Last night, I was invited by my friends Julz and Mark to a Burns Night supper at their apartment. Burns Night is a celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, normally held on or near his birthday, January 25. You’re supposed to eat haggis, drink whisky (no “e”) and read his poems, one of which is actually titled “Ode to A Haggis.”
I’d never been to a Burns supper, having turned down my only other invitation several years ago when I was studying abroad in England. I can’t remember why exactly I missed it (I do hate bagpipe music) but I will never make that same mistake twice. I had such a fun time, I think Burns Night is my new favorite holiday.
Julz, our lovely Scottish hostess, is vegetarian. That did not stop her from giving us the full authentic experience, however, and went all the way to Kearny, New Jersey to purchase haggis. Ever since the foot-and-mouth epidemic, importing haggis from Scotland has been banned in the US, but this place in Jersey is supposed to be so good, they supply the U.N. with their haggis. (Insert joke about biological warfare.)
For those of you who don’t know, haggis is a is a dish composed of sheep heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and simmered in the animal’s stomach. It’s traditionally served with “neeps and tatties.” (That’s mashed turnips and potatoes to you.)
Ever the gracious hostess, Julz assured everyone that if they didn’t like the haggis, they shouldn’t feel the need to finish it. Having been raised to believe that eating less than everything on one’s plate is like spitting in your host’s face, I appreciated her letting us off the hook, but it turns out, I didn’t need her get-out-of-haggis-free pass.
To me, the predominate flavor in haggis is the liver and I’ve always been a big fan of foie gras. So I am delighted to report that I really like haggis. Surprisingly, everyone else seemed to as well. I looked around and it had largely disappeared from everyone’s plates. One notable exception was an American guy sitting across from me. He ate every last bit of his turnips and potatoes and left a giant mound of haggis. Well, I suppose that’s to be expected. I asked for seconds.
Since I really wanted to get into the spirit (I even wore a Tartan skirt to dinner) I made cranachan (rhymes with ramekin), a traditional Scottish dessert made of oatmeal, whipped cream, raspberries, whisky and honey. Julz told me it was good and getting Julz’ seal of approval was second only to trying haggis for the first time and discovering I like it. What is life if not for new experiences, however small?
It was so nice to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a really long time and to drink lots of wine and laugh. By the end of the evening, I managed to find a possible subletter for my apartment and a possible editor for my film. I can’t believe I’ll have to wait another year for Burns Night. Best. Holiday. Ever.