Ode to the Haggis


A feast may be the best way to be remembered. Every year Scots celebrate Burns Night to honor the poet Robert Burns. He was born 1759 in Alloway, Scotland and is today known for his poetry… and his prowess with the ladies (increased by his romantic poetry).

“As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
 So deep in luve am I:
 And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
Till a’ the seas gang dry: 

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
 And the rocks melt wi’ the sun: 
I will luve thee still, my dear,
 While the sands o’ life shall run.” – A Red, Red Rose

…hence the 12 children with four different women.

Scotch communities gather together to put on a dinner with haggis, whisky between courses, and three different odes: to the haggis, to the lassies, and to the laddies. The tradition itself is historically and politically significant. Burns was not only a lover of women, he also believed in women’s rights. The ode that women stand up and give was one of the first opportunities for women to speak publicly.

A Scottish student, in his kilt of course, was bagpiping outside the door where the dinner was held. We took our seats at long wooden tables and looked around at the imposing stone chapel. It was lit up by candelabras, with light dancing off the faces on the stained windows and the sound of the bagpipes echoing off the walls. We let ourselves be served: soup, bread, wine, the famous haggis, potatoes, steak, and pudding over three hours.

The best moment of the night was the March of the Haggis. Yes, I did say the March of the Haggis. I think they may be making it into a dramatic documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman.

All at once, in between soup and steak, there came the blaring of the bagpipes from outside the chapel door again. We all turned to watch as a stately procession made it’s way through the chapel. First the student in the kilt came in blowing his bagpipe. Then the chef came proudly striding into the chapel with the haggis nestled on a platter in his arms. He held that mix of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs like it was his firstborn baby. Finally the Scottish girl specially selected to offer the Ode to the Haggis followed them in. The parade made a long slow walk to the hall high table. There, the Scottish girl told the haggis just how wonderful it really was. A few choice lines:

“His knife see rustic Labour dight, An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like ony ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm-reekin’, rich!”

It was about as Scottish as I could imagine. In fact, any more Scottish and I wouldn’t have been able to understand the 1 in 4 words that I could figure out.

And no, I did not try the haggis. The glorious sight of the gushing entrails on the platter was enough for me.

always, truly, sincerely


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