Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robbie Burns Day -- Piping In The Haggis

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!


nomore said...

I got the Scottish traditional "The Haggis" right thanks your nice posting

Susan English Mason said...

Haggis sounds just putrid. I like to read about people's dads and mums. In my case this reminds of my Grandmother English who was born in Ontario and was of half Scottish and half Irish descent. Thanks for the memory.

ithappenedinthekitchen said...

Its been my great honor to share a birthday and the love of writing poetry with the great Bard. Now if I could only get the poems set to the music I heard them with in my head...

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

Haggis... No comment. LOL. Not my kind of dish

Nancy said...

Think I'll pass on the Haggis, but have been fascinated by anything Scottish since the Outlander series by Diana Galbadon. Nothing like fiction to get you interested in facts! :-)

Scoobyloves2004 said...

I am all for trying foods from different cultures, but that just sounds ghastly, lol. My husband is 100% Irish. (His Grandmother was from Knock) A tradition we have, usually around Jan or Feb, is Shepards pie. It was one of his Mothers' favorites and has become a fav for me as well. However I think the tradition will stop with us, since our children despise the dish.

Charles Gramlich said...

This is the firste heard of Robbie Burns day. but looks like a good reason to party. whooo hoo.

jay dee said...

Hi Jo. Please don't take offence as I just want to let you know the Scottish way to pronounce the Bards name which should be Rabbie instead of Robbie,this is a common mistake by non-Scots. If I may also point out when you quote the address to the haggis it should read:the best laid plans o mice and man gang aft aglae,which just means the same as the words you quoted the only difference is the Scottish pronunciation.

But as always your stories are ex'cellent keep them up.

Patsy said...

.......... urp.......... :-)


jay dee said...

Hi Jo: It's me again having read some of the comments on 'the haggis'I have to admit,and this coming from a proud Scot who will probably have his Scottish nationality rescinded for saying this,I don't like haggis either.

Jo said...

Nomore, Haggis is actually quite good. :-)

Poutalicious, yes, it's nice to keep some of our parents traditions alive, isn't it?

Ithappenedinthekitchen, Happy Birthday! And many more! And yes, some of his poems have been set to music. "Auld Lang Syne" for instance.

Firefly, I like the chicken recipe you have on your blog today. It looks wonderful!

Lover of Life, yes, there are some wonderful Scottish traditions that I love.

Arley, omigosh, I love Shepherd's pie. I think it's delicious. I was thinking of making some this week, in fact!

Charles, it's a good excuse to get out the 12 year old Scotch. :-)

Jay Dee, yes, I have used the Standard English translation so people are not familiar with the Scottish can understand it. Most of his poems have the Burns Original and then the Standard English Translation, which I thought would be easier for most folks to understand (including me, *heh*).

Lorna, believe it or not, Haggis is actually not half-bad! :-)

JayDee, *heh* I actually loved it when I was a little girl, until I found out what it was made of.

SweetPeaSurry said...

I'm thinking you'd have to grow up eating Haggis in order to really appreciate it. while I enjoy eating new cuisines, I think this is a dish I'll be staying away from.

I'm happy you have such fond memories of Robbie Burns Day though.


Coachdad said...

I think the watermelon shooters sounds better than the Haggis. Thank you for your have a beautiful site!

Mona said...

ew, where would one buy lamb's stomach? oh second though, i don't really want to know...i'm a vegetarian...guess there isn't a vegetarian version of this dish...

Shaista said...

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie's a hand o'thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne..

I loved yesterday's post too. 'The Lovers' is such a fascinatingly real portrait of a couple - he trying to convince her, she not looking convinced.. One hand wrapped protectively around herself, eyes distant, thinking!

Leif: A Voyage said...

Bolder, bolder, lads and lasses!

I tried Haggis for the first time last year...and despite all warnings to the contrary, it was pretty good!

Could'a been the hefty toast that preceded it or the relief that the poem I read was well received, but take tried sushi, you tried foie gras (or at least you know folks who have)
...try haggis!

VioletSky said...

