The last time I was in Scotland, I was lucky enough to be served a meal of haggis with a steaming side order of neeps and tatties (swedes and potatoes).
Which goes to show how long ago I was north of the border, because I gave up eating meat back when Michael Jackson was still wearing his own nose.
Anyway, a pub I walk past twice a day informs me it’s Burns Night, when Scots gather to commemorate Robbie Burns, recite poetry to a swollen sack of sheep’s guts, slash it mercilessly with a knife and get hammered on whiskey.
The ritual also apparently involves some bagpiping, cock-a-leekie soup and tartan-clad fumbling on the dance floor.
The first Burns Suppers were started by close friends of the poet after his death in 1796. Inspired by Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis, an enthusiastic ode to the hunk of cooked intestines, the suppers came to be held on the bard’s birthday on 25 January. Nowadays the event has been pretty much hijacked by the tourist board who market it with as much gusto as shortbread, thistle and Sean Connery.
Unlike the latter, it wouldn’t win any beauty contests – and of course it wouldn’t get anywhere near my semi-veggie lips now – but I recall enjoying the oaten offal/root veggie combo all those years ago (even if it did hug me from the inside and cling to my thighs). These days, it makes some interesting appearances in Scottish cuisine all year round, including haggis cannelloni, haggis samosas, haggis nachos and even deep-fried haggis (presumably alongside that other Scottish delicacy, deep-fried Mars bars). And yes, there’s even a veggie one.
It might be a bridge too far to track down a veggie haggis in Bristol, but at least we can sup a wee dram in honour of Mr Burns. Might even do the Animator’s man flu the world of good…