Sunday, 30 November 2008

St Andrew's Day

And a big event in Scotland. To help them celebrate, a bit from TTel on all things haggis:

1. Give it some of that Je ne sais quoi

No lesser person than the head chef of the Savoy responded to Mr Tremlet, with some mouthwatering Gallic refinements to his serving suggestions:

May I be permitted to point out that it is more appropriate and much more satisfactory to make a double cut in the form of a St Andrew's Cross in the skin of the haggis, instead of the single incision that Mr Tremlett advocates? In this way the skin will open like the petals of a flower.
Last year for St Andrew's Night I conceived the idea of serving a pumpkin puree instead, and this innovation was favourably received. On Monday - St Andrew's Night - I propose offering Le Veloute de Marrons Robbie Burns - a light chestnut puree, the flavour of which blends well with that of the haggis, and which, I feel, is even more attractive than the pumpkin, and certainly more so than the potato puree

2. March it round the table, then give it to a foreigner

In June 1914, some French and Belgium journalists on a tour of British health resorts, were treated to a traditional feast by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh:
Two pipers preceded the dish of haggis, and the procession marched slowly round the hall four times. At the conclusion the pipers were handed each a glass of whisky. With this they gave the famous toast, first in Gaelic and then in English, "Here's a health to the glens, the fens, and the fighting men." The visitors were enraptured, and "Vive l'Haggis! " was their verdict

3. Eat something else instead

Wartime shortages hit the 1918 Burns Night dinner in London, guest speaker John Buchan:
There was no haggis, the guests having to be content with an Italian dish, which, however, was played in by the pipers. The haggis had been ordered from Scotland, but owing to the food restrictions there the necessary ingredients were not forthcoming, and the haggis could not be made. "It is one of the misfortunes of having a Welsh Food Controller," said the Chairman. "Had he been of another nationality the haggis might have been saved."

4. Just chuck it on the floor, why not

Downfall of a haggis, November 30, 1935
Disaster befell a haggis last night at the annual dinner of the St. Andrew's Club of London held at Grosvenor House and attended by 500 Scots. The haggis was being carried round the dining hall on a trencher in traditional fashion by two chefs to the strains of Brose and Butter, played by Pipe Major Douglas Taylor, of The King's Own Scottish Borderers, when the chefs, apparently overcome by the enthusiastic reception of the assembled Scots, accidentally tilted the platter and the Chieftain of the Puddin' Race dropped on the floor. It bounced but did not burst.

5. Or see who can throw it furthest

Bad blood across Hadrian's Wall has soured the finals of the third World Haggis Hurling Championships. Officials of the sport's governing body, the World Haggis Hurling Association (WHHA), said last night that it might be forced to declare a Scottish and an English team joint swinners of this year's event after a dispute over a tie-break
Extra time dispute splits haggis hurlers, October 3, 1980

6. Eat it every day ???

Mr Donald Norris, of Portland Place, wrote an indignant letter to say that he'd phoned round six of London's leading hotels to ask if Haggis was on the menu for Burns Night. "The reply was in each case in the negative ... Are the Scotsmen of London really so lacking in patriotic spirit that there is no demand for their special dish on such an occasion?"
The manager of the Caledonian Club wrote back reassuringly:
Not only was the haggis served on Burns Day, but it - with bashed neeps - is on the menu of the Caldonian Club on practically every day from September till May - while neeps are available

7. Slice it up in a bun

Sir, It is time your readers (including, it seems, some Scots who ought to know better) were disabused of the quaint idea that haggis is some kind of Celtic ceremonial dish, like peacocks' tongues, reserved for special celebrations and great occasions.
Despite the impression created abroad by the embarrassing Burns Supper ritual, haggis has always been a daily staple of the Scottish diet, eaten in various forms at any meal and washed down with tea or coffee.
I prefer mine for breakfast, fried with bacon, egg and black pudding; my father liked his, sliced, in a crisp morning roll, after his matitidinal three-finger draught of that other Scottish staple.
Yours faithfully. TOM BAISTOW. The Savile Club, 69 Brook Street, WI

8. Confuse it with white pudding

Sir, Whose leg does Mr Tom Baistow think he's pulling ? Has he ever tried to slice a haggis? (It would be as easy to slice a bran pie or a sandbag.) As for frying it for breakfast, the only charitable conclusion - if the leg-pull explanation is not correct - is that the ignorant man is confounding white pudding with haggis.
Miss Heather Harvey

9. Deep fry it and serve with Coca Cola

Sir, Miss Heather Harvey is being unnecessarily unkind to poor Mr Baistow, who was trying, quite rightly, to put haggis in its proper, proletarian perspective. It is she, not he, who is ignorant.
Haggis, when previously cooked, will "fry up" quite nicely the following morning. It is no more difficult than frying mashed potato to make bubble and squeak. Further, when pressed and allowed to cool it will slice much more readily than the average sandbag.
Your readers may also be interested to learn that, north of the Border, deep fried haggis is on sale in most fish and chip shops. First hand observations lead me to the conclusion that the most common refreshment chosen to accompany this simple savoury is Coca Cola, served chilled and drunk straight from the can.
Chacun a son gout! Yours faithfully, STRUAN COUPAR, Bromley, Kent

