Friday, January 25, 2008

Burns Night Truths

It is Burns Supper time, so haggis has been on my mind. Haggis, for any of you new to Scottish things, is not an animal. A local butcher likes to have on display in his shop window: "Freshly Shot Haggis" but I think even the few tourists who make their way here know it is a joke.

Haggis these days is not made with the more frugal animal parts as in the past. It tastes more like a meat loaf or the kind of corned beef hash that my mother used to get out of a can sometimes although afficionados may try to say otherwise. That is, advocates for either haggis or corned beef hash are free to tell me that I do not have a subtle enough palate. As a former vegetarian, I had every intention of avoiding it. But I had an unavoidable encounter with haggis on my second trip to Scotland while touring the Highlands with my host who later became my husband.

We were staying in a lovely little hotel whose dining room was limited to the guests staying there. The only item on the menu was--chicken breast with haggis stuffing. I was caught between haggis-avoidance and causing offence to my Scottish host and the hotelier. I was cornered. Fortunately the haggis was quite civilized and tasted much like any other stuffing. I had reached a detente with haggis.

Now when they have a toast to the haggis as part of a Burns night supper, I can cheerfully join in the salute to this admirable little food item and cultural icon, and then eat something else.

I can also confirm, however, that gales do have teeth. The wind gnawed away last night at a loose strand of guttering and the last bit of corrugated iron on the roof top of an old shed. Solomon, the stalwart sergeant of the tabbies clan of farm cats manages to get himself into the house out of the storm. He was sitting on the dining room floor safe and warm and out of the wind. Alas, the rules are clear--no cats in the house, so I bundled him into my coat to protect him from the rain and the teeth of the gale and carried him safely into the dairy maid's cottage.

All five of the tabbies tumbled out of the relative warmth of the garage--a haven halfway between house and cottage where they can wait for me to come out with breakfast for them. The gale has gnawed itself into a relative calm, but I think there will be no venturing far from the house or the cottage today.


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Heather L. said...

i used to have fun celebrating Burns' Night when we lived over there, complete with Haggis! (Which I too describe to people as meatloafey) A friend once made chicken breasts stuffed with haggis and I thought it was an excellent idea (but of course I like Haggis, at least the ones I've had :) )

At 5:25 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, haggis is not bad. It is just so much fun to make fun of it. I am not that keen on meat loaf, so perhaps my palate needs some work.

there is a Burns supper at Forss--just down the road from us next Friday, so I may get a wee taste of haggis.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

I like your phrase "the gale has gnawed itself into a relative calm" - wonderful image.


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