Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Burns Night: 25 January 2014

Burns Night: Not a Holiday Celebrated (much) by Americans. Why? It celebrates famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (also known as Rabbie Burns), and the eating of haggis. So of course we had to try it - both the poetry and the famous dish.  According to Wikipedia, haggis is "a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck(heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours." It's traditionally served with "neeps and tatties" AKA turnips and mashed potatoes. It also comes in a vegetarian version (more oatmeal, no sheep pluck).

Paul goes to a toddler group (appropriately called "Wee Rascals") at St. Peters Church just up the road from us, so we went along to their Burns Night celebration. The program is to the left above.  

After the welcome and a bit of singing, the haggis was "piped in" - by a bagpipe recording, not an actual bagpiper.  The presenter then recited Burns' Address to a Haggis (part of which is captured in the video below).  Although there were no bagpipes, there were men in kilts present, including Chris, below. He gave me a brief kilt regalia primer.

  His kilt is not made of a clan tartan - only the Highlands have clans, and he's from the Lowlands.  The Lowlands have "districts" instead, so his district is Roxburgh. As he told me, the jumper he was wearing "was not traditional" but he pointed out the "Jacobite" shirt worn by the presenter who did the "Address to a Haggis" poem (see video) and the "Prince Charlie" jacket worn by another attendee, the top to a formal kilt ensemble (below right: note, this is a picture from the web, not another dinner attendee :-)  Chris also pointed out that when the English banned kilts (but not tartan), the Scots took to wearing tartan trousers, called "Tartan Trews" that look something like the trousers below: 

But, beyond what people were wearing and the piping in of the haggis...I know the question is on your mind - what did the haggis taste like? 

Well, I only ate the vegetarian version. And that tastes a little like a black bean burger. The spice is a little different, but that's the general idea. Paul says, "well, it's internal organs, so that's a tough one. It's kind of spicy, but it's internal organs so it has kind of a tang to it. I can't really describe it."  So maybe a few pictures will equal 1000 words.

Vegetarian haggis with neeps and tatties
Regular haggis, for comparison

Paul enjoying haggis
  After the food was the entertainment: comic singing, more poetry reading (not Burns this time), Scottish dancing.  There was more, but it was bedtime so I dragged Audrey away from the White Elephant auction (though they simply called it "the Auction"). Paul and Claire had already retired, even before the dancing.  The video below shows a few highlights of the night - apologies for the shaky video of the Address (Claire was grabbing my arm, and you can hear her vrooming her toy car around on the high chair next to me :-) In case you can't understand the presenter reciting the Address, here is what he is saying (although seeing it printed may not be that much help).  Full text at the Robert Burns Country site.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums; 

1 comment:

Ahsan Ali said...

is made clan tartan and scottish people are wearing their traditional dress on their family events