Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware that jaups in luggies: But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer, Gie her a Haggis!
August 4, 2009 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Just nae call i' English! Food historian Catherine Brown has announced that Haggis, the traditional Scottish dish, was invented in England rather than Scotland. Scottish butchers have dismissed the daft claim. But just in case she turns out to be right, there's always... curry?

The title of this post is from Robert Burns' Address to a Haggis. (His most famous work outside of Scotland is probably Auld Lang Syne.) January 25th is the traditional date for Burns' Night, celebrated in Scotland with (you guessed it,) a traditional haggis meal. This year marked the 250th anniversary of Burns' birth.

Charles MacSween and Son, self-proclaimed "Guardians of Scotland's National Dish," make a wonderful haggis and black pudding. The former can be ordered online. (Just don't eat it too often.) Unfortunately, the FDA restricts importing haggis into the U.S.

But, you can make your own!
posted by zarq (54 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
One more recipe. :)
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on August 4, 2009


You accidentally put an "Un" in front of "fortunately".
posted by yhbc at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Next you'll be telling me Buckie is brewed by monks in Devon or something!
posted by Abiezer at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Next they'll be telling me it's not a wild animal..
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:19 AM on August 4, 2009


The first French Fries were made in Greece.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:20 AM on August 4, 2009


The first French Fries were made in Greece.

Obscure fact or bad pun?
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's been a while but I used to enjoy a Macsween vegetarian haggis. One of those dishes where the veggie version is an improvement as you know you're not going to happen upon a stray nipple/eyelash/scrotum along the way.
posted by i_cola at 10:22 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


i_cola, I'm curious. How did it taste? Was it similar to the original dish?
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on August 4, 2009


Isn't the underlying point that although the two kingdoms are ancient enough, 'national culture' in the modern nation-state sense was all got up in the high Victorian era, if I recall Prebble's 'King's Jaunt' or Hugh Trevor-Roper in Hobsbawm's 'Invention of Tradition'. Prior (indeed, subsequent) to that should imagine farmers either side of the border had more in common than not culturally.
posted by Abiezer at 10:37 AM on August 4, 2009


I had the real deal in Edinburgh a few years before I was veggie and the only difference is that the veggie one is a lot less fatty/greasy & more dense. I find that a with a lot of low-grade meat-based foods (e.g. sausages, esp. wieners) it's the flavourings, spices etc. that are the key, not the actual "meat" and the veggie versions are as good as if not better. Veggie bacon is stupid tho' ;-)
posted by i_cola at 10:38 AM on August 4, 2009


Er, saying 'High Victorian' then citing a visit by George IV is of course deliberately paradoxical. Ahem.
posted by Abiezer at 10:38 AM on August 4, 2009


Vegetarian haggis tastes absolutely nothing like the real thing, it does look similar though.
posted by Lanark at 10:39 AM on August 4, 2009


I wasn't sure when I put together the post, but Wikipedia says haggis is one of Scotland's national dishes, along with oatcake, Arbroath Smokie and Shortbread.

Just a random fact to throw into the mix. :)
posted by zarq at 10:57 AM on August 4, 2009


I find that a with a lot of low-grade meat-based foods (e.g. sausages, esp. wieners) it's the flavourings, spices etc. that are the key, not the actual "meat" and the veggie versions are as good as if not better.

Very true. :) And healthier, I expect.

Veggie bacon is stupid tho' ;-)

Yeah. Every version I've ever eaten has tasted too peppery, with a weird texture.
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on August 4, 2009


Scottish people are now facing a high risk of getting obese and the health officials has said that children’s should not have Haggis not more than once in a week.

Wow, how often do you eat that stuff?

and are all news articles written with a Scottish burr?
posted by longsleeves at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2009


Ah well, they'll always have Ossian.
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Veggie haggis tastes pretty good, and it's fairly similar to the real thing, but the real thing is more pungent and has a more soily texture. Veggie bacon is proof that even when we liberate all the animals, man's inhumanity to man will remain.

Also, considering how many things were purportedly invented or discovered by Scots, this is kind of hilarious.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glasgow home of the deep fried Mars bar. Another random fact.
posted by adamvasco at 11:14 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, considering how many things were purportedly invented or discovered by Scots, this is kind of hilarious.

Hmm I guess that's why it wasn't in How Scots Invented the Modern World. On the other hand, everyone knows 'if its not Scottish, its crrap.'
posted by LD Feral at 11:15 AM on August 4, 2009


Meh. So Haggis is as Scottish as the Tartan.

They can have them both.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:17 AM on August 4, 2009


Obscure fact or bad pun?

