Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
-from Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns
Frankly, haggis is Scottish meatloaf. In the last week, following Burns Night, I had enough leftovers that we’ve seen haggis sandwiches, sliced and pan friend haggis with eggs for breakfast and finally haggis with mashed potatoes and roast carrots and parsnips. I’m sure there’s someone out there regularly dousing haggis leftovers in ketchup.
Due to USDA regulations, the majority of haggis available for sale in the United States are canned varieties, often imported, and in a now more common synthetic casing. However, a bit of Internet sleuthing led me to Oatmeal Savage just down the road in Roseburg, Oregon—who offer a variety of haggis and related products. Shipped frozen and packed in insulated foam, the haggis arrived to my office and prompted a variety of reactions from coworkers—largely ending in the squeamishness that characterizes most American reactions to any foodstuffs that involves offal.
Thankfully, my friend Jennifer’s partner Adam is a butcher—and thus was quite excited at the prospect of haggis and also brought along a copy of a Time Life book from his collection to share: Variety Meats from The Good Cook Techniques & Recipes Series from 1982 (which featured both a recipe and pictures of haggis assembly). We pulled together a menu of clapshot, an excellent cream whisky sauce for the haggis, the amusingly named rumbledethumps (see recipe below), oatcakes, and cranachan for dessert. Per tradition, the haggis was skirled in with bagpipe music and Address to a Haggis was read (via a recording by Gordon Kennedy). And while we couldn’t convince Jen to try the haggis, we managed to finish off half.
Living in the Northwest, with a fairly good-sized Scottish population, the local Caledonian Society holds a Burns Night each year—and I know similar events are held in various cities in North America. Most of the Scots I know today are proud of their heritage, but bemused by our obsession of identifying with the culture of our grand and great-grandparents. To the north in Vancouver there’s a combination Chinese New Year / Burns Night celebration known as Gung Haggis Fat Choy that I think, one day, I must drag one of my Scottish friends along—to see what they make of this very North American new tradition of cultural fusion.
I think one of the larger things I’m going to end up taking away from each of this books will be how universal food is in various cultures—we’ve all historically faced similar issues of food preservation, making efficient use of the resources we have, and in this modern era—retaining our connection to our culinary roots. We should always be looking for opportunities to celebrate our culinary history. What older food tradition can you adopt?