Haggis. For some reason, that word seems to conjure looks of extreme disgust on the faces of most Americans. “Do you even know what it is?” I ask. Or, better yet, in between the “icks” and “ews” I question “Have you ever even tasted it?” Not surprisingly, most people answer with a sheepish “No.”
Granted, haggis, which is essentially a spiced lamb and oatmeal sausage, gets a bum rap in the U.S. primarily because much of what you find in this country is canned and more closely resembles a mushy, livery blob. Authentic, fresh Scottish haggis cannot be imported into the United States due to strict regulations.
But haggis really can be delicious. So I decided to prove it to my friends. Luckily for me, and my Scottish husband, Friday night January 25th just so happens to be Burns Night, a Scottish holiday celebrating the birthday of Scotland’s beloved poet, Robert Burns. A night when the homely little haggis is properly revered.
A key element of Burns Night–whether a grande formal affair or just a few friends getting together–is haggis, traditionally served with neeps (turnips; although I believe what they use in Scotland is actually what we know as rutabagas in the U.S.) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and a wee lick of whisky.
My first order of business was finding an edible haggis in the Bay Area. Either that or make my own, which I was willing to do if it came down to it. Fortunately, there are enough people in the Bay Area who like it that I found a few excellent referrals to a little shop called The Scottish Meat Pie Co., who actually make their own fresh haggis. Granted, I still had to work for it as they aren’t officially in the Bay Area, but in a little town called Dixon near Sacramento. But I love my Scottish husband and I wanted to celebrate his Scottishness properly. As well as prove to my friends that haggis is delicious.
Therefore, on Monday, I made the drive out to Dixon (and sat in a massive traffic jam for 2 hours) to pick up my previously reserved haggis. The very friendly folks at the Scottish Meat Pie Co. definitely recommended reserving one at this “wild haggis time of the year.” In fact, they had just finished making a big batch of haggis–lucky me!
So with my fresher-than-fresh haggis I made my way home, and tomorrow night I’ll be serving up a platter of haggis, neeps and tatties, and shots of Scotch whisky, while reciting Robert Burns’ poem To a Haggis.
A few asides:
• There are lots of Burns Nights happening all over the Bay Area, such as the one at the Edinburgh Castle Pub on Saturday January 26th, of you want to get your Scottish on.
• The next time someone offers you haggis, rather than scrunching up your face into a grimace, perhaps take a bite.
• Yes, haggis contains offal, typically lamb meat, liver, and heart, but remember that eating the whole beast is a sustainable, responsible way of eating!