I’ve known many Scottish people throughout my life and they never inspired anything but joy. Good people. Beautiful country and great art. The most revered son of Scotland might well be Robbie Burns. And just recently, I had a chance to celebrate the Bard with his countryfolk.
Lovey’s father is from Scotland. Owing to other family connections, Lovey belongs to an Irish social club and each year they put on the Robbie Burns Dinner. When she suggested to me that we attend this year, I said “Yes, absolutely.” I had heard so much about Robbie Burns through the years and wanted to experience the celebration first-hand. Lovey bought the tickets and advised me of the dress code. “No jeans.” This was slightly disheartening. I’m not a fan of dressing up. But apparently, the no-jeans rule was the only one, so I was able to escape the clutches of a tux.
I gave no thought to dinner until Lovey mentioned haggis.
I’ve seen haggis prepared on cooking shows – oh gawd. It looked uniformly awful, and I imagined the experience of eating it to be one of bravery and game faces.
“I’m sure they’ll have other food available,” I thought hopefully.
Lovey advised me that I’ll probably be stuck with haggis and steak and kidney pie. I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t have civilian food. I’m not a member! I can’t be expected to tread the same path as them! Lovey suggested I calm down and just try it first. How do I know I hate it? I’ve never tried it! But those videos haunted me – I vaguely recalled something about entrails; blood and oatmeal? Could that be right? This was a rare occasion I did not avail myself of Google. It might be worse than I remembered.
The night of the dinner came upon us and we dressed for the event. Lovey was resplendent in blue and white, the Scottish colours. Off we went to the Irish Club.
We found our seats and got some drinks. There were pipers and speeches and poetry. Much Guinness was imbibed. I had a diet Coke. I was ready for anything. Anything but dinner.
When it was our turn to hit the buffet, I followed Lovey, squeezing myself through the throngs of drinkers at the bar. The room suddenly seemed too warm. Our friend Krista was joining us, and the three of us made our way to the food.
I saw the rolls and put one on my plate. I accepted a scoop of neeps and tatties – potatoes and turnips mashed together. Excellent! Things were looking up. But then came the pie – steak and kidney, really? The server placed it on my plate. Then came the peas. The sweet potato mash. And soon I was face to face with the haggis.
I accepted a scoop and moved on my way. It resembled browned ground beef. I couldn’t see any oatmeal or blood or intestinal matter. Maybe…?
We sat and dug in. I cut a piece of the pie first – oh wow. Delicious! I don’t know what I expected kidneys to taste like, but delicious wasn’t it. Lovey smiled at me – I smiled back.
“How’s the pie?” she asked.
“Try the haggis.”
And so I did. And you know, I couldn’t get enough. It was really quite tasty. Those Scots know a thing or two about meal preparation. It was just food, except that it wasn’t. It was a special thing to all assembled – a tradition. Something to be celebrated. A taste of home. My only regret was not having a Guinness to wash it all down.
The band came out shortly thereafter and there was ’60s music all night. I felt a little bit Scottish. And a whole lot sheepish, perhaps appropriately enough.