Bad pun. Much better when said out loud.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:18 AM on August 4, 2009


Scotland, home of the deep fried pizza!
posted by Sourisnoire at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2009


Of course, just because they've found an earlier reference in an English book doesn't mean that it's the earliest occurrence. It's possible that an even earlier reference will be found that makes it Scottish again.
posted by Electric Dragon at 11:26 AM on August 4, 2009


Supposedly, the Oxford English Dictionary has its earliest reference to Haggis being from England in the fifteenth century, and also lists her 17th century reference, too. I don't have access to a copy to verify this, though, although hopefully someone here does, and can
posted by dng at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2009


Hugh Trevor-Roper is smiling from beyond.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:44 AM on August 4, 2009


From the link:

The Scottish officials as not banned eating Haggis which is known to contain high fat, the officials have already banned smoking in public places. They wanted their people to have haggis with great care to restrict not more than once a week of Haggis, they have listed haggis food in restricted food list.

That's some language you got there. And you speak that 24/7?
posted by John of Michigan at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2009


I totally missed this earlier comment, my bad.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2009


Well, yeah, obviously, the first written occurrence is in 1615; the Scots didn't even develop a written alphabet until the 19th century, and even then, verbal communication was still a little bit hit-or-miss until about the mid-twentieth century. If you listen to older Scottish folk, you can kind of tell; it's a lot of hooting and throat-clearing, but not so many actual words.

That doesn't mean the haggis didn't originate up there, though; prior to the development of language (or, as they call it, "Throatnoise"), they simply communicated their desire to prepare hagis by pointing to a sheep, drawing their sgian dubhs, and baying at the picturesque second Scottish moon (affectionately known as "Auld MacChlachamtegn").

Catherine Brown could stand to sit in on history lesson or two.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Bears repeating, allen - and I don't mean burping pandas.
posted by Abiezer at 11:56 AM on August 4, 2009


They can have them both. -ChurchHatesTucker

Well...we do. Thanks.

My girl and I made a trip to Edinburgh recently during which I introduced her to the wonders of haggis. Upon returning home she ordered a book of traditional Scottish recipes for the sole purpose of learning how to make a haggis. That's when I knew that it was forever.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:58 AM on August 4, 2009


Ian Scott, a member of the Saltire Society, which aims to preserve Scottish culture, said: "I'd tuck into it with even greater gusto if I thought that it had been invented by the English. I mean, they are bound to have invented something worthwhile."

I love this back-and-forth.
posted by Partario at 11:59 AM on August 4, 2009


That is, the love/hate back-and forth between the English and Scottish.
posted by Partario at 12:03 PM on August 4, 2009


On the other hand, everyone knows 'if its not Scottish, its crrap.'

Until today, haggis was always the exception that proved that rule.

NotAHaggisFan
posted by total warfare frown at 12:09 PM on August 4, 2009


Oh, and here's my haggis anecdote from this year: after spending 2008's Burns Night making a passable, but kinda lackluster haggis from scratch, I figured that for Burns Night 2009, I would just buy one instead. So I hopped on a train to New Jersey, and stopped into Stewart's of Kearny. This was the day before Burns Night.

I walked in, and there was a tiny little Scotswoman behind the counter, looking like she was ready to cut a throat or two, looking like she'd maybe just been born that way. In front of her stood a couple who had clearly never been there before, ordering some other, less exotic foodstuff -- sausage, I think.

"Pork or beef?" snapped the proprietor in a thick Scottish accent and the kind of demanding Alpha Matriarch voice that only a woman over sixty can really wield.

"Oh, I don't know," said the woman in the couple. "Uh... I guess... is there one you recommend?"

"The Irish and the English eat pork," she spat, her voice effortlessly sending out waves of derision. "The Scots eat beef."

"Uh... beef, then," said the woman.

The proprietor made a small grunt of assent, and trundled to the meats.

The man in the couple, a gigantic fellow easily twice the size of the proprietor, turned to me and smiled helplessly: "I'm Italian," he said, by way of explanation. "This is all new to me." I nodded.

The proprietor saw me, and issued a sharp "YES?" in my direction. "Uh... haggis," I said. "I called to put in an order for a four-pound haggis. For Erskine," I added, hoping my surname might put me in her good graces. Nope. Her face remained unchanged, she gave another grunt of assent, and she moseyed off to the back to get my haggis. As she returned to the front, the Italian man asked me, "Now, what is that you're getting?"

"Haggis," she snapped.

"Ah. And.. what is haggis?"

"It's what we eat to celebrate Rabbie Burns. This is his two hundred fiftieth birthday."

"Ah. So. Uh. What is it?"

"It's very good. A delicacy, really."

"Okay," the man said, and there was a small pause. "Uh, what's inside it?"

The proprietor narrowed her eyes. "You don't want to know."
posted by Greg Nog at 12:27 PM on August 4, 2009 [18 favorites]


"Okay," the man said, and there was a small pause. "Uh, what's inside it?"

The proprietor narrowed her eyes. "You don't want to know."


But it's delicious onna stick!
posted by yoink at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


side of the border had more in common than not culturally.

Even in 1615 when this "English" recipe is from England and Scotland were already on personal union, and the Acts of Union were less than a hundred years away. The idea that an entire nation one side of the "border" or the other can claim collective responsibility is preposterous.

