FROM THE ARCHIVES:
This gorgeous volume of the complete works of Robert Burns (copyright 1887) is a treasured family heirloom. It was given to me by my Mother, but it is my Father who is of Scottish lineage (my Grandfather being born in Scotland) and I love my Scottish heritage.
Burns, perhaps best known as the author of the song Auld Lang Syne, (most often crooned drunkenly on New Year's Eve here in the States), is the National Poet of Scotland. His birthday is January 25, and everywhere people of Scottish descent gather, you can find people celebrating Robert Burn's Night. You might think of it as a kind of Scottish version of the Irish St. Patrick's Day.
I was planning on celebrating my first ever Burn's Night party this Friday, but my most brave foodie friends (more on that later) were unable to attend, and now my husband has a terrible case of the stomach flu. Alas, I have had to cancel the party this year. What follows are the Essential Ingredients to a proper Robert Burn Night party. (Consider yourself warned if I invite you to such a gathering next year.)
ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOR A ROBERT BURNS NIGHT GATHERING
1. Have the party on, or very near, January 25-- Robert Burn's birthday.
2. Serve a food called Haggis (or something like it--see below)
3. Read aloud Burn's famous "Address to a Haggis"
4. Preferably, bring the haggis to the table with a touch of ceremony and bagpipe music.
5. It couldn't hurt to wear some tartan plaids or a kilt.
ABOUT THE HAGGIS
The haggis, known as the national dish of Scotland, consists of a porridge of oatmeal and lamb's liver, lungs, and kidneys, onions and seasonings, bound up in the stomach of a sheep, and boiled for several hours until done.
Simple, really. Even Alton Brown shows how easy it is to make a haggis.
Some might argue that my husband's stomach flu is merely a clever ploy to "enjoy" his haggis ahead of time. But that can't be so, as he won't eat lamb meat anyway. And I promised all my invitees that there would be non-haggis foods at the party. Nevertheless, it can't be denied that haggis is an aquired taste, if not avoided with some alarm altogether.
When planning my own Burn's Night, I debated whether or not to serve an authentic haggis, or to make what I affectionately call a Half Assed Haggis, which is to say a Pretend Haggis that consists of lamb meat but no organ meats. A web search produced everything from authentic to vegetarian (!) versions of "haggis." Here are a few recipes such as traditional haggis, an Americanized haggis from Country Living, and finally a Vegan haggis (which some might argue is no haggis at all).
Here is what I was going to
foist cook for my friends: I was going to cook some lamb's stew meat, chop up some onions, and cook it up with some pin head oats in the crock pot. Then I was going to serve some colcannon and bangers (sausages) to go along with it.
Good luck with that.
Then there is the matter of kilts. Let your conscience be your guide, but I think they can be sexy as hell, although one should avoid going overboard into the realm of cheesy. They are good for dancing, too, as Tartanic demonstrates when they play. Despite the sometimes poor quality, (and dubious humor at the end), here's a rather informative little video on the how and why of wearing a kilt.
So that's it for now, my bonny readers. And happy birthday, Robbie Burns.