Address Thy Haggis!

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.

The Menu

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.

The Toast

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!

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