Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
– excerpt from Scottish poet Robert Burns’ Ode to the Haggis
Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
– English transition of the above excerpt of Ode to the Haggis
Today is Burns night in Scotland and in many homes/restaurants hosting Burns Night celebrations worldwide. Burns night celebrates the renowned Scottish poet – Robert “Rabbie” Burns. Burns is most famous for penning Auld Lang Syne – the New Year’s Eve song everyone can hum but no one can remember the full lyrics. But on January 25th, Burns is most famous for his poem Ode to the Haggis, which he wrote to describe his appreciation for haggis.
On the 25th January, many people get together to have the customary Burns Night supper that includes: haggis, neeps, tatties, whisky and cranachan (pronounced “crah-nah-kan”). Traditionally, the VIP guest of the eve – haggis – makes a grand entrance to the table, resting on a silver tray while bagpipes announce its arrival. One of the dinner guests is then invited to read the full Ode to the Haggis poem in Scots before the ceremonial sacrifice of the haggis (cutting the haggis). The supper then commences.
So what is haggis? If you’ve been a tourist in Scotland, chances are a cheeky Scot has tried to convince you that a herd of haggis live at the top of the highest peak in your prospective area. Unfortunately, there are no such things as fluffy/furry/hairy haggis herds.
Warning, for those of weak stomachs, I recommend skipping to the next paragraph. Haggis is a concoction of: sheep’s heart, liver and lungs that is minced with onion, oats, suet, spices and salt mixed with stock and traditionally stuffed in sheep’s stomach (nowadays it’s mostly stuffed in sausage casing) and left to simmer for 3 hours. Delightful! There is also vegetarian haggis for those (like me!) who want to try a flavour of haggis without the interesting ingredients. Or if you’re adventurous, visit Illegal Jacks (similar to the Chipotle chain in the States) in Edinburgh where you can order haggis burritos/nachos or quesadillas.
In a traditional Burns Night supper, haggis is accompanied by neeps and tatties. Tatties, as I’ve written in a previous post, are potatoes and neeps are turnips (if you’re Scottish) or rutabagas (if you’re American). Neeps and tatties are boiled and mashed and served with haggis. Dinner isn’t complete without a dram of whisky and if you would prefer more than a dram – you’ll enjoy dessert. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert made of whipped cream, whisky, honey (preferably Scottish heather honey), fresh raspberries and toasted oats that have been soaked overnight in whisky.
Happy Burns Night! How will you be celebrating? Have you or will you ever try haggis? Wherever you are, I hope you can lift a dram of whisky to celebrate x