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Ode to a Haggis

January 24, 2011

Coming off a weekend bearing such a serious topic, I decided to forage into the joy that is Robert Burns’ poetic works, as all around the world, Scots (and faux-Scots) celebrate the 252nd Burns Birthday, and bringing to light that Crown Jewel of Highland cuisine: The Haggis.

The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialized as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” (yellow turnip or rutabaga, and potatoes, boiled and mashed separately) and a “dram” (i.e. a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper. However it is also often eaten with other accompaniments.

Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck‘ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach. Haggis is a kind of sausage, or savory pudding cooked in a casing of sheep’s intestine, as many sausages are. Although its description is not ‘immediately appealing’, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savory flavor (personally, I rather like how haggis breaks up the monotony of every day meals, and done well, is enjoyable).

So to accompany that vision of intestinal turmoil, here is Rabbie Burns’ masterpiece (with translation into regular English): 

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,        (Fair full your honest, jolly face,)
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!    (Great chieftain of the sausage race!)
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,       (Above them all you take your place,)
Painch, tripe, or thairm:                     (Stomach, tripe, or intestines:)
Weel are ye wordy of a grace            (Well are you worthy of a grace)
As lang’s my arm                                (As long as my arm.)

The groaning trencher there ye fill,   (The groaning trencher there you fill,)
Your hurdies like a distant hill,           (Your buttocks like a distant hill,)
You pin wad help to mend a mill        (Your pin would help to mend a mill)
In time o’need                                     (In time of need,)
While thro’ your pores the dews distil  (While through your pores the dews distill)
Like amber bead                                 (Like amber bead.)

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,       (His knife see rustic Labour wipe,)
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight,          (And cut you up with ready slight,)
Trenching your gushing entrails bright  (Trenching your gushing entrails bright,)              
Like onie ditch;                                    (Like any ditch;)
And then, O what a glorious sight,     (And then, O what a glorious sight,)
Warm-reeking, rich!                           (Warm steaming, rich!) 

Then, horn for horn they stretch an’ strive,  (Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:)
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive, (Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,)
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes believe  (Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by)
Are bent like drums;                           (Are bent like drums;)
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive  (Then old Master of the house, most like to burst,)
Bethankit hums                                   (‘The grace!’ hums)

Is there that owre his French ragout, (Is there that over his French ragout,)
Or olio that wad staw a sow,              (Or olio that would sicken a sow,)
Or fricassee wad mak her spew         (Or fricassee would make her throw-up)
Wi’ perfect sconner,                           (With perfect disgust,)
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view  (Looks down with sneering, scornful view)
On sic a dinner?                                  (On such a dinner?)

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,    (Poor devil! see him over his trash,)
As feckless as a wither’d rash             (As feeble as a withered rush,)
His spindle-shank a guid whip-lash,    (His thin legs a good whip-lash,)
His nieve a nit;                                                (His fist a nut;)
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,     (Through bloody flood or field to dash,)
O how unfit!                                        (O how unfit.)

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,        (But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,)
The trembling earth resounds his tread,  (The trembling earth resounds his tread,)
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,          (Clap in his ample fist a blade,)
He’ll mak it whissle;                            (He will make it whistle;)
An’ legs, an’ arms an’ heads will sned,  (And legs, and arms, and heads will crop)
Like taps o’ thrissle                             (Like tops of thistle.) 

Ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,  (You powers, who make mankind your care,)
An’ dish them out their bill o’fare,     (And dish them out their bill of fare,)
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware  (Old Scotland want no watery ware,)
That jaups in luggies;                          (That splashes in small wooden dishes;)
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r,     (But is you wish her grateful prayer,)
Gie her a Haggis!                                (Give her a Haggis!)

Pass the Scotch…


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