Some hae meat and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it, but we hae meat and we can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit.
January 25, 2009 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Today is the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns, time to toast the haggis (youtube), or even make your own!
posted by Lanark (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do Scotsmen really eat Haggis? I always assumed it was one of those things that only exist to screw around with tourists' minds, like lutefisk.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:05 AM on January 25, 2009

Do Scotsmen really eat Haggis?

Yes we do, but usually only on Burns night. Every Burns night I swear I'll eat it more often, as it's absolutely delicious, but never seem to do. Anyway, tonight it's a freshly caught haggis, from McKean's (warning: skirling pipes) with mashed neeps and tatties for dinner, washed down with Laphroig.
posted by theCroft at 4:48 AM on January 25, 2009

Robert Burns, biography from the Dictionary of National Biography, free for the day only.
posted by stbalbach at 5:16 AM on January 25, 2009

Eating Haggis is the epitome of whole animal eating, which ties in neatly with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls Meat Manifesto:

"Being creative with leftover meat means getting more from it. You’re making it more generous to you and, in so doing, paying greater tribute to the animal that has died to provide it.

If you accept that there is any moral content at all in the way we treat animals, then you must accept that there is a moral dimension in your dealings with meat. Please think about it, don’t shirk it."

posted by Lanark at 5:19 AM on January 25, 2009

Weel done, Cutty-sark!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:54 AM on January 25, 2009

I'm having a whole mess of people over for dinner tonight! My haggis is a beautiful four-pound lump of deliciousness, straight from Stewart's of Kearny. The rest of my menu is off the fucking chain, as well; neeps with shallots and garlic, tatties via the late Leslie Harpold, homemade Cranachan ice cream, scotch eggs made with quail eggs for bite-sized goodness, and some killer roasted brussels sprouts. And, of course, whisky. So much whisky.

Among the various traditions for the evening, I'm most looking forward to a couple I know giving the "Toast to The Lassies" and the "Reply From The Lassies." I asked the dude if they'd be interested, and his response was, "Well, I'm inclined to say no, 'cause my girlfriend doesn't really like public speaking. On the other hand, she loves embarassing the shit out of me in large group settings, so yeah, we'll probably do that."
posted by Greg Nog at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Been to Scotland a few time and love the place, we went camping when I was a lot younger and this is the only time I have eaten Haggis. From what I remember it tasted ok, but the standard of the rest of our camps food this is maybe not a reflection on the haggis.
posted by Getextra at 6:36 AM on January 25, 2009

how do you clean the toaster out after you've finished toasting the haggis?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:56 AM on January 25, 2009

Wonderful post. A choir group I used to sing with occasionally did a tune of Green Grow... I've thought Robert Burns one of the wiser men to have written, and particularly love this refrain.

The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.
posted by meinvt at 7:04 AM on January 25, 2009

I've made pot haggis. It makes more sense as a food made of leftover parts after you've slaughtered your sheep. If you don't have sheep, and you don't have friends who have sheep, it becomes a bit pretentious and "foodie"-like in the US to go traipsing around looking for a butcher who will give you the requisite organs. So keep it simple. I made mine with calve's liver. Served with neeps and tatties.
posted by acrasis at 7:11 AM on January 25, 2009

A friend of mine once made a haggis from scratch in Kabul, much to the bemusement of the locals. The story was online, but is no more. I'll send him a link to this to shame him into reposting.
posted by imperium at 7:41 AM on January 25, 2009

Oh lord I love me some haggis. Early this past summer I was spending a week and a half on the Isle of Coll in the inner hebrides, and at the tavern in town the (fantastic) cook had a special of haggis wontons of her own invention. I think I ate those for lunch almost every day, and haven't had anything as tasty since.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:49 AM on January 25, 2009

I just did the address for the third year running. It is always a good night for me when I am invited to show off my legs and brandish a knife at people instead of just doing it for kicks.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:03 AM on January 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

This year we had the proper thing with neeps and all that. Last year for a change my wife did Flying Scotsman, which is chicken stuffed with haggis.
posted by Phanx at 8:38 AM on January 25, 2009

The recipe in the last link contains ox bung as an ingredient. I think that says it all.
posted by tommasz at 9:04 AM on January 25, 2009

I had haggis for the first time about a week ago - and it just resembled slightly livery meatloaf made with non-muscle-meats. Was pretty good, but nowhere near as disgusting or gross as some people make it out to be.

