ODE TO A HAGGIS
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
You pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead
His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn they stretch an’ strive,
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash
His spindle-shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle
Ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
An’ dish them out their bill o’fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r,
Gie her a Haggis!
Good luck translating that lot 🙂
Growing up I often went to Sunday School at my local Presbyterian Church that my mum attended. I can remember my mum being involved in organising a special dinner at some point. Now forgive me please, we are talking over 25 years ago now, these are somewhat distant memories. The Presbyterian Church is of course of Scottish origin, so this dinner was to be Scottish in nature. This was the first time I came across ‘Haggis’ as my mother searched for some way to include it in a dinner in a small town in the south-west of New South Wales in the early 80s. I can’t remember what was in it, let alone if it ever made it to the table, something about a sheep’s stomach comes to mind but that’s about it …and probably just as well my memory failed me on that one.
Of course this trip is all about learning things, so I could hardly come to Scotland without giving a few things a go, one of those being haggis. Other than shortbread or porridge, I’m not sure of much else that is notably Scottish. We needed somewhere to eat and despite not feeling well, we sat down in ‘Number 27’ in Inverness Scotland for our dinner. There were many tempting dishes to choose from, but I bravely chose the one with some of this traditional fare (let’s face it, I couldn’t feel much worse afterwards).
So, what was it like? I didn’t really know what to expect. I had a round slice of what really seemed to be like a ‘stuffing’, bready and cakey in texture and well seasoned. It didn’t eally taste like anything distinguishable, though perhaps it just didn’t stand out amongst the gravy and chicken. I certainly didn’t find myself gagging and refusing to eat more than just a bite, though perhaps if I had researched earlier I might not have even tried it. So what is haggis? A savoury type pudding containing sheep’s ‘pluck’, offal of heart, liver and lungs -ewww! It is combined with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and stock and then traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach (these days commercial sausage casings are used) and simmered for a few hours.
Once a popular dish to the poor (given it was very cheap to make yet nourishing), it is still commonly found on menus today in many ways from the traditional variety to commerically tinned, or used in other ways such as pie fillings or deep fried in batter. The national dish of Scotland …they can keep this one 😉
Incidentally, ‘Clapshot’ is a traditional Scottish dish often served with haggis or other Scottish meals. It is created by mashed swede turnips and potatoes (“neeps and tatties”) with the addition of chives, butter or dripping, salt and pepper and some versions include onions …so there you go!