It’s January 25. Robert Burns’ day. Scots (and those of Scottish heritage) the world over will celebrate the great poet’s birthday this week by holding a Burns Supper.
It’s typically an affair of much pomp and circumstance and although Burns maintained it should be a celebration of internationalism and universal brotherhood, kilts and tartan all too often proliferate.
You don’t have to go to such great lengths to have your own Burns’ Day Dinner. But there are a few simple observations that can ensure a little authenticity and fun.
A simple soup, Scotch Broth, starts the meal. But you could also serve an appetizer as a prelude to the main.
Boiled Haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) should, of course, be the star of the supper. At the big affairs, the haggis is piped in and the master of ceremonies recites Burns’ Address to a Haggis. The poem concludes with everyone raising a dram of Single Malt Scotch in salute. Some even soak their fair plump puddin in it.
For dessert, trifle or a simple platter of scones and cheese, or clotted cream and jam, accompanies a chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne. Nobody would blame you if you served up a batch of Deep Fried Mars Bars though.
Scotch. There’s has to be scotch. Single Malt. Preferably 12 Year Old. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, with its distinctively fresh fruit nose, and butterscotch, cream, malt and oak flavours pairs delightfully well with haggis. If you want to get all particular about it, you could even choose something from Burns’ native lowlands like Auchentoshan or Glenkinchie.
But for those who prefer beer, there are many fine Scottish Ales available locally.
Poetry. Also a must. Any Burns will do, but Address to a Haggis is a must. But if you’re like me, you lack the linguistic limberness to recite in it’s original form. Thankfully, here’s a translation:
Address to a Haggis
Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm
The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill
Your skewer would help to repair a mill
In time of need
While through your pores the juices emerge
Like amber beads
His knife having seen hard labour wipes
And cuts you up with great skill
Digging into your gushing insides bright
Like any ditch
And then oh what a glorious sight
Warm steaming, rich
Then spoon for spoon
They stretch and strive
Devil take the last man, on they drive
Until all their well swollen bellies
Are bent like drums
Then, the old gent most likely to rift (burp)
Be thanked, mumbles
Is there that over his French Ragout
Or olio that would sicken a pig
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust
Looks down with a sneering scornful opinion
On such a dinner
Poor devil, see him over his trash
As week as a withered rush (reed)
His spindle-shank a good whiplash
His clenched fist.the size of a nut.
Through a bloody flood and battle field to dash
Oh how unfit
But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He’ll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles
You powers who make mankind your care
And dish them out their meals
Old Scotland wants no watery food
That splashes in dishes
But if you wish her grateful prayer
Give her a haggis!