I can’t let Burns Night pass me by without a mention of the man without whom my blog would be nameless. Robert Burns. As I explained here, his influence has popped up a few times in my life, most recently with me pinching “the best laid plans” from the poem ‘To A Mouse’.
Yes, it’s 25th January, Burns Night, the annual event when Scots the world over recite poetry and stab a ceremonial sword into a sheep’s stomach.
It has often been suggested that most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare. And while I would normally defend us against these accusations, when it comes to haggis then I’d have to agree. It’s vile.
Growing up in Scotland, a haggis was often described as a wee furry animal running wild in the hills, wearing a small tartan hat with a bobble on the top. They are caught once a year, in haggis season, just in time for Burns Night. They socialise with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and Nessie. This of course, is all lies (except Santa, he’s real).
In actual fact, a haggis is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with all the other bits of a sheep (heart, lungs, you name it), plus some oats and spices for extra yumminess. Served with lumpy mash and turnip. Mmmm.
Haggis is the Marmite of the north. I know people who absolutely love it and those who can feel their gag reflex flickering at the very mention of the H in haggis. I don’t eat lamb (see above gag reflex issue) so I pretty much have a free pass out of eating anything of that species. But my parents love it. My (English) husband has started eating it on this very day each year. It divides families. Communities. Those who do and those who don’t. “Ach, yer no a real Scot if ye dinnae eat haggis”, they might say. Well then strip me of my heritage and kick me over Hadrian’s Wall, for I refuse to get involved.
Is it really what Burns himself would want? Me, sitting at the family table, tears in my eyes, haggis coming down my nostrils, trying my best not to chunder? I understand that on the day he wrote ‘To A Mouse’ in 1785, they ate everything, for they had so little. The whole animal would be used up, waste not want not. This is trendy nowadays too, ‘nose-to-tail’ eating they call it. Well count me out, thanks. I’d rather honour the Scottish Bard by continuing his tradition of writing (though mine’s a blog about toddler poo and that sort of stuff but you know, same difference).
And so, tonight, as I raise a toast to one of our finest men, I’ll be tucking into a proper Scottish traditional meal. Lasagne.