Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Burns Night: How have I missed this gem?

Och Aye Robbie.  So young and pink of cheek.  
I am gutted.

Totally devastated.

To think I have, until now been totally in ignorance of Burns Day.  A day to dress up in kilts and long red wigs and play the bagpipes and eat haggis.

Clearly, all my favourite things in one place...not.  Yet, strangely compelling.  Based on Facebook activity from that evening, everyone was going to one, except me.  The costumes were hilarious.

Robbie Burns is a famous Scottish poet who died at the very young age of 38 leaving behind him (as well as a wife and small children) an impressive work of poetry and songs.

His birthday was 25 January 1759.  The night before Australia Day.  And I missed it.

He's the guy who wrote Auld Lang Syne.

He wrote a poem called Ode To A Haggis, which runs to about 8 verses.  Who'd have thought you could write so much about a haggis?  And it includes the word spew.  Who'd have thought you could use the word spew in a respected poem.  In the 18th Century.  Spew has been around as a word for over 300 years.

Wow.  I've no idea why this excited me so much, but it does.

And when you host a Burns night, there's an order of procedings you must follow.  It's very strict.

Not only do you have to eat haggis, you have to recite the Ode to it.   If I'm hosting one, I'm thinking of replacing the main course and just hoping that Robbie doesn't turn in his grave.

A haggis, in the traditional sense is a sheep's heart, liver and lungs, cooked with onion, oatmeal, spices and stock, all wrapped up in the poor sheep's stomach.  These days they serve them in sausage skin rather than stomachs.  Like that makes a difference to the total revoltingness.

I love the idea of Burns night, but the haggis bit concerns me.  Mike likes haggis, which is also a concern.  Because it's offal.  

Here is the outline of how the evening should flow.  It has a strict traditional order, a version of which I've set out below, inspired by Wikipedia.

Start of the evening: welcome your guests, give them a Scotch whisky (could I substitute champs?) and let them mingle.

Host's welcoming speech: tell everyone how glad you are they came, laugh at everyone's kilts and wigs, throw in nae, and bonnie and other vaguely scottish phrases.  Anyhoo?

Supper: Even though you get to start with something tasty like Scotch Broth, this is where you have to eat the haggis.  This bit worries me, am seriously considering a nice lamb roast as mentioned above.  Don't want to lose authenticity, but don't want to 'spew' either.

Before you eat, you all have to stand up as it's brought in, accompanied by bagpipe music, and you must say this Grace, which some attribute to Burns, and others say he just made some adjustments to.

'Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it:
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.'

Very nice.  Straight to the point.  Be grateful people.

Then you have to recite the Ode to the Haggis.  It basically disses every other food as fit only for livestock and says haggis is the only thing you'd ever want to eat.

Each to their own yes?
Yuck. Just...yuck.
Supper: Lamb? Not haggis? Still sheep related.  Should I write an Ode to Lamb?  I am not talented in this regard.  It's supposed to come with mashed potato (taties) and turnips (neeps).

Immortal Memory: someone gets up and talks about Burns, his poems, songs or makes a recitation.  Nice.

Appreciation: The host gets up and says thanks to the Immortal Memory person. 

Toast to the Lassies: Traditionally the womenfolk are thanked for all their hard work in preparing the meal. Assuming of course, these days, that it was the women.  This bit can get a bit cheeky.  Therefore there must be a response.

Reply to the toast to the Lassies: One of those hard working womenfolk give it right back to the men. 

Works by Burns: Anyone who fancies can get up and recite something by the great man.  Just in writing this blog, I've come across some of his stuff, and a great deal of it is quite rude, with references to all sorts of body parts and acts I had not associated with poetry.  I like the man.  

Closing: The host brings the evening to a close.  Tells everyone to stop drinking their expensive whiskey and go home.  

Are you still with me?  If you are, expect an invitation for next years event.  No haggis, promise.