A Toast to a Poet

There’s something kind of wonderful about a place that celebrates a long-dead and, frankly, difficult to understand poet with a feast. But that’s Scotland for you.

It’s true that I’m a bit of a Scotland obsessive (sorry to those who have endured my carrying on) so perhaps my accolades mean little. But seriously, a poet?! And one who died in 1796? I just can’t get over it. But celebrate people do. And not just in Scotland.

Every January, people around the world pay tribute to Scotsman Robert Burns through the Burns’ Night Supper on or around his birthday of January 25th. Among his many works are that old New Years’ chestnut “Auld Lang Syne so even if you don’t think you know the name, you probably know his work.

You can find Burns’ Night Suppers everywhere. We went to one here in Wisconsin. And there’s one in Vancouver that combines Burns’ Night with Chinese New Year to make probably the most amazing food event ever: Gung Haggis Fat Choy.

The centerpiece of a Burns’ Night meal is haggis (or the veggie haggis that I made), or as Burns called it the ‘great chieftain o’the puddin’-race.’ The haggis isn’t just set on the table. No, it is “piped in” on a platter to the music of bagpipes during a procession. Then someone reads “Address to a Haggis” followed by a toast to the haggis. Seriously, everyone keeps a straight face (well, mostly).

Besides haggis, there’s neeps and tatties, soup, and dessert. This year for dessert, I made a clootie dumpling, a fruit-studded pudding boiled in a cloth. Sound strange? It is but it tastes delicious.

clootie dumpling

clootie dumpling

The whole thing is delicious really. Food, prose, and piping, and all in tribute to a poet.


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