Aye, I did eat the haggis…

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A green, green world

Hiya ladies and gents and welcome to the land up north, where even the horses wear rain coats. I’m here in Scotland, enjoying some much needed r & r– hey, all this traveling, eating, and drinking is harder than you might think. Besides, this country is ideal for slowing down a bit, contemplating, and, above all else, walking.

Being in the countryside of Scotland is like being immersed in a giant garden, where everything- and I mean everything, including the houses, roads, and your shoes– takes on a misty green botanical look and feel.  When we got off the plane in Glasgow and headed for the countryside, I figured it would be an hour or so of urban landscapes before we saw fields of green full of grazing sheep. Nope.

Almost immediately, we saw huge sea lochs, rolling hills, and so, so many trees. I thought Portland was green. I realize now that my last home was like the Sahara desert compared to this place. Not really, but I can say that even coming from the Pacific Northwest, I’m blown away by how moist everything is. If this sounds unappealing, wait ’til I get to the haggis. But for all the dampness, it is undeniably beautiful here– haunting, dark, windswept, and wild. And the sea air makes one hungry.

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Let’s eat! Scottish style! Hmmm… what’s on the menu? Lamb? Had it- and it was good. Atlantic Salmon? Had that too- and man that was good! I’ll always be biased towards Pacific Salmon (Copper river, anybody?), but this was great too, fantastically rich, tender and filling. Perfect after a long day of (wet) hiking. But let’s cut to the chase folks, shall we? I’m ready for the dish we all love to joke about- Scottish haggis.

Just so we’re clear, haggis is offal. When I first read that, I thought “offal” was a British way of spelling “awful”, and so thought even the people here admitted that this dish was just wrong. But in fact, everyone I’ve mentioned haggis to– be it an older person who has their own family recipe or a young Glaswegian selling internet service– has responded with a sincere fondness for the dish. “Aye, haggis is a lovely dish. You’d better try it while you’re here.”, I was told. Offal, defined, is the entrails and butchered organs of an animal.

….Oh.

Well… that sounds awful!

And so I entered my first haggis experience with a wee bit of trepidation. Would I embarrass myself at our hosts dinner table and “reject” the food after a bite? Would I spit it out and curse the Scots for ever thinking up such a heinous dish (not unless I wanted my yanker arse kicked)? No. In fact, I’m slightly embarrassed to say I enjoyed it. No kidding. Maybe it was because I was expecting something so foul and dark, I pictured a demon-sheep popping out of the stomach lining it’s all encased in (I know, I know) and attacking me like the baby space creatures in Alien. The texture was firm, with a slight crunch, and the flavor resembled something like corned beef hash, but spicier and more gamey. Hell, I even had seconds, much to the delight of our hosts– and to the dread of my wife (“I’m not sleeping any where near you tonight, dude”).

This link will take you to a site with some authentic recipes on how to make haggis (I dare you), and there’s even a link within the site that allows you to play the game “Whack the Haggis”!

Now to be honest with you, I did have a couple glasses of wine beforehand to help me muster up my courage. And that cheap French red went just fine with the haggis, even though a dram of quality whiskey is the preferred drink for this meal. We did have a wee nightcap afterwards, a twelve year single malt from Glenlivet– one of Scotland’s older distilleries, in the highland region of Speyside. From what I remember hearing that night, the highland whiskeys tend to be softer, sweeter, and smoother than their lowland counterparts. I concur that it was a fairly smooth whiskey, but I was too focused on my haggis experience to pay too close attention to the whiskey. That’ll be one of the next posts…

I’ve got some time to spend here in Scotland, enough to get a better feel of the local cuisine, culture, and whiskey. We’re situated along the west coast and in close proximity to supposedly some of the country’s best distilleries. I can’t wait. As the sun sets at night here and I look out our window at the docked ferry, I can’t help but wonder what type of awe, fear, or comfort visitors from distant lands have felt here over the years. The history here is amazing, and tomorrow I’ll be visiting a castle that dates back to the 13th century (stay tuned for video footage of this).

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I get the sense that the people of Scotland are extremely proud– and for good reasons. Maybe not solely because of the haggis, but still for many good reasons. I survived my first big “challenge” here in Europe, biting right into the heart, liver, and lungs of the sheep, as it was. Here’s to even more new challenges and adventures.

Slainte!

Jared

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~ by Jared on April 30, 2009.

3 Responses to “Aye, I did eat the haggis…”

  1. Nice! I agree with you about haggis. It was quite OK the way they served it at the Globe Inn in Dumfries.

  2. Dumfries, eh? Cool…

    Honestly, though, I don’t think I’ll be eating haggis again anytime soon. There something just creepy about eating all those mashed up organs. Of course I say that now…

    Cheers,
    Jared

  3. Anyway I recommend a trip to Dumfries, which is a nice place. If you visit the Globe you don’t have to eat haggis.

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