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.