Happy Birthday, Rabbie Burns! Who Wants Haggis? Buchanan Arms Pub & Restaurant. January 25th. Tix Still Available. (Repost from 2010)
"Alba Gu Bra! (Scotland Forever!)" chanted the outnumbered Scottish fighters over and over again in the face of certain death at the hands of a massive, menacing and merciless English army. This famous scene in the film Braveheart has us remember how ballsy the Scots are on the battlefield and off, as is the case with haggis. A braveheart, however, is no good here. How about a bravebelly.
Haggis, neeps (mashed parsnips) & tatties (mashed potatoes).
Haggis is one of the most infamously avoided delicacies ever outside its country of origin. Actor Mike Myers quipped, in the comedy So I Married an Axe Murderer, that "Scottish food is based on a dare."
So feared is this haggis that it is banned, to this very day, from import into the United States, and not just because of Mad Cow or BSE which applies to imported British lamb as well. This ban is a 21 year-old ban based on a USDA rule against any food made with sheep's lung. Aaarrr, yes, haggis is made with sheep's lung! In the interest of full gnarly disclosure, haggis is made from the "pluck" of the sheep which includes the animal's heart, lungs and liver. Called the "pluck" because long ago, during meat processing, butchers would reach into the sheep and pluck out those specific organs in one move.
The offal trio is then minced and mixed with an oatmeal filler, suet, onions, stock and various seasonings (usually a secret because each clan has its own recipe). Next, this hot mess is stuffed into the sheep's stomach. However, in the U.S., even in very independent Burbank, California, stomach is substituted with a synthetic casing, in fact, a really, really huge sausage casing.
Rarely can you find haggis in a U.S. restaurant. If you look hard enough, you might buy it in specialty European delis or food shops around town, but it usually comes in a can. However, the one time a year when freshly cooked haggis may be available at a pub near you is on Burns Night.
Get in me belly, Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Every January 25th, the birthday of the Scottish Poet and favorite son, Robert Burns, is celebrated in Scotland and all over the world. The party is also known as a "haggis fete" because haggis is the star of the night and Burns' famous poem Address to a Haggis is the main event.
On Burns Night, once a respectable quantity of Scottish ale and Scotch has been consumed (and, by "respectable" I mean a BevMo lot!), a crescendo is reached and the haggis is paraded out on a platter preceded by bombastic bagpipes blaring something offally catchy and will not leave your head for days.
Real men wear skirts.
When the haggis reaches the stage where the official reading of Address to a Haggis will be recited, the raucous room miraculously comes to a hush.
Moira the Haggis Slayer.
The poem builds up to the line "An' cut you up wi' ready slight" which is when the haggis blade is unsheathed and plunged into the haggis liberating the steam and spilling forth the internal delights of the blackface sheep. The entire room goes haggis wild including me.
I drink another shot of Scotch and chase it with a beer and vice versa. After a while the order of the drink didn't matter much. All I know is that haggis tastes better with every sip of booze. Haggis is also helped with a spicy horseradish mustard like an Inglehoffer.
Haggis tastes like chopped liver, but, oh, don't you dismiss it as only that. It's the king of sausages. The "Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!" Sure, some sausages get the star treatment at small town sausage festivals. But, I ask you, how many get its very own night of absolute and unbridled pagan worship? Zero.
Haggis Gu Bra!! Haggis Forever!!! This night, Burns Night, we are all Scots.
Buchanan Arms Pub & Restaurant
2013 West Burbank Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91506
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Burns, Baby, Burns! from Eddie Lin on Vimeo.