The playing up of the tabloidy Who-invented-it? angle in this post is a bit out of order.
posted by cillit bang at 12:41 PM on August 4, 2009


The playing up of the tabloidy Who-invented-it? angle in this post is a bit out of order.

It's meant to be a lighthearted story. The dish is now quintessentially Scottish, after all.

Relax. Have some curried chicken tikka -- soon to be the new national dish o' Scotland! ;)
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on August 4, 2009


Is there any good place to buy or order proper haggis on the East coast? Specifically around DC?
posted by FatherDagon at 1:09 PM on August 4, 2009


FatherDagon, I can only offer a place in NYC: St. Andrews Restaurant and Bar, near Times Square. Stewarts of Kearny used to offer it online, but their store seems to be down.

You might consider sending an email to the St. Andrews Society?

Be forewarned that US restaurants don't serve "proper" haggis, thanks to FDA and (I believe,) various Health Department regulations. The dish is less authentic than what you'd get in Scotland.
posted by zarq at 1:36 PM on August 4, 2009


Luggies?

Okay then.
posted by hangashore at 1:36 PM on August 4, 2009


I'm afraid to tell my mom this piece of news. As a Scot and one of the local "Ladies of the Haggis" for our city's St. Andrews Society, she's gonna be crushed. I hope all those little Scottish ladies of the haggis will still enjoy getting up to their elbows in sheep entrails, knowing the terrible truth.

....still, haggis is *offally* good.
posted by Monsters at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2009


> Stonehaven Glasgow home of the deep fried Mars bar
ftfy (Glasgow will, however, take the claim for the deep fried macaroni & cheese pie, and the deep fried pizza.)
Seriously, though, almost every culture has the "let's pulp all the unspeakable bits leftover from this animal and stick it in some spare intestine with some kind of filler". There's an eastern european thing that uses goose parts; tastes like haggis! Then, of course, there are wieners ...
posted by scruss at 3:19 PM on August 4, 2009


"let's pulp all the unspeakable bits leftover from this animal and stick it in some spare intestine with some kind of filler"

Yes! I just had boudin for the first time recently, and I was like, "Nasty meats? Grain? Spices? Why, this is like the Cajun version of haggis!"
posted by Greg Nog at 3:40 PM on August 4, 2009


Huh. I thought it was already known not to be Scottish - I remember reading somewhere when I was a child about how all these quintessentially Scottish things aren't originally at all - haggis, golf, and tartan come to mind. I thought it was supposed to be from somewhere further afield though - or I might just be remembering wrongly.
We used to have haggis for school dinners (in Edinburgh), not more than once a month or so though. IIRC, my English teacher got married to one of the Macsween family. Meant lots of haggises appearing at school raffles.
posted by pocketfluff at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2009


A cursory glance at the OED shows examples of the use of the word haggis back to 1420, including a reference by a Scots poet in 1508. So it appears that it's just a crappy article designed mainly to excite publicity, which it appears to have managed. However, in true haggis style, zarq has managed to take the most humble of ingredients and make a hearty dish of it. Well done! I would point out, though, that McSweens haggis is OK, but their black pudding is put to shame by Charley Barley's Stornoway black pudding
posted by Jakey at 4:06 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Kingston Ontario, there used to be a nice little Scottish pub/restaurant. Went there one evening for Robbie Burns with a bevy of (highland) dancers and a drone of pipers [drone is the collective noun of both bagpipers and english professors]. The pub had managed to combine the best of both Scotland & Canada...

HAGGIS POUTINE.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


But it's delicious onna stick!

She'd sell it for less, but that would be cutting her own throat.
posted by Evilspork at 4:43 PM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Haggis is great, but the national dish of Scotland is actually mince and tatties.
posted by Phanx at 11:33 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


From this post All the words in the world, pronounced by native speakers. - settled.
posted by tellurian at 12:10 AM on August 5, 2009


Here in Glasgow, my hubs and I nom a haggis about once a month. It is the easiest dinner ever. Best served with neeps and tatties (turnip and mashed potato) and a whisky.

Haggis could possibly be better than bacon.

They also make fried haggis and you can have this at your local chip shop. It's my favourite chip shop foodstuff.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:16 AM on August 5, 2009


Oh we make awesome mince and tatties. Get really nice mince, and then throw in whatever you have in the house - onion, garlic, mushroom and tomato is usual for us.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:17 AM on August 5, 2009


However, in true haggis style, zarq has managed to take the most humble of ingredients and make a hearty dish of it. Well done!

High praise indeed. Thank you! :)
posted by zarq at 10:09 AM on August 5, 2009


Editorial in today's NYTimes from Alexander McCall Smith: "Keep Your Hands Off Our Haggis"
"So the haggis is clearly Scottish, as Robert Burns understood full well when he wrote his famous poem in its praise. If one’s national bard writes a poem to a dish consisting of chopped-up offal cooked in a sheep’s stomach together with oatmeal and spices and secured with a curious pin, then that dish must be authentically national."

posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on August 7, 2009


Haggis step by step guide.
posted by tellurian at 11:31 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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