Monday, October 22, 2012

Recommendation: Haggis

So as I may have mentioned, I just spent a year in Scotland, and I'm pretty sure it's a crime to spend that long in that country without trying haggis. Actually, I'm going to go as far as to say that it's a crime to spend any length of time in Scotland without trying haggis. Haggis is like their national food. It is number one of the list of things that are quintessentially Scottish. And here's the thing: it's great. If you don't know what haggis is, maybe it's best I don't tell you, but what I want to get across in this post is that "what it is" is not really important. What is important is that it's food, it's safe, it's delicious, and it's not at all what you would expect. 

Ok, to put it bluntly, haggis is the throwaway parts of the sheep minced with oatmeal, onion, and spices, and then cooked in a broth for several hours. Traditionally it was cooked inside a sheep's stomach lining, but nowadays it's generally just cooked inside sausage casing, which is appropriate, because I tend to describe haggis as being similar to sausage without the casing. It is usually served with "neeps and tatties," which are turnips and potatoes, mashed and sometimes mixed together. Then atop it all must be poured whisky sauce, a gravy made from Scotch whisky. 

People "fear" haggis for a number of reasons, most of them based on the "what haggis is" issue. But the simple truth of haggis is that if no one told you what it was, you would likely never know. Because of the mincing, the structure of the various sheep parts is indeterminate, and the addition of all the spices changes the flavor completely. Add in the neeps, tatties, and whisky sauce and what remains is a fantastic pile of flavor. Yes, I call it a pile because I heartily recommend just mixing it all together and going to town. 

I've had a number of different haggises (haggi?), and they were all wonderful. I've also had haggis in a number of different forms, including fried haggis balls and a haggis burger, both of which were also delicious. Below you will find two examples of some traditional haggis that I ate. The one with the entire gravy boat full of whisky sauce was better, for obvious reasons. 

So in conclusion and in summary, if you ever go to Scotland, eat some haggis. At least take a bite. It won't kill you, and you may discover something you enjoy. Which is pretty much my philosophy on all foods: at least give it a try; you might like it. And if you don't, I'm sorry. Drink some water and go find a deep-fried Mars bar. 

No comments:

Post a Comment