Haggis is a dish that if you are at all uncertain about, you shouldn’t watch being made.
If the extensive list of organs and innards don’t get you, the floppy, furry stomach that’s used to wrap it up, will. Resting on a kitchen sideboard, it gives the uncooked dish the unhappy look of a giant’s scrotum.
I was given a lesson in the art of haggis-wrapping by Andy Rose, executive head chef at Boisedale’s. You can watch a film I made of the process. He’s a man who should know all about the delicacy, as the mini chain of Scottish restaurants (there are three in the capital) sell a belly-expanding four-and-a-half tonnes of the stuff every year.
And while I believe that the ball bag look is a universal one, the particular example I was shown was slightly different. In this, the year where the future of Scotland will be decided by referendum, Boisdale’s have created the “Union Haggis” – where the liver, lungs, heart, stomach and lamb meat all came from the various corners of the country. It’s a visceral display of just how firmly they want United Kingdom to remain as a whole. And while it might not be enough to convince those North of the border that together really is better, it might remind locals down south that there are Scots who want us all to remain as a unit.
The night I was there was a dress (and drinking) rehearsal for next week’s Burns Night. The haggis was piped in (by the energetic piper Willie Cochrane) and then some Burns verse recited over it. I am no Burns expert, but I know that with the music and poetry, the food was treated better than most Scotsmen I know treat their dates.
In fact: most men. And this was just the second course. It was followed with wine, whisky, Aberdeen Angus beef, cheese and a tipsy tart (a dish, not a fellow reveller).
I’ll leave the political, historical and economic debates to those who know more. But as far this column concerned, without Burns Night as part of our annual list of excuses to go out and indulge, the UK would a poorer place.