Today is Burns Night, a celebration of the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns. On this night people congregate and take part in the traditional “Burns Supper” which features Haggis. For those who may not have heard of it, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish which is made up of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, minced with onions, oatmeal, spices and salt, all of which are stuffed into an animal’s stomach (for the sake of consistency I’m presuming Sheep) and then aged/simmered (Yummy?). It is usually served with a side of turnips and/or onions, or “keeps” and “tat ties” if you prefer (I absolutely love the scottish manner of speaking!). And of course, one would be remiss if he didn’t have a nice glass of Scotch to go along with this fine dining (finally a tradition I can get on board with!).
In checking how Haggis is made I actually did come across a few hilarious sites about one rather fantastic and doubtful suggestion as to its origin. Apparently there is a Scottish legend of “the wild haggis”, a furry looking creature (that rather resembles a Wolverine, but brown rather than black and with long flowing hair). As the story goes, this creature is really where Haggis comes from. I even came across a site pleading people to switch to “artificial haggis” and to conserve the ever depleting population of wild haggi. There were even references on some sites to a “Wild Haggis Conservation Society”. Now I know people believe a lot of the stuff they read online, but I really wonder how many people would but this? Those of you who think its just too fantastic to believe can see for yourself: Save the Haggis!
I’ve personally not tried Haggis before, though I have made a few trips to the beautiful land of its origin. I’m not what you would call a foodie, in fact by comparison to most of my friends I’m actually a bit fussy. But I’ve decided to go ahead and try the traditional Burns Supper tonight, which is being served at The Curve, a cafe located on campus at Mile End. I mean one of the greatest thing about moving here has been the vast number of opportunities to try new things and have new experiences, so maybe its time to expand my pallet as well.
But the evening isn’t just about the food. It’s also about the man. I had the opportunity to also check out some of Robert Burns’ poems. I’m not a great reader and am far from qualified of course to comment on its value or importance in the realm of literature, but I did enjoy the element of whimsy that many of his poems seem to exude, particularly “A Red, Red Rose”. Now of course if you go to read his work you’ll see that it is written in Scottish, well to be more accurate Scottish English I believe, as the real Scottish language in fact Gaelic. I was unfamiliar with many of the words and had to look up their meaning, while with others it was fairly easy to guess. And the entire time I found myself reading them in my head with a Scottish accent (which is tied for first place with Irish for my favorite accents ever). The most prominent of his works of course is “Address to a Haggis” which is read out loud as part of the Burns Supper (and which is also the origin of the title to this blog post). For those of you who’d like to hear or read the poem here is the link to the BBC website which has the text as well as an audio file of the poem being read by John Gordon Sinclair: An Address to a Haggis
So to you dear reader I bid farewell as I pray that my gastronomic adventure soon to follow reaps reward.