Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I must admit, I knew this day was coming.  Part of me is excited, and the other part is fearful.  Here I am in Scotland, so what is the one food you MUST try.  Our hosts are gracious enough to cook it up for us to enjoy.  The whole feast:  haggis, neeps, AND tatties. 

Not quite what I pictured, haggis comes as a tiny little frozen ball about the size of your fist.  Sealed in the stomach to keep it all contained, but swelling as it cooks.  When it done in all it's haggisy-goodness, you pierce the stomach and an eruption of steam and bits burst forth. 

Now of all the things I'm most looking forward to on these travels is experience new tastes and trying new foods.  That's one thing when it's pastries and cheese in France, pizza in Italy, and baklava in Greece.  It's quite another when you're in Scotland.  I don't know what it is about haggis.  Years of 2nd hand stories...strange images...imagined tastes.  Haggis has turned into one of the nastiest things I could dream of consuming.  Visions of twisted intestines sliming on my plate.  As someone who's never eaten 'giblets' or organs, it's very hard for me.  The ingredients of haggis are the sheep's OFFAL (internal organs).  Now, as hard as I try, I just cannot get it out of my head that that sounds exactly like AWFUL.  The innards are offal, or pluck:  heart, lungs, and liver are minced along with onion, suet, oatmeal and spices.  Then stuffed into a sheep's stomach or intestine - YUM!  Most likely created as a cheap meal (I wonder why lung isn't a choice cut of meat?), as well as a great way to use of leftover parts without waste.  It has become the quintessential Scottish food.  But even so, most Scots only eat it once a year on Rabbie Burns day - January 25th.

Brian has a slightly different legend of how haggis came to be which has nothing to do with those listed above.  Instead, he believes there were a bunch of drunk Scotsmen sitting  around one evening playing a game of 'dare' when one said 'I bet i can make something you'll never eat...'

Really, it should just be like a sausage (although we don't usually use intestines anymore).  Oh but wait...sausage uses actual meat, and haggis uses...offal. 

So I muster up all my Campbell roots and plunge in.  On first taste it's kinda like ground beef that's been heavily spiced with pepper.  But then a thought flits through my head which remembers the actual ingredients, and I just know that chewy chunk that's stuck in my teeth is a piece of lung.  That causes the flavour looses a bit of favor.  But still I press on.  Mind over matter because it really does taste good!  So good that I ate my whole plate full.  It's even better mushed up with some neeps and tatties.  Don't know if I'll be rushing out to have it again anytime soon, or if it will make my top 10 favourite meals, but I'm glad I tried it. 

Now when we go out cycling this weekend I'll be looking for the mysterious and allusive little animal that lives in the highlands:  haggis.  Perfectly suited for the hilly terrain, one set of legs is shorter than the other so they can stand level on the mountains.  Too bad they can only travel in one direction and can never leave the mountain they were born on...

And if you're interested in more about haggis, here's a great video when you can see this scrumptious meal being prepared.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6PKMex6ZFs

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lindsayholmes on


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