Upon receiving a text from my Scottish friend last week inviting me to a Burns night supper, I stared at my phone blankly, not comprehending her request. After a brief education and the assurance that there would be a vegetarian haggis option available, I arrived at her door on Friday night wielding a bottle of wine, ready to experience this Scottish tradition.
A hasty Google search of Robert Burns on Friday afternoon (to avoid appearing culturally ignorant, despite the fact that I was) led to some interesting discoveries: Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne which is now the third most popular song in the English language. He was the first person to appear on a commemorative bottle of Coca-Cola in 2009, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger is a direct descendent of his.
Armed with my newfound Burns knowledge, I felt qualified to join the celebrations. Our supper began with a trio of starters: black pudding, Scotch broth and smoked salmon. I have tried black pudding once before and although the flavour is quite nice, my taste buds simply could not override the knowledge of what it is made from. In the spirit of celebrating authentically I sampled a bite of it on Friday night, but I mostly just enjoyed the salmon and Scotch broth.
The main course consisted of haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (mashed root vegetables), a traditional Burns night combination. Thankfully, our host kindly bought a vegetarian version of haggis, but before we were allowed to tuck into the meal we all had to read a section of Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis‘ poem, which none of us understood but which we all had great fun reciting in terrible Scottish accents. I tasted a bite of the real haggis, but as with the black pudding my brain couldn’t appreciate the flavour. My vegetarian haggis was quite delicious though (it tasted very much like stuffing, which I love), and accompanying the main course was a glass of Scotch Whiskey.
We did have a delicious dessert, but I’m not sure small pastries are considered traditionally Scottish. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my Burns night experience, although I doubt I will ever be a fan of black pudding or haggis!
Have you celebrated Burns night? Do you eat haggis?