A British friend–the same friend who introduced me to Pimm’s Cup at a most memorable luncheon –wrote that she and her husband are hosting a party on January 25. I love hearing about what is going on with her and I found this one especially fascinating.
The print on her e-mail was small and I read it as B-U-M-S night supper. Her menu– Cullen Skink soup, haggis, bashed neaps and taties– didn’t disabuse me of that notion until I googled the various dishes to see what they were. Turns out it’s a BURNS Night Supper to commemorate the birthdate of beloved Scottish poet Robert Burns. His admirers have been holding these suppers for over 200 years, but don’t feel too bad if you have never attended one. Meal-wise, you haven’t missed much; they serve the same thing every year.
As for the haggis, several of the websites I visited advised one to “eat it, don’t think about what’s in it.” Easier said than done, I imagine, since haggis consists of sheep’s offal, tripe, suet, oatmeal, and spices cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Traditionally it’s boiled, but I found baked and even deep-fried recipes… as if the cooking method is what is troubling about the dish.
I don’t think A-1, Heinz 57, or catsup are up to the challenge either.
Having a Burns Night Supper without haggis would probably be worse than having a wiener roast without hot dogs. After all, has anyone penned an eight-verse ode to a weenie. (Perhaps it is worth mentioning that Burns also wrote six verses in Address to a Toothache, so an appropriate excuse for not eating the haggis might be that you are in need of a root canal.)
Yesterday’s e-mail from my friend sounded a bit anxious. Some of her guests are “finding all kinds of excuses” not to eat haggis, including one who claims an allergy to onions. My friend doesn’t understand it. She said, “We used to boil up most of that stuff for our dogs and they seemed to like it.”
The neaps and taties–turnips or rutabagas and potatoes–sound divine by comparison. I asked whether she’d considered one of the recipes out there for vegetarian haggis, but she fears flipping Robbie in his grave with the vegetarian substitution. You can see why. The man was definitely a carnivore. Here’s his Selkirk Grace which is always recited at the suppers:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Even if there is not be a bagpiper in the group, Burns’ music should be a part of the evening and it always ends with Auld Lang Syne, which Burns loved, even if he didn’t write it. Male guests wear kilts; it’s definitely a tartan night. I’m not sure about the women. How about something in a red, red rosy color?