“Thy fowll front had, and he that Bartilmo flaid;The gallowis gaipis eftir thy graceles gruntill, As thow wald for ane haggeis, hungry gled.” — William Dunbar, Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy.
As it is Burns Night, let us take a look at the traditional pudding of the evening; the majestic haggis. So most people have heard of haggis, but what is it actually ?
Myth holds the Wild Haggis (Haggis scoticus) is a creature native to the Scottish Highlands. The Wild Haggis’s right and left legs are of different lengths allowing it to run quickly around the steep mountains and hillsides which make up its natural habitat.
According to a poll held in 2003, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believed the Haggis to be an animal. In typical scots humour you can find a stuffed “wild Haggis” on display in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Gallery.
Now we’ve had some fun down to the facts. Haggis is a savoury pudding made from minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt. Traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern haggis preparations use sausage casing rather than actual stomach. Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties (mashed potato and turnip) and a glass of scotch whiskey.
Haggis, although predominantly associated to Scotland has been in existence throughout the world in one form or other so far back its true origin is untraceable. It was in fact Robbie Burns’ poem “Address to the Haggis” that first created the association of haggis to Scotland.
Likely origins of the dish have been speculated as such: Once hunters had returned with their kills, the main meat parts would be cut off. Then the quick spoiling leftovers, known as offal, would be mashed up and cooked. As hunters needed to travel light, the stomach provided the perfect container for the offal during cooking, rather than having to carry an additional pot/pan. Over time oats were added tobulk it up and herbs and spices for taste.
As mentioned above, haggis is the traditional main course at a Burns Night supper. Everyone stands as the haggis is brought in on a large dish, while a piper plays and leads the way to the host’s table. The host, or occasionally an honoured guest would then recites the Address to a Haggis. At the line “His knife see rustic Labour dicht” the speaker draws and sharpens a knife. At the line “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht” they stab the haggis and cut it open from end to end. This ceremony is usually the highlight of the evening.
And there you have it my own address to the haggis. Although the sound of it puts many off, those of us who do give it a try are greatly rewarded in taste. In fact you should try some now !