Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Burns Night: Scotching a few myths

Some tasteful tartan from Totally Tartan
So it's Burns Night - all day. I've often wondered how that works, but it does. 

I wasn't going to blog about the annual offal binge that marks the birthday of our National Bard, but then I spotted a post that changed my mind. 

Advocado Sweet reminded me of this piece of his poetry: 

Then catch the moments as they fly
And use them as ye aught man
Believe me, happiness is shy
And comes not aye when sought man
(A Bottle and a Friend)

It's good, innit?

That's the thing about Burns, it might be easy to pack him up in the same shortbread tin as such hokum as the Loch Ness Monster and a national stereotype that insists on eating food that has been described as "cuisine based on a dare". But you can't, his stuff is just too good. 

Another Scottish poet Hugh Macdairmid said: "Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name - than in ony's barrin liberty and Christ."

He may have had a point, but for Burns to be a superstar in his own lifetime he had to have had at the very least the X Factor. 

That he is a famous poet now may have something to do with the Scots and the way their minds work - strong, arguably sentimental, loyalty to their land wedded to world-dominating pioneering spirit. But in his day he was a huge celebrity - feted bad boy and darling of, well, everyone. And he achieved this success at a time when doing so was really something special and much of the population had much more pressing issues than listening to poetry. 

So on January 25 we celebrate his life with haggis, neeps and tatties, poetry and, usually, a bit of drink. 

While much of what this proud nation considers a delicacy is utterly vile - such as deep fried pizza - haggis is not. Far from it. It's really very good and, actually, very healthy. 

It's made from lamb, beef, oatmeal, onions, pepper and spices and that's it. The meat is offal - heart, lungs and liver - and there is usually suet involved somewhere. There are vegetarian versions that offer an equally tasty alternative. 

Some people balk at this - not even considering having a go, but I urge them to think again. I know the notion of something stored in a stomach is a bit peculiar, but originally it was just practical. And you don't eat that bit. It was about efficient use of foodstuff, making sure every part of an animal was used. Compare this with today's version of this economy - mechanically recovered meat

Whisky is traditionally served at a Burns Supper. Obviously. But some people pour it on their haggis. Don't do this, it's a waste of whisky and not a very nice thing to do with your haggis. 

Purists would say there's a right and a wrong way of hosting a Burns Supper. Things that should or shouldn't be said and done. I'd suggest that Burns, himself would laugh at that notion and say "crack on, do what makes you feel good", or words to that effect.

That's it really - both Burns and haggis are jolly good and deserve to be enjoyed more often than once a year. 


  1. I love Haggis and Burns night, it's what I'll be having for dinner. x

  2. And all we remember him for, his many children, girlfriends, a wife, his letters, his way with words - he put his poverty down to 'barren land and fertile women' - and of course his poems, many of which were really songs, his fame and his infamy, were all achieved before he died at the young age of 37. Mxx

  3. Ahem - whisky dribbled over haggis is LOVELY - and I don't even like whisky.......

  4. M, he was indeed a busy chap.

    Nikkii, maybe but I prefer my whisky dribbled over ice!

  5. Naturally, I'm loving the photo. Thank you

  6. A good friend is hosting her first 'Burns Night' party tomorrow night so I'm looking forward to trying haggis for the first time and all the festivities!

  7. Suburban Mummy, I do hope you enjoy it - just try to get past how it looks.


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