January 25th. For more than 260 years, the Scots of the world have celebrated the birth of Scotland’s favourite son and poet, the bard Robbie (Rabbie) Burns, the Ploughman Poet, who was born on this day in 1759 in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Known for his lyrical, romantic poems, Burns created the song that is sung the world over when one year ends and another begins, ‘Auld Lang Syne‘ and another is the unofficial national anthem of Scotland, ‘Scots Wha Hae’.
As one would expect with the name of Bruce County, many in the region have a long Scottish heritage and, here, as in other parts of the world, January 25th is a time to return to those roots of that heritage with a traditional Scottish evening, that includes a dinner like the first one that was celebrated in Alloway, Scotland, in honour of the national poet. The men don their tartan kilts and ladies their sashes as they enjoy a dinner and evening that would include a piper, highland dancers and other entertainment.
The dinner itself is also steeped in historical heritage and, part of that heritage is the long-standing menu with its classic Haggis (see recipe below), roast beef, bashed neeps (turnip), chappit tatties (potatoes) and accoutrements.
An eloquent ‘Address to the Haggis’ is performed along with the traditional Selkirk Grace (see below) and toasts, including ‘The Loyal Toast’, ‘Toast tae th’ lassies’, ‘Response frae th’ lassies’ and ‘Th’ Immortal Memory’.
Some ha’e meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we ha’e meat and we can eat,
And tae the Lord be thankit.
Authentic haggis is a sheep’s stomach lining filled with minced organs, seasonings and oatmeal and simmered for hours. It’s not permissible to use a sheep’s stomach lining in North America so this is adapted.
Traditional ‘Bagless’ Haggis
1/2 lb. beef liver
2 lamb kidneys
3/4 lb. lamb shoulder
1/4 lb beef suet
2 onions, minced
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. stock
salt and pepper, nutmeg & thyme
Boil meats (offal) 2 hours. Save stock. Grind or mince meats. Add suet and onions, oatmeal and seasonings. Add enough stock to make a mixture look and feel like a meatloaf. Pour into a pan that has been well-greased. Cover with foil. Poke 2 holes in foil. Place pan in another pan filled halfway with water. Steam-bake for 2 hours at 325 degrees. Slice and serve.
Unfortunately, in this year of a pandemic, gatherings of all kinds have been thwarted, including Robbie Burns celebrations.