Friday, January 23, 2009

Haggis and MS

Robert Burns was a poet and a lyricist, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. January 25th is Robbie Burns' Day.

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made from sheep offal with spices and oats and boiled in a sheep's intestine.

If you are of Scottish descent, Robert Burns is a name you easily recognize. And in Nova Scotia, many folks, not just Scots, celebrate the birth of this poet. Today, we had a friend of mine, Todd, come in to work, bringing with him some haggis and talk with the morning show about the tradition. Todd is a co-owner of a small restaurant and pub in Halifax that the Wookie and I frequent, well, frequently; Stayner's Wharf. Todd and his staff get dressed up for every occasion from Hallowe'en to New Year's to Robbie Burns' Day. He runs a tight ship from what I've seen, and his staff are the nicest, sweetest people you could ever meet. In fact, if you were to come visit me, the first place I'd take you to eat would be Stayner's. They will be serving haggis Saturday night with all the pomp and ceremony of days gone by.

Todd has supported my efforts at fund raising for the MS Society by donating to the Walks and the Bike Tours. (Even if he didn't make donations I'd still be patronizing his establishment.)

Another Scottish tradition is MS. So it's not a tradition in the true sense of the word. But it's a connection many of us share with the Scots. They have one of the highest rates of MS in the world. In fact, most references to genetic factors for MS mention the connection to Northern European countries. The British Isles were subject to invasion by a bunch of different people: Scandinavians, Germanic tribes, and even Iberians (the Spaniards) before that, not to mention the Romans. But it appears the concentration of Northern European invaders may be the ones responsible for propagating MS to the world at large. It's not like they did it on purpose or anything like that, that's just the way it happened. The high concentration of Northern European descendants in Scotland (and Canada) may be one reason for the higher incidence of MS in those countries.

Interestingly enough, haggis may have originated in Scandinavia or ancient Rome and been brought to the British Isles by invaders or other travellers. Kind of like bagpipes. They are typically thought of as Scottish, but their origin may be Middle Eastern, perhaps Turkish or Syrian.

Some may argue that haggis is the Scots' revenge for MS. It is an acquired taste, to be sure, taking getting-used-to. Bagpipes are also an acquired taste. And so is MS, to a degree. Some of us can live with it just fine. But those of us who can live with it, should be advocating for those who can't.


The picture is of a "wild haggis" from Wikipedia. Fictional of course.



I am a descendant of the infamous Campbell clan of Scotland but that's many generations ago.

A few years ago, I attended a Burns Dinner where haggis was served in addition to lots of great food and a wide variety of Scotch. Who knew there were so many kinds?

In honor of the evening.....

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was 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 you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch 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,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody 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 mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

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!

steve said...

That haggis has hair like me when I wake up in the morning!

Shauna said...

Thanks for including the Address to a Haggis.

Considering you could pass for Father Guido Sarducci of SNL fame, it's no surprise....