Hate bagpipes, but have had haggis ... and actually rather liked it. Just don't think about how it is made or what exactly is in it. Afterall, those people who say yech to haggis, probably like sausages.

Bobbie said...

I wonder if they put the cayenne pepper in the Haggis to kill the

A little story here - my first boyfriend was Scottish and a piper, and hence, I developed a love for bag pipes. When my son graduated from SFU, the SFU University Pipe band led the graduates in and out of the convocation ceremonies. One of the pipers was the son of my first boyfriend and I had my picture taken with him. Small world, eh!

Hope you're enjoying this beautiful sunny day!

Lilly said...

Haggis is great as long as you dont know what its ingredients are. Whenever I thik of Burns Day I think of the bagpipes. Loved Burns Day Suppers when living in Scotland. said...

Don't think I could handle the meat in the Haggis!Maybe if you didn't know what was in it? smile!

kimber said...

A quick note to Mona -- there IS a vegetarian version of Haggis, and it's quite yummy!

The Pink Cowboy said...

I used to play Scotland the Brave!in my Wurlitzer organ many years ago. Love them bagpipes, do not care for the Haggis (sorry!)So Happy Burns day!!!

Anonymous said...

The sounds of Scotland bring out an almost religious fervour in me.

Here's to Rabbi Burns.

(Joke, joke).

TC said...

Haggis, gross, your blog good, unless you write about haggis recipes every day?

Jo said...

SweetPeaSurry, oh, yes, Haggis is definitely not for the faint of heart. :-)

Coachdad, the watermelon shooters would wash down the Haggis. :-)

Mona, I think there is a vegetarian version of this dish, but I'd hate to think of what it might be...

Shaista, Robbie Burns Gaelic is really another language, isn't it? And yes, I believe the man in the Lovers portrait is a self-portrait of Picasso.

Leif, I love foie gras. I think a lot of people eat things they are not quite aware of what they're eating. And I love sushi! :-)

VioletSky, oh, yes ... sausages. I love sausages. And I quite liked Haggis too.

Bobbie, when my daughter graduated from SFU, the Simon Fraser Pipe Band piped them in and out of the convocation too, and oddly enough, my daughter's dress was the same tartan as their kilts. It looked very nice, and was quite impressive. It's a great pipe band, isn't it?

Lilly, oh, yes, you would have experienced some wonderful Burns Day dinners in Scotland!, I really liked Haggis until I knew what was in it. Then? ... not so much.

Kimber, yes, I thought there was a vegeterian version of Haggis. I would imagine it is quite similar.

PinkCowboy, I love bagpipes. They were once used as a weapon of war, and were banned. Now they are considered only a musical instrument.

Ivan, I go to all the parades here in Vancouver, just to hear the pipe bands, and we have some of the best in the world.

TC, *heh*. No, I only write about Haggis once a year. :-)

introspection said...

Hi, The post on Haggis, and all the interesting comments on the dish makes me think. Perhaps I would have loved to eat this dish had I not known how it is cooked. But it's no use now. I'll probably never try it. Wonder how they cook the vegetarian one...! Also, would there be a Rachel Ray version of it in '30 minute meals'? Scottish friends, what's your take on this...?

Ann said...

I love bagpipes. Never tried Haggis, because I'd heard what was in it - eewyyyww. One of my favorite lines from the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer" (comedy!) is from when the main character is buying some Haggis for his parents and he says ... "most Scottish food is based on a dare." lol

Kym said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kym said...

I have never tried haggis, heard of it, but have not had the opportunity or great need....but I love bagpipes...I had an Irish gentleman play those for my ex and I when we were married...he met us half-way up the aisle after the priest announced us and played with us following him out of the was quite beautiful....Thanks for the video!

Dayna Carleton said...

Thank you so much for sharing the piping, which I love, and the haggis discussion. I love haggis, too, must be because my grandmothers were both Scotch/Irish. I appreciate your blog and your celebration of Burns' birthday. We celebrate every year here in Lawrence, Kansas, at our local Arts Center, with cock-a-leekie soup and lovely pastries and, of course, haggis!