearly as horrible as you might reasonably imagine it to be. Granted, before it’s cooked it starts off looking like road kill, but once it’s been hacked, minced, fried, stuffed, stitched, boiled and roasted, it comes out looking like, well, cooked road kill.

By the time it gets to your plate, haggis no longer looks like, um, anything in particular. In taste and texture it’s kind of like a spicy shepherd’s pie. As if that weren’t fancy enough, haggis is generally served with a side of tatties ’n’ neeps (a lovely pair, especially when they’re mashed together). That may sound a bit risqué, but it’s actually just vegetables: potatoes and turnips.

Once you’ve gone through all this trouble, don’t just sit in front of the telly and chow down. You have to dress up in your kilt, parade the haggis to the table marching in step with your household bagpiper and then recite the “Address to a Haggis” in your most obnoxious faux-Scottish accent and pretend you know what it means.

Then you pour a wee nip of whisky from the teapot and toast Burns, then toast the lassies. Repeat until the teapot runs dry.

6 Comments

Filed under food, language, tradition

6 responses to “Robbie Burns Haggis

  1. Since no one else have left a comment yet, neither here nor on http://www.postcity.com despite how often it’s been read, I would like to announce that this wee article is the most read thing I’ve ever written. More than 2,000 views since it went up earlier today. Was it something I said?
    http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Eat/January-2012/Got-haggis-You-should-its-Robbie-Burns-Day/

  2. caro.

    The readers are too busy clinking on links. Yes, I meant to say clink.

  3. shameful

    Perhaps it was something you drank…

  4. At the moment that would be Sangre de Toro (which is a Scottish expression borrowed from the Spanish meaning “Mmm, haggis!”

  5. I read lots of things I don’t comment on, but enjoy them. Politicians don’t have time to read the letters they’re sent on hot issues – they basically count them, because that’s what counts. If that many people clicked on your blog, they’re out there. And you didn’t try to up-stage Burns by saying too much of your own stuff, which was appropriate for the occasion and proves less is more. It was ‘nothing’ you said.

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