Saturday, February 1, 2014

Burns Supper and the Haggis...

It has been another busy week.  We traveled to Ayr to have a “Youth Night” with the Ayr and Irvine Wards.  We played a game called the “Bobilator” which makes the youth think about a career and what difference an education will make to their future.  There were thirteen youth there and about 6-7 leaders.  We had them do the Work Choice Profile which is a psychometric evaluation of their attitudes and interest in careers.  We are going back next Tuesday to give the results of the evaluation.

Last Saturday night we attended a “Burns Supper” at the Livingston Ward.  Robert Burns is a famous Scottish Poet and the Burns Supper is to celebrate his birthday.  The highlight of the evening is the Haggis.


This is Robbie Burns, widely regarded as Scotland's national Poet.  Born in Ayrshire on 25th of January, 1759 and died in Dumfries on the 21st of July, 1796 at age 37 probably due to a rheumatic heart condition.   
 He is known worldwide for his poetry written in the Scots language, although he also wrote in English. His most notable works include 'Auld Lang Syne', 'Ae Fond Kiss', 'Tam O'Shanter', 'A Man's A Man for A' That' and, of course, 'To A Haggis'.  Another of his poems is A Red, Red, Rose.  Burns was quite the lady's man...

Now for the main event...the Haggis!!
What is a Haggis you ask?  There are many stories about haggis but they really boil down to only two that are possibly accurate…a haggis is one of two things.  It is either a meal using the meat scraps of a lamb or a sheep, mixed with oats, barley, and spices, cooked in a sheep’s stomach, in other words a poor man’s meal that only a Scot would eat; or it is a wee animal that runs free in the Scottish Highlands.  J  I prefer the second version. 

We attended a “Burns for Beginners” event at the Edinburgh Castle on Saturday afternoon where they taught us about the “poor wee beastie” called a Haggis.

We are in the Castle and this fellow is explain how to catch a Haggis.
The Great Hall in the Edinburgh Castle

The wee thing has four legs, but the two on the left side are shorter than the two legs on the right side.  This makes it possible for the wee beastie to run counter clockwise around the highland hills.   To catch the haggis you place nets at the bottom of the hill and then chase the wee thing so it runs clockwise on the hill.  This makes it lose its balance and it topples over and rolls down the hill and you then just scoop it up in the net.  Sounds like a Snipe hunt to me.  J

Actually the first version is the true story.  It is a poor man’s meal using scraps of meet, oats, barley, and spices, cooked in a sheep’s stomach and is a meal only a Scot would eat.  J 

The true definition of a haggis is:  a Scottish dish made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or lamb, combined with oats or barley, suet and other herbs and spices, and then cooked in a casing traditionally made of the animal's stomach. Thus, haggis is essentially a form of sausage…and is a poor man’s meal.  Commercially, It is no longer cooked in a stomach but rather a form of sausage tubing.  It is a favorite dish here and one can find it on most restaurant menus all year round.

It is not an appetizing looking dish, but it doesn't taste that fact, it is pretty good, but a little goes a long way.   Here is the plate that was served to Carolyn.  The dark brown is the Haggis, above the haggis is Cottage pie, then the yellow is the "neeps", and between the pie and the neeps is the "tatties".  The plate I was served was about twice as much food.  The haggis does have a lamb flavor and is basically a form of meat loaf.

 Burns night is celebrated each year in Scotland on or around January 25th (Robbie’s birthday).  A traditional burns supper centres around the grand entrance of the haggis on a large silver serving platter.  Generally the haggis is piped in with bag pipes playing and when the haggis is placed on the table, the "Address to the Haggis" (a Burn’s poem) will be read.  This is an ode that was written by Burns specifically to the haggis.  (At our supper they did nae have a piper but rather just played traditional Scottish music as the haggis was brought in)

This is the first verse of the poem.  It is quite long.  You can go online and read the entire poem.  When the reading is finished the haggis will be ceremonially sliced with a dirk (a Scotsman's knife) and served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

His poem, 'To a Haggis' was crafted in 1786 during his first visit to Edinburgh and was originally improvised as a tongue-in-cheek, mock-heroic moment during a meal at a friend's house. It is unlikely that Burns could have realized the far-reaching consequences of that occasion. Although by no means his finest poem, it nonetheless established haggis as Scotland's national dish and secured its place as the centrepiece of every Burns Supper.

This the Cultural Hall at the Church were the Burns Supper was held.  Many of the men wore their kilts and there was a lot of Scottish music, singing, and reading more of Burns' poems.  One thing about a Burns’ poems…even the Scots must have them interrupted.  He uses words that no longer are understood by most Scots.

This is Brother Olifant - the "head chef for the evening.  He prepared the haggis from his family recipe.
Another part of the tradition at a Burns Supper is saying grace before eating.  This is an old Scottish grace written by Burns that is said at the supper.

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.

Edinburgh Castle on a cold winter day.  It rained most of the day and there was a dusting of snow on the hills around the city.


A view of the City from the Castle.  This is looking north easterly across the Firth of Forth towards Kirkcaldy.  (pronounced Kir-caw-dy)



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