There’s a weird identity-thing about being Canadian. When I was a kid, the other kids would ask, “So what are you?” I hated the question, because all I knew of culture at the time was Canada. All my relatives were here, and I had never met anyone in my family who was born anywhere else – a few great-grandparents were the most recent immigrants I was aware of. “Mostly English,” I’d say, which was the most boring answer, as far as I was concerned, because it was always far more interesting to be associated with a country that was more different from where my family now lived. But I felt like it was most accurate because it was where my last name came from. Sometimes the question annoyed me so much I would say, “Just Canadian, okay?”
As I got older and studied some personal genealogy, I learned about other cultural connections my genes had that were just as accurate, and so I was able to be a nationality shape-shifter. If it was St. Patrick’s Day, I was Irish. When I visited my husband’s family outside Belfast, I was Northern Irish too – different great-great-grandparents actually came from both places. For the Queen’s jubilee, I was English. And today, for Robbie Burns Day, I’m Scottish.
My mother’s father’s parents were born in Scotland, in Turriff and Elgin. Apparently a rich Scottish guy in Hamilton Ontario Canada asked for “a good wee lassie,” to be sent over to work in his home as a nanny, and after she got here she met my great-grandfather and the Canadian arm of the family began. But back to the Canadian identity thing – I was very close to my grandfather, Gord McDonald, but still never felt like a Scottish lassie myself. The shape-shifting thing seemed too convenient, and when you have never set foot in the other country and have no contacts, and your roots are dispersed across many cultures, how can you honour ties there?
Through food, that’s how.
I met a cook from Scotland on Twitter, @Justlovefood, ages ago and asked, “Do you actually cook haggis?” I was excited to consider a “dangerous food,” that actually had a personal connection. We traded messages, they blogged a recipe, I tried to get my hands on some haggis, and was told I’d have to wait until Burns Day. I waited patiently. But the friendship and process already started making me feel closer to my grandfather and his family. @Justlovefood sent a drawing of a haggis,
and it was my grandfather’s sense of humour shining through.
I finally got my hands on the haggis yesterday, and went on a scavenger hunt to find the other ingredients, visiting grocery stores from around the globe. The Asian grocery store, T&T was the best choice for duck eggs, but only had quail, so I nabbed those. The British store couldn’t import marmite because it has a meat or fish ingredient our government doesn’t like, so I had to get vegemite instead.
Finally, I proudly sliced my haggis in half
and broke it up into the pot, trying to tell myself that if my ancestors ate lungs and heart I could too. I added all other soup ingredients, and wondered how a recipe that went against my core cooking belief – that if you blend tasty ingredients together, you’ll get a tasty result – could ever work. Lamb innards. Single malt whiskey. Vegemite. Even mustard. Normally, I wasn’t a fan of any of it.
But I was proved wrong. This was the best soup I’d ever had! It was rich with a delicious texture, almost like gravy soup, but with a nippy bite of spice, even though I had only added pepper (the Healthy Butcher’s high quality of haggis probably deserves a lot of the kudos!). I portioned out some of the result for a few friends who wanted to try it but made sure to keep the biggest share for myself.
I ate haggis in preparation for Burns Day and allowed myself to feel Scottish. I couldn’t have conversations with ancestors, or visit their hometowns (yet), but I could eat what they’d eaten, and read a poem they might have known. Take a second to think about where your family is living now, and then imagine in future that an arm of it emigrates, and that one of your recipes or foods might be the only tie to culture they have left. Cool eh? Cook carefully.
Here is a reprint of the haggis description and recipe from @Justlovefood, and a link to their blog. Hope you give it a try, even if you don’t have a Scottish lassie in your family tree. I’ve also included Robbie Burns’s poem, “Address to a Haggis.”
Haggis&Potato&Marmite Soup with Watercress and Poached Duck egg
haggis (HAG-ihs) – Haggis is a Scottish dish made from sheep’s offal (windpipe, lungs, heart and liver) of the sheep, which is first boiled and then minced. It is then mixed with beef suet and lightly toasted oatmeal. This mixture is placed inside the sheep’s stomach, which is sewn closed. The resulting haggis is traditionally cooked by further boiling (for up to three hours).
This is the most traditional of all Scottish dishes, eaten on Burns Night (25th January; the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, 1759-1796) and at Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve). Haggis is traditionally served as “haggis, neeps and tatties”. The neeps are mashed turnip or swede, with a little milk and allspice added, whereas the tatties are creamed potatoes flavored with a little nutmeg. To add that authentic touch, consume your haggis, neeps and tatties with a dram of good whisky.
History: There are no actual records, as far as we are aware, of the origins of haggis, as we know it today. The first known English cookbook is The Form of Cury (cookery), written in 1390 by one of the cooks to King Richard II. It contains a recipe for a dish called Afronchemoyle, which is in effect a haggis. The haggis became well established in the Scottish culinary scene, not as a star dish but as an everyday staple. Like a lot of other foods, haggis probably came about because the raw material was available and it had to be made into a more acceptable form.
Author Clarissa Dickson Wright in her book The Haggis – A Little History makes a case for haggis originally being from Sweden. Scandinavians from Sweden eat haggis with great relish and invariably remark on its resemblance to a dish in their local cuisine. Relations between Scotland and the Nordic world go back to the 9th century. Norsemen, raiders at first, very soon became settlers and farmers. It was late in the 15th century before Orkney and Shetland finally ceased to be dependencies of the Danish crown. The impact of the Norse was far greater than that of the French; they are part of Scotland’s historic fabric. The root of the word haggis is not from Latin languages, and its origin appears to be Scandinavian. There is no doubt that the word haggis is related to such words as the Swedish hagga, meaning to hew or chop; and the Icelandic hoggva, with the same meaning.
Reference found in :
We made this soup in the kitchen when we sold all of the soup of the day and had to come up with a quick and different one using what was available in the Pantry
Haggis&Potato&Marmite Soup with Watercress and a Poached Duck egg on top
- Haggis,around 500 grams
- Potato,peeled and cut into squares,about 5 medium size
- Shallots,5 chopped finely
- Spring onions ,5 will do chopped coarsely
- 1 teaspoon of Marmite
- 1 teaspoon of English Mustard
- 1 nip-25 ml- of Single Malt Whisky,we used Macallan 12 year old, you could also use cognac.
- 1 Liter of good Beef Stock,could be Veggie or chicken
- Freshly ground White Pepper
- 3 Cloves of Smoked garlic
- Sea Salt Flakes,like Maldon or Scottish Seasalt ( Hebridean sea salt)
- Bunch of Fresh watercress, for soup and then garnish
- Duck Egg,poached
- Unsalted Butter
In a pot at medium heat, saute the shallots,spring onions,garlic until semi soft, then add the potato cubes,stir, Season with Salt and Pepper, keep cooking until shallots become soft.
Put Heat to high, add the Whisky, stir.
Reduce heat to medium again.
Add the Haggis,cook until soft and blended with all the rest of ingredients, add the stock, stir.
Add teaspoon of Marmite, teaspoon of English Mustard and stir, bring to the boil and then simmer until potatos are soft.
Add The Watercress, stir.
Blend with a Hand held blender, taste, adjust seasoning, keep warm.
For serving, use deep bowls, garnish with a Duck poached egg on top and some nice Watercress little bunch, serve hot with nice Artisan Bread and butter.
Sprinkle some Sea salt flakes & pepper on top of the Poached egg.
Copyright@Justlovefood Leith August 2012
Chef Claudia Escobar Lindenbaum
Address To A Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they strech an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o ‘fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!