A friend of mine from Edinburgh says that what I had was not proper haggis, and I need to go visit him for the real thing...

I did not address my haggis, although I did pull it up on my iPhone and wave it in the general direction of my plate.
posted by mrbill at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2009

A couple of years ago, I had the most wonderful haggis poutine. It's possibly the greatest food ever created. Unfortunately, the restaurant went out of business. Guess not everyone (anyone?) else agreed with me.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:33 AM on January 25, 2009

My own haggis experience - In search of the pinnacle in culinary stupidity, a friend and I decided that for Burns Night a couple of years ago we required a haggis. In Afghanistan you can barely look around but that your eyes are offended by some rancid looking sheep. We thought that bringing one in would be like bringing coals to Newcastle. So we decided to make one, I confess motivated more by the notion of getting a good story and jock-like machismo than anything else.

The day before I had spoken to my language teacher and obtained translations for the vital ingredients of a haggis, the sheep’s ‘pluck’ comprising the liver, heart and lungs. As we walked I muttered under my breath the Dari words, practicing different cadences: diljiggarShUsh, dilJIGGarshush etc. Our day, as with all interesting days, started before dawn. It was a cool minus 10; a typical brisk Kabul winter’s morning.

We got up early because we had been earnestly assured by the self-same teacher, in convincing tones, that: “sheep’s pluck go like lightining. They slaughter at six sharp, and then all the people in Kabul flock there, queueing round the block, cramming into the shop, just so they can get hands on a sheep’s pluck. Lucky if you can get one at all.” We duly turned up on butcher’s street at 6 am, fresh as rabbits, where we were greeted by a notable lack of people and a marked absence of open butchers’ shops. We left, drank some nuclear coffee (procured from the local shop, believe it or not) to fortify us, then sallied forth an hour and a half later.

One butcher was kind of opening, and seemed slightly surprised at the custom so early in the morning. I walked in, mentally girding my loins. While I knew this was going to be the vilest thing I had ever done, nothing had prepared me from the pile of stomachs lying discarded on the black and filthy floor in that butcher’s shop. Nothing. They were truly horrible. After that, the diljiggarshush was positively inoffensive: we found one hanging by it’s windpipe from a hook was a piece-a-cake, no bothers at all. Liver: why not?I walked out of that shop a lot whiter that I was when I walked in, but with the goods in hand. The worst was yet to come.

Getting back to our house with the ingredients tied up in bags and held as far from our person as humanly possible, we put them in a bucket outside in the snow a safe distance from the house. Then we made ourselves, at seven thirty in the morning, a stiff whisky and turned our attention to the construction of the vessel for cooking the haggis – the stomach. We returned outside, to find a cat delicately picking at the intestines.

We all know that a haggis is made from a sheep’s stomach. “Just take the sheep’s stomach", the recipes said. But soft: hands up anyone who knows which stomach a haggis should be made in? A sheep, being a ruminant, has four of them. Now that - that was an interesting google search. There we were with a vile, stinking … thing in a red bucket, smelling gag-inducingly, stomach-churningly awful, one of us leaving periodically to keep the cats away and trying to swallow the bile rising whenever we looked in the stomach’s direction, while the other tried to work out from veterinary websites which stomach we were to use. In the end, we took a guess.

