It’s Burns Night, Bring on the Haggis

by Jeanne


"Haggis have all got the best of ingredients."

James Pirie, Scotland’s Oldest Butcher & Winner of 2005 Haggis Championship

Poet, and one might have to suppose, a bon vivant of his day in Scotland. Robert Burns’ birthday revolves around drinking whiskey, eating haggis, reciting poetry and singing a few songs. Today is Burns Night celebrating the bard’s birthday, and it is enjoyed by millions of people around the world who salute the ”immortal memory” with haggis, pipes, whiskey and women.

The evening usually begins with whiskey cocktails bearing such odd names as Rusty Nail, Scotch Buck, Scottish Sunset or a Scottish Cobbler.  Following this start a traditional Burns Supper can be divided up into three parts. This traditional order of events is known as the Bill o’ Fare. 

  • Food (including the Address to the Haggis)
  • The ‘Immortal Memory’ (a fun, witty speech, referencing Burns– his life and work)
  • Various songs, readings and music to end the night

As to the food the first course is a soup, usually Cock-a-leekie or Cullen Skink.  But the central focus comes with the main course of Haggis with Champit Tatties and Bashed Neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips),  beginning with the Haggis Ceremony. This is arguably the best part of the night. Everyone stands, and the chef carries the haggis high on a platter from the kitchen, accompanied by a bagpiper (or fiddler). Everyone, including the piper, is poured a whiskey and raises their glasses in a toast to the haggis, saying ‘Slainte mhath’, pronounced ‘slan-je va’ and meaning ‘your good health’. The host or a guest then reads the poem To a Haggis.

Haggis is, the national dish of Scotland.  It tastes and looks a bit, so I’m told, like a boudin  but instead of rice there is oats, or perhaps somewhat more like a Cajun dish called paunce, which is stuffed pork stomach.  I’ve also heard it’s similar to scrapple. Haggis is under examination these days for possibly contributing to obesity in children.

Surprisingly, after all this drinking and eating a traditional dessert is served which is a sherry trifle called a Typsy Laird occasionally a popular pudding called Cranachan, made of oatmeal, fruit, cream and whiskey served with shortbread.