10. Match with the blood of the grape

Pamela Vandyke Price, the distinguished wine correspondent of The Times, had a classier suggestion:
I am aware that on its native heath, the haggis may be traditionally accompanied by Scotch. But in my article, suggesting red wines suitable for certain types of modest game and sausage dishes, I was thinking of those readers who may opt for the blood of the grape, perhaps for reasons of economy, or because they are being cautious about drinking spirits for reasons of diet or driving, or simply because they and their guests like wine with their meals.
Being myself a devotee of haggis, black and white puddings, andouillettes, boudins of all colours, multi- patterned salame and wurst of assorted seasonings, plus, of course, the noble banger, I would drink a red wine with these on most occasions. My experience of haggis has not included the very peppery type, as mentioned by one of your correspondents, but in Catalonia, where I have recently consumed numerous regional sausages, including the superb butifarra, the red wines of the Penedes region were quite robust enough to balance the seasonings

11. Cement international relations

Sir. When Vychinsky, the Chief Prosecutor of the USSR, visited the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, I attended the banquet given in his honour by Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe (later Lord Kilmuir). Probably for the first and last time in his life, Vychinsky partook of haggis, liberallv laced with liqueur whisky which had been poured over it, while a Scots Guards piper, specially flown in for the occasion, circled the table playing the bagpipes. It has never occured to me that there is any other way in which haggis is served.
I remain. Sir. Your obedient Servant. L. A. HILL

12. Translate into Greek

Surely the haggis, or something very like it, was known some 3,000 years ago, the gaster [this was originally in Greek text] for which Odysseus fought that poor beggar Iros, of which he afterwards made a meal?
Mr. A. SHEWAN, Scagatc, St. Andrews, Fife
[Classical note from Philip Howard: “Iros was the shameless beggar who hung around the Suitors and challenged Odysseus to a fight. Iros was known as Gaster, the Belly.”]

13. Fight the crows for it

When I was in the Highlands 30 years ago I was told that real haggis could only be made with "braxie" mutton, ie, from a sheep that had died a natural death on the hill. If the shepherd found the corpse before the crows and gulls did one had haggis for dinner, otherwise not. Mr A. MacDermott, Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Ryde

14. Can it and send it abroad

A firm in Munlochy in the Black Isle peninsula, Ross and Cromarty, are producing porridge ready made in packets for immersion in hot water by the consumer. Thus Scots have again displayed their ability to make profit in sophisticated markets from what are traditional and fairly raw materials. Haggis and venison are being canned and sold abroad: ordinary water is being sold to England for making rum and to the United States as the only appropriate dilution for Scotch whisky

15. Stick to Great-Granny’s recipe

Sir, You allowed me not long ago to send You a recipe for dry curry, of which subsequent comments and correspondence showed wide appreciation. In view of the approaching national festival of St Andrew may I now contribute a formula for haggis, not less deserving of consideration.
Take a mutton paunch, wash it, and turn it inside out ...
Serve with old whisky, or (if greatly daring) with Atholl brose, a mixture of equal parts of whisky, cream, and honey. DAVID HUNTER BLAIR, Belmont Abbey, Hereford

16. Eat your enemies - human haggis

The people of Galloway have changed, of course, oven if their hills have not, since the day when certain legionaries gave the horrified St Jerome the recipe for human haggis. They have changed even since the day when Sawny Bean and his band practised the same form of cookery only some 300 years ago

17. Have a haggis eating contest

The daily haggis-eating contest appears to have as few rules as a caucus-race. Competitors race to engorge a tinned haggis with a plastic skin weighing llb 3oz. They do not get an extra prize for enjoying it, which is just as well, to judge from yesterday's horrified grimaces

18. Start a class war

Rabbie Burns, thou shouldst be living at this hour. England hath need of thee - and Scotland too. What other pen could do justice, mocking, ribald and racy, to the ill-laid plans for celebrating Burns Night which BEA are reported to have cooked up. Haggis will be served today to its passengers on Scottish services - but not to all passengers.
The "great chieftain o' the puddin-race" is, in BEA's view, a class-conscious aristocrat. Ushering it into the aircraft with the ceremonial send-off, " Aboon them a' ye tak your place ", air officials will be careful to explain that they use "a'" in a special sense. The place must be the right place.
"The social, friendly, honest man, whate're he be" has not a hope, on his own merits, of getting his teeth into that haggis. He needs to be the holder of a first-class ticket. Passengers below the salt, mere tourist-class freight, are being fobbed off with "gift-wrapped" packs of shortbread

19. Test it for foot and mouth

A haggis sent from Scotland to the Illinois St Andrew's Society, and "condemned" by officials at LaGuardia airport yesterday because it "might spread foot-and-mouth disease" was set free today. First reports yesterday said that the haggis had been burned, but Pan-American Airways later stated that it had been handed over to the authorities. A doctor of the United States Bureau of Animal Industry today pronounced the haggis "fit for consumption" and arrange- ments were made to ship it to Chicago tomorrow in time for the Illinois Scots' celebration of St Andrew's Day on Saturday

20. And the last word ...

... goes to the Head Master of Penrhos College:
Sir, My experience has shown there is really only way to serve haggis - slow, left arm, over the wicket. Sincerely, N. C. Peacock, Penrhos College, Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire

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