Choosing a nadir to the process is a challenge, but for me it came at the point that we had to cut up and scrape the inside of that stomach. The smell: I can’t really describe the smell. It was like a farmyard, sure, but that underestimates by a power of sheep the stench that emitted from that bucket. Plunging my hands in, picking up the flaccid tissue, in places bulging into great swollen balls of puslike phlegm, then cutting off the flapping corpse-like sack wasn’t pleasant. But then came the scraping. A sheep’s stomach is coated in bile-like grey-green adhesive slime. It adheres to fur-like protuberances that for four hours fought us tooth and nail. It was this that forced me to take my first shot of whisky. At eight o’clock in the morning. Four hours later, the kitchen covered in rank grey gunk, our faces and clothes stinking and filthy, we had cleaned most of the inside of the paunch. Out, out damn spot. I simply couldn’t remove the smell from my fingers. We left that stomach in salted water, our spirits crushed.

Then came cleaning the heart and lungs and liver: vileness, it turns out, is relative. I quite cheerfully got stuck into cleaning and salting the vital organs of the poor animal. Still, who would have thought that a sheep’s heart would have so much blood in it? When a sheep’s been dead a while, the blood coalesces into a deep purple gell, which you sort of have to pull out, rather like pulling worms out of the ground. That wasn’t very pleasant either. We can sweep over the cleaning of the lungs and liver as being child’s play, because then came the boiling-to-remove-impurities. Let me tell you, when they talk about removing impurities, they aren’t kidding. You’re supposed to boil the sheep’s pluck - hanging the trachea over the lip of the bowl to allow for escape of said impurities - and so we did. We boiled that fucker until it bled tears. Oh, how we boiled it. We boiled it, and boiled it, and boiled it. We watched it as it boiled. And where did the impurities go? Not out of the fucking trachea, I can tell you. No, they came from everywhere, right into the water where our pluck was boiling. As nadirs go, it was marginally less vile than scraping out the stomach, but it wasn’t pleasant.

Then came the coup de grace. Have you ever spent an evening sewing a sheep’s stomach together with the string from Lipton tea bags? This is a rhetorical question because unless you are myself or my mate of course you fucking haven’t. Nobody has. It’s an offal idea. For a start, the string on lipton tea bags are simply too short. We tied them together, then finally threaded a needle (after some ridiculous convolutions), and spent the best part of three hours sewing flaps of still faintly-unpleasant-smelling sheep’s stomach together into the single worst-tailored haggis ever born into this world. It’s grotesque. It’s bizarre. It looks like nothing else I’ve ever seen. But by God, did we finish that haggis.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2009 [17 favorites]

Where ARE you guys? Can I come over?

My long-time Burn's Night partner isn't into it any more, so next year I will have to organized one myself for next year.

The wintery wast extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae:
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,
The joylesss winter-day,
Let other fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!
posted by small_ruminant at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2009

Gah! That sentence! I was focussed on checking the poem for errors and didn't look at the rest.

Also I meant to add:

It’s an offal idea.

bad bad bad (but I laughed).

posted by small_ruminant at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2009

So how did it taste, YouRebelScum?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2009

Few greater poets have ever lived. Master Burns I salute you.
"The rank is but the guinea's stamp, The man's the gowd for a' that."
posted by Abiezer at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2009

Aw, hell. And me without a Burns Supper to go to.

And just in case anybody was curious: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a cat who sounds like bagpipes when he's whining for some people food does not an acceptable substitute make.
posted by Spatch at 12:58 PM on January 25, 2009

(Sighted on sci.math, don't know the original source:)

"A sheep is homeomorphic to a torus. Perform a transformation such that the interior and the exterior of the sheep are exchanged. The result is called a haggis."
posted by gimonca at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2009

I was going to post that haggis is actually pretty damn tasty (note for newbies: push a little mashed neep on the fork with some haggis if you're timid about that first mouthful, and you'll end up eating the haggis itself in great gulps in no time), but after reading what YouRebelScum wrote, I have to fumigate my pleasant memories and weep in a corner, knowing that I can never eat haggis again.
posted by maudlin at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2009

It tasted exquisite, small_ruminant, but I was drunk at the time.
posted by YouRebelScum at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

To me haggis has a worse reputation than death. Disclaimer: I haven't tried either.
posted by Cranberry at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2009

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