As I’m Scottish, many of our bookstore events have a Celtic theme: the St. Patrick’s Day ceilidh dance in March; a celebration of St. Andrew’s Day just before Thanksgiving; welcoming the New Year with a Hogmanay party into the ‘wee sma’ hours.
But the highlight of our Scots calendar is the Burns Supper we hold at the end of January. In common with Scots around the world we host a traditional observance of the birthday of National Bard Robert (Rabbie) Burns.
And the highlight of this night is haggis.
Ah, haggis! That mixture of oats, blood and bits of sheep that normally get thrown away but Scots keep and consume with enthusiasm. I love haggis–although for some strange reason Wendy isn’t quite as enthusiastic as me. I’ve had many adventures over the years involving haggis, including once escorting (ok, smuggling) an enormous one through customs to a British consulate Burns Supper in Istanbul.
This event has always been packed out at the bookstore, and is the main reason we put castors under some of our bookshelves, so they can be moved to create extra space. We serve the traditional ‘champit tatties’ (mashed potatoes) and ‘bashed neeps’ (mashed rutabagas) alongside the haggis, not to mention Cranachan (whipped cream with honey and whisky, topped with toasted oats). Last year, a woman licked her Cranachan plate when she discovered the serving bowl was empty.
The haggis is piped in by our friend Randy and is handed ‘round the assembled company—some of whom look rather dubious as it passes from their hands—while the ‘Ode to a Haggis’ is recited. After the food, we have ‘The Immortal Memory’, a few Burns songs and stories from Wendy and me, and the hilarious Toast to and Response from the lassies. (Think Simon Cowell meets Hilary Clinton in a battle of the sexes.)
It’s a fun night, and to me the highlight of our events year. ‘Course, I would think so, being Scottish, but in addition to loving it for itself, I delight in the facial expressions of Americans trying haggis for the first time. And I have wee drams ready for those who look as though they’ve swallowed something offal. Heh heh. Get it? Offal?
For those interested, Wendy and I will do two Burns Suppers this year: at our bookstore Jan. 24th, and the weekend of 25th/26th Jan. at Hyltons Performing Arts Center in Manassas, VA, as part of their Highlands Festival.