Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Happy 253rd Birthday Robert Burns..!!

The Scottish celebration days are the ones where I feel most homesick and lonely. Today, Rabbie's birthday will be heralded with Burns Suppers all over the world, but of course, nowhere more perfectly than in Scotland.

Right now I am so missing the Supper, with all the hoopla and fun, the stories and ceremony, the whisky and food, the kilts and gaiety. It's a truly exciting night, usually beginning with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Then it's on to the main event. Everyone stands as the main course is brought in. Haggis on a large plate, brought from the kitchen by the cook and followed by a piper playing his bagpipes. They walk around the room, then lay the haggis at the host's table. This is where someone--either the host or another person--will recite the "Address to a Haggis," written by Rabbie himself. At the Suppers I went to, it was always Jack, my dear sweet friend and a long-time pal of Alan's.

Towards the end of this very, very long poem, when the narrator says, An' cut you up wi' ready slicht, the host plunges a sharp blade into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end. This is without a doubt the highlight of the evening--though my most favorite part was at the end of the poem, when there was the whisky toast to the haggis.

Everyone sits, and eats their haggis, neeps and tatties. The first time I went to a Burns Supper, I was fairly clueless about what haggis really was, so when I got my big ol' plateful of mashed turnips and potatoes, and a very generous portion of haggis--which looked sort of like a cornbeef hash--I just tucked in and kept having fun. Everyone at my table, including Alan, were all watching me to see what I would do, but heck, it tasted great to me, and I just smiled and kept going. It wasn't until later that I found out what I had actually eaten. And trust me. You don't want to know.

Still, for all the years I went to those Suppers--and regardless of where it came from--I really loved that haggis; plus it didn't hurt that I really loved the whisky too.

When it's time for coffee and the cheese courses, much later in the evening, there are more stories, more toasts, whisky and speeches, including one of my favorite things which was "A Toast to the Lassies," a very funny poke at the ladies and delivered in comedic style by some guy at the Supper. Funnier still though was the rebuttal, "A Toast to the Laddies." So much laughter and fun.

At the very end of the night, the host asks one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, everybody stands, joins hands and sings Burns' most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne.

It's a wonderful night, a great experience.  I miss it terribly.  Buggers.

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