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Burns Supper: Scottish Haggis

Burns Supper celebrations take place around the world each year on January 25, when Scotland's iconic national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) is commemorated. He is most known for his poetry that celebrates his ethnic past while also addressing societal issues.

Nine of his friends convened in 1801, five years after his death, to find a way to remember him. The first Burns supper was held in July of the same year. Much later, the formal Burns Supper was established on January 25, which also happens to be Burns’ birthday.

The centerpiece of any good Burns' Supper menu is the iconic haggis, or as the bard himself described it in his poem Address to a Haggis, 'the 'great chieftain o' the puddin'-race'. You can buy this from your local butcher, deli, supermarket or nearest Scottish store if you live overseas.

Traditional accompaniments to the haggis are neeps and tatties or as they are more commonly known - turnip and potatoes. These are normally served mashed.

Image Source: Historic UK

The national dish Scottish Haggis consists of a sheep's stomach stuffed with diced innards. Haggis is typically served with root vegetables as mentioned previously: potatoes and turnips.

To be a little more precise, a haggis is normally made up of the following ingredients: a sheep’s ‘pluck’ (its heart, liver and lungs), minced with onions, oatmeal, suet, salt and spices, all mixed with a stock and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for around an hour. As unpleasant as this may sound, the end result is a culinary masterpiece which should of course be washed down with a ‘dram’ of the national drink.

The exact historical origins of this great national dish appear to have been lost thrroughout time. Some claim that the dish originates from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers, when the men would leave the Highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh and the women would prepare a ‘ready meal’ for them to eat on the long journey through the glens.

Others have speculated that the first haggis was carried to Scotland aboard a Viking longboat.

Another theory ties the dish to pre-historic origins, as a way of cooking and preserving offal (the entrails and internal organs of an animal used as food) that would otherwise quickly spoil following a hunt.

This was done by dicing the ‘pluck’ and then stuffing this and whatever other ingredients were available into the stomach, immersing the bundle in the water contained within the skin of the beast and then boiling for an hour or two. Nice and tidy, no washing-up required!

You may be wondering what Burns Supper ultimately revolves around. Burns supper revolves around the celebration of life, food, socializing, and revelry!


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