26 January 2011

Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night in Edinburgh; festive celebrations abound! What are we celebrating? Why, the life of Robert Burns, of course!

Robert Burns was a poet who lived in Edinburgh from 1759 to 1796. He wrote many famous poems, notably Auld Lang Syne. Speaking of which, that's partially why he's so famous: he wrote in and celebrated the native Scottish tongue, opposing the preferred King's English of the time and instead embracing his heritage.

Today, his life is celebrated with speeches and recitations of his poetry, dances, eating, and drinking. Our group decided to keep it pretty low-key tonight: we met up for haggis at Deacon Brodie's, a favorite restaurant of ours right on the Royal Mile, and then hung out at the downstairs pub for a bit afterward. (Other restaurants and pubs go all out, having someone read all of his odes before each new course. And of course, whisky is quite common.) Here is his satire about haggis:

Address to A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face
Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place
Painch, tripe, or thairm
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill
Your hurdies like a distant hill
Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o' need
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead

His knife see rustic-labour dight
An' cut you up wi' ready slight
Trenching your gushing entrails bright

Like onie ditch
And then, O what a glorious sight
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn they stretch an' strive
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive

Bethankit hums

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash
As feckless as a wither'd rash
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash
His nieve a nit

Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clap in his walie nieve a blade
He'll mak it whissle
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care
And dish them out their bill o' fare
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies
But, if you wish her gratefu' pray'r
Gie her a Haggis!

That roughly translates to,

"Greetings, you are a superior food and are worthy of a grace as long as my arm.
You fill the plate so well and look so sturdy. Your juices are as inviting as whisky.
See the knife cut you, allowing your insides to flow. A glorious sight and aroma.
Then spoon after spoon they stretch and strain.
It is every man for himself because there will be none left for the slow ones, until all their stomachs are full and fit to burst.

Is there anybody who eats foreign food who would look down disdainfully at this dinner.
Poor souls, if they do. They will be poor thin creatures, not fit for anything.
But if you eat Haggis, you will be strong, robust and fit for battle.
God, who looks after us and feeds us, Scotland does not want food with sauce that splashes in dishes. But if you want a grateful prayer then give her a Haggis," according to robertburns.plus.com

Linked to the title of this blog is a nice explanation (or lack thereof) of Burns Night from The Guardian a few days ago.

My (vegetarian, of course) haggis was DELICIOUS! I will definitely be ordering it again. (And for those of you who are curious, I have yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed the traditional, meaty version.) Haggis is traditionally, yes, sheep intestine filled with meat and chopped onions and spices. Sounds gross, but apparently, it's tasty. It's served with "tatties and neeps," or mashed potatoes and turnips/swedes. They are to be eaten all together, i.e. a bit of each on the fork for each bite.

Here I am gathering the three, picking them up, and then biting into them. I cleaned my plate!!

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