Saturday, 25 November 2006

When you come to Scotland I’ll make you eat a haggis.

That’s what I said 8 months ago to a few American friends of mine when they first arranged to come over for a visit. It all began harmless enough they were coming here for a visit and being the charming host I was going to forcefeed them haggis and so the banter started. After a couple of weeks one of them was smart enough to do some research and find out what a haggis was, their reaction was too respond with “ No fucking way am I eating a haggis , there is no way I am eating a sheep’s heart, lungs and liver, I don’t care how much onion and oatmeal is mixed in to disguise the taste, boiling all that together inside a sheep’s stomach has got to be the most disgusting thing I’ve heard!”

Before I had much time to think I quickly said “Och I don’t know who is been telling you that story but that’s a tale we tell foreigners so that we get the haggis all to ourselves. The haggis is a rare animal that only lives in the remotest quietest glens of Scotland
. We don’t know why it only lives here. In fact we don’t know much about it at all other than it tastes quite delicious. But even though it does taste rather good we as Scots do feel kind of responsible for its survival and we don’t want it to go the same way as the dodo bird. So we created the myth that the haggis was made up of sheep’s parts that no-one in the right mind would want to eat. This does two things, firstly it allows us as Scots to hunt and enjoy the taste of haggis on the 8 permitted weeks of the year that we are allowed to do so without threatening to wipe out the species, secondly it allows the haggis to breed and do whatever it does the rest of the year without interference.
You see in this country we don’t mind taking money from people who want to go looking for the Loch Ness Monster because quite frankly if you are stupid enough to believe in Nessie then you don’t deserve to have money in your back pocket. Thousands of tourists come over every year just for the sole purpose of Nessie spotting, you have no idea how many stupid people there are in this world. But that did teach us one thing. If it ever got out that haggis was a rare breed of animal found nowhere else but Scotland we’d have thousands of people coming over every year trying to spot a haggis and some of those people would bring guns and go haggis trophy hunting and very likely the haggis would go the same way as the Tasmanian Tiger. Or some of them would end up being caught, caged and sent to zoos all over the world and there wouldn’t be enough of them left in the wild to successfully breed. For whatever reason the haggis has made its home in
Scotland, maybe it likes the rain, the air, the mountains or the heather or the man eating midge. Whatever the reason it doesn’t really matter, what matters is it seems to like it here and nowhere else, it might not even be able to survive anywhere else so the people of Scotland are very proud of the haggis and act like its guardian. We even have a special day to celebrate this guardianship, it’s a bit like thanksgiving really only we don’t eat turkey, we hunt haggis and kill one, only one, we take it home and on the 25th of January we have a big family get together, with traditional music and dance and at the end of the night we recite a poem written by Robert Burns ‘Address to a Haggis’ before we sit down and eat it. It’s a respect thing, it’s a bit like saying ‘Thank you Lord for this wonderful meal…’, only different”

Now I’m normally quick witted but I even surprised myself at how quick I came up with that reply. By the time I was done speaking they didn’t know what to believe anymore, I was quite proud of myself actually but I still knew there was enough doubt in their minds to not quite believe me but I kept it up for another two weeks that they were going to eat haggis when they got here when one of them went “Can we go haggis hunting first? That sounds like so much fun.” At first I tried to put them off by saying “I can’t. I wish I could but in this country you can’t even go salmon fishing without a special permit, for haggis hunting the rules are even more strict you need a licence that proves that you are Scottish and that you respect and care for the animal and will only shoot what you can eat and no more.”

And so it began, hook, line and sinker I was drawing them in to believing the story of the haggis and the hunt. The more I said it wasn’t possible for them to go haggis hunting the more interested they were. Funny how the mind works. Eventually after some persistence on their part I came up with the solution and told them of a remote place that I knew where haggis bred in small numbers and where we might not get caught hunting them illegally without permits but they’d have to “promise to not tell a soul, you have to keep the secret of the haggis if you can promise this then I will take you all to a kilt hire shop and get you dressed up and looking the part, then later I’ll take you to a clay pigeon range to practice your aim. And if your shot is expert enough we will go haggis hunting and anything we shoot we’ll take home with us and eat that night. But we’ll only do that if you promise to keep the secret of the haggis and your aim is good enough, we want to kill the haggis dead on impact not watch it suffer in agony because of a bad shot, that would be cruel.”

It’s probably been 6 months that I have kept this promised haggis hunt going and last night we were talking about the trip and they got excited about December the 2nd, the big day, the haggis hunt day. They arrive at the end of next week. I’m almost tempted to take them to the kilt hire shop, discreetly slip a £20 note to the shop owner so as to encourage him to tell a few haggis hunting tales whilst I arrange for the clay pigeon shoot lesson and transport to a remote mountain range but then again if I get them drunk on whisky and there are no haggis to hunt I might be taking my life in my own hands. Ah decisions, decisions, when to come clean.


Just a Girl said...

That's impressive. Are you always a leg puller or is this something they wouldn't know about you?

I didn't try it when I was there. I would have given the veg one a go if I'd seen it on offer.

Scotsman said...

Damn girl what time do you get up in the morning? I was even up when you made that comment and there is a time difference in my favour

I always tend to joke around, even when I am serious I usually disguise the fact with a little light humour but I never really take things that far. In this instance it just fell out of my mouth and as it did so it grew arms and legs on the way out and here I am 8 months later got a tour to arrange. It should be fun if I make it alive, I'll have to remember and get them drunk enough to see the funny side but not the drunk enough to punch me in the face.

Vegetarian haggis, I've never seen much point in that myself. Next time you make it this way tell me and I'll arrange a plate of the proper stuff, complete with neeps and tatties. Haggis hunt optional.

Just a Girl said...

I'd been at a party last night and got home late! Plus I have weird hours.

You so have to follow through. It will be one of those stories that you can entertain the pub with and pass down to grandkids. I was trying to remember what it reminded me of, something I'd read as a kid, and I finally remembered: snipe hunting.(

The reason I was willing to try the veg haggis is that I don't eat red meat anymore. I still don't so I think I'd have to pass on the offer, other than the neeps and tatties of course.

Tathiana Sobroza said...

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Well, I've made one for me and published some of my pics (many actually)... the link is
It'd make me happy if you check it out later! thanxxxx :P