Of all the traditions I know, there is none more Scottish than Robbie Burns Day. It's sort of a silly tradition, but I love it because it reminds me of my Dad. He was a red-headed Scot, and he loved Robbie Burns Day and he loved Haggis. It's really ghastly stuff, but it's the traditional dish of Robbie Burns Day, so every January 25th my mother cooked Haggis, and my father wore his dress tartan tie.
Robbie Burns has always been one of my favorite poets, and one of my favorite quotes is “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us!” And of course there is my other favorite, “The best laid plans of men and mice often go awry.” The title of one of John Steinbeck's books was taken from this, and both quotes seem to apply to my life on a regular basis.
The tradition of serving Haggis on Robbie Burns Day comes from his poem, "To a Haggis".
You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a Haggis!
Haggis is not for the faint of heart, and if you have a queasy stomach, read no further. Here is a traditional recipe for Haggis, taken from the 1800s.
1 cleaned sheep or lamb's stomach
2 lb. dry oatmeal
1 lb chopped mutton suet
1 lb lamb's or deer's liver, boiled and minced
1 pint (2 cups) stock
the heart and lungs of the sheep, boiled and minced
1 large chopped onion
1/2 tsp. each: cayenne pepper, Jamaica pepper, salt and pepper
Toast the oatmeal slowly until it is crisp, then mix all the ingredients (except the stomach bag) together, and add the stock. Fill the bag just over half full, press out the air and sew up securely. Have ready a large pot of boiling water, prick the Haggis all over with a large needle so it does not burst and boil slowly for 4 to 5 hours. Serves 12.
If you would like to hear some bagpipe music while you're (*cough*) enjoying your Haggis, here is the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from here in Vancouver. They are the winners of the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland in 2008. They even beat the Scots, for goodness sake. Scots Wha Hae!