Anyone ‘Comin Thro The Rye’?

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?

There are speeches, toasts, recitations, songs, and plenty to drink–Scotch, of course, and perhaps wine as well.  Dessert, my friend says, will be shortbread and Cranachan–raspberries, cream, honey, Scotch, and toasted oatmeal are the main ingredients.  For awhile there she was considering clootie dumplings, but dismissed them as being “awfully stodgy.”
Too bad it wasn’t Burns who said that life is uncertain; eat dessert first.
My friend is holding her Burns Night Supper at her home, which was built about 300 years before Burns was even born.  (I don’t think she’d mind my sharing this picture.  She sent it to me last spring when we were trading gardening photos.  Note the thatched roof.)
If it’s too late for you to plan your own Burns Night Supper this year, how about a simpler commemoration? How about a nice bowl of cock a leekie soup and a toast with a raised tumbler of Scotch?  It’s exactly what it sounds like: chicken and leek soup with barley.
At least listen to Eddi Reader’s rendition of a favorite poem.  This is from her album of the songs of Robert Burns.
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17 thoughts on “Anyone ‘Comin Thro The Rye’?

  1. Arkansas Patti

    My goodness, what an appetite killer. I thought it looked fairly good till you mentioned that casing was sheep stomach. Offal didn’t scare me, I do love hot dogs.
    The house is darling.

  2. Anything with Tripe is a dogs delight but the mere smell sends me reeling. I don’t do Scotch either (I am not fun) but I do love this song and the flowers surrounding your friends cottage are awesome. I have always wanted to live in a thatched roof cottage. No fooling. I am making special note of Robert Burns birthday and the celebration and will include it on El Morno the 25th. Thanks for sharing and thanks to your British friend too! When are you going to visit?

    1. I would come visit you, too, if you lived in a thatched roof cottage. I would love to go to England to visit my friend.

      If you add Robert Burns’ birthday to El Morno and decide to make haggis, please don’t tell your son I suggested it!

  3. Jean

    I am Scottish and Haggis is the one of the best foods you can eat! – delicious, especially with a Whisky sauce over it!

    1. Whiskey sauce! I didn’t read anything about that! I’d rather have it on a biscuit, but it does make haggis sound a tad more interesting! Did you buy it readymade or make it from scratch? (The haggis, not the whiskey sauce.)

  4. My son (yes, the one who was the pickiest of picky eaters as a kid) decided that a Scotland trip would not be complete without eating haggis. And so he tried it. He said it wasn’t too bad if you had enough Scotch to wash it down.

    Somehow I’m not surprised that you are a hot dog lover. I very rarely eat one, but if I ever got a terminal illness, I would die happy eating as many hot dogs as I wanted as often as I wanted. Right up to the end.

  5. Delphinium in front of a thatched cottage makes me go all “Lark Rise To Candleford”! I’d prefer scones and cucumber sandwiches and lemon curd tarts, though. Let’s skip the Burns and go straight to an Austen tea, shall we? Wot, wot?

  6. I agree with The Kitchen Witch- blech! I couldn’t eat the haggis, and I too am part Scotish. The rest of the meal sounds fine and the location is beautiful!

  7. Yeah, dogs. They’ll eat anything. No accounting for their taste buds. Geez, I hope she didn’t say that to anyone else. No wonder they’re making excuses.
    Well, I confess, if she invited me, I’d go, breathe through my mouth, have the booze handy and swallow fast. Just in case. Who knows? You might like it. I sure wouldn’t miss an evening at that smashing cottage!
    Find a tartan scarf, my dear…what could be more perfect?

  8. Despite having married the son of Glaswegians (and he wore a kilt to our wedding), I have never tried haggis and have no plans to do so. Deep fried Mars Bar, that other Scottish delicacy, is definitely on my list.

    LOVE thatched cottages!!!!!!

  9. Pingback: Opposite Day, Burns Supper, Irish Coffee Day

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