Friday 25th January 2013 was Robbie Burns Night.
Since a friend of ours has Scottish ancestry we decided to attempt to become honorary Scots for an evening and try out the traditional Burns Night meal of haggis, tatties and neeps.
Robert (Robbie) Burns Day as born on the 25th January 1759 and Wikipedia tells me that:
He was a bard (poet) and wrote many poems, lyrics and other pieces that addressed political and civil issues.
Perhaps his best known work is “Auld Lang Syne”, which is sung at New Year’s Eve celebrations in Scotland, parts of the United Kingdom, and other places around the world.
Burns is one of Scotland’s important cultural icons and is well known among Scottish expats or descendants around the world.
He is also known as: “Rabbie Burns”; the “Bard of Ayrshire”; “Scotland’s favourite son”; and in Scotland “The Bard”.
Burns Night celebrates his life and poetry and like the Sint Patrick’s Day celebration in Ireland and Thanksgiving Day in North America tradition dictates that a special menu is adhered to.
Many types of food are associated with Burns’ Night. These include: cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup); haggis; neeps (mashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes); cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served with sweet oat wafers); and bannocks (a kind of bread cooked on a griddle). Whisky is the traditional drink.
Our friends provided the cock-a-leekie soup, haggis and neeps whilst we took care of the tatties. I have to confess that I deviated from the plan somewhat and instead of just providing plain mashed boiled spuds.
This is because we also invited two neighbours to join us and one of them is vegetarian so I thought plain mash would be a little too boring (humble apologies to any Scottish folk reading this). Therefore I made two lots of mash: one a half/half of parsnips and potatoes, the other was a mash-up of spinach, leeks and potatoes.
I also apparently committed a cardinal sin by adding some vegetarian gravy to the menu, (apparently gravy of any sort is a definite no-no), but I thought things would be a little too plain without it so tradition or no tradition, made it anyway.
There was also a vegetarian haggis but I didn’t try it myself because it contained mushrooms, to which I am severely allergic. The verdict from our vegetarian friend was however that it was delicious.
Our friend with the Scottish ancestry arrived wearing his kilt in the family tartan but declined to reveal if he was being truly Scottish when it came to what was (or was not) being worn underneath it.
After a good giggle and a few jokes we let that question go unanswered deciding that there was 50% chance that the answer may well be “too much information”
The cock-a-leekie soup was delicious, and then came the time to “Address the Haggis”.
This involves a special poem (outlined on the Wiki page in the link below) and many giggles ensued as the six adults and Kiwidutch kids did their best to read a verse each. Our mispronunciations as we mashed our way though it, complimented perfectly the tatties and neeps on the menu rather well I thought.
Willing to “have a go”, I tried the haggis as a new taste experience… bleck! Sorry but I’m not a fan of either the taste or the texture. Himself on the other hand was delighted to polish off the rest of my helping and more, happily going back for seconds.
Needless to say the friends with Scottish ancestry enthusiastically joined Himself in the “more for us” camp and the Kiwidutch kids lived up to their fame as fussy eaters and simply refrained without trying it at all.
Since this celebration was very much a last-minute get together and we were rather less than perfectly organised, dessert consisted of biscuits (cookies) commandeered from an Ex-Pat shop near the centre of town.
The entire evening was filled with laughter and the delight of trying something new. Before it ended we were already planning a similar celebration for Burns Night next year. Och aye laddies and lassies, this has been a tradition we aim to celebrate again!