Scotland’s Burns Supper

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Robert Burns was the national poet of Scotland in the 18th century. He is highly acclaimed for his poems and wrote numerous famous songs that are still known to this day. Auld Lang Syne written in 1788 is the most popular song in the English language that is sung during Hogmanay (Scots word for New Years). However, I want to introduce you all to a humorous poem he wrote, “Address to a Haggis.” Through this “Address,” he helped popularize haggis and eventually became the national dish of Scotland. During Burns Supper on January 25th (Robert Burns’ Birthday), the address is recited before bringing out the haggis.

Haggis hasn’t always been a dish; Scottish people often joke about the “Wild Haggis.” It is a small, roughed haired creature that is native to the Scottish Highlands. What is unique about this creature is that the legs on one side are significantly longer than those on the other side because it is an evolutionary adaptation to living on the steep sides of the Scottish mountains. Apparently, because of their leg length difference, they adapted to only travel in one direction, which produced two species: the clock-wise and anti-clockwise wild haggis. Obviously, they would have a severe danger of toppling over the mountainside if their legs were positioned correctly. I am very impressed with the extent to which Scottish people made the joke seem real, especially appealing to science! Maybe this is why according to a 2003 survey, one-third of Americans (1000 surveyed) believed wild haggis is real and can be found in the mountains. Sadly wild haggis is a myth.

Burns Supper is a purely Scottish tradition with food involved, so I wanted to celebrate it. That evening after my 5 pm class, my friend and I decided to go to a local pub, serving the three-layered haggis, neeps, and tatties. Neeps are also called rutabaga, which is a purplish, green, round root vegetable. Tatties are simply mashed potatoes. The star of the plate, haggis may be intimidating for some: sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs); minced onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt that is traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach, but it is indeed delicious. The flavor was terrific, and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar provided a burst of flavor. Do not worry if you are vegetarian or vegan; they have those options too, though I don’t know what the alternative to sheep’s pluck is.Traditionally, this meal is accompanied with the national drink, Scottish whiskey. After the meal, people come together for the ceilidh (Kay-lee), a Scots word for “gathering” or “party.” This is a dance with as many people as possible and is similar to square dancing. Guys wear traditional kilts with sporran (Gaelic for purse), while girls wear tartan plaid. From all the traditions unique to Scotland, I can say that Scottish people are very proud of their identity (and can be pranksters sometimes).