August 24, 2009

The Difference Between Scottish Cooking and Food (Guest Post)

Today's post is lifted in its entirety from W. Bruce Cameron's column.  I subscribe to him via  The guy is hilarious!  Here's today's offering:

W. Bruce Cameron
Monday August 24, 2009 
The Difference between Scottish Cooking and Food 

Take the very worst of Scottish cooking, and what do you have? 

English cooking. 

That is the conclusion of a food historian named Cathryn Brown, whose research indicates that the Scottish dish haggis isn't Scottish at all, but was invented by the English, who apparently hate people. 

To define terms: "Haggis" refers to what happens when you take inedible animal parts, mix them with horse feed and cook it in a sheep's stomach. Nobody likes it, especially the sheep. "Scotland" is a country where it rains a lot. "England," same thing. A "food historian" is a person who talks about meals of the past, whereas a person who dwells on meals of the future is "my father." A Scotsman himself, my father will view tonight's dinner and, without taking a bite, ask, "What's for dinner tomorrow?" 

Why a person who studies food would be interested in haggis is anyone's guess. 

Food historians will tell you that before the invention of food, people were remarkably hungry. What Cathryn Brown will tell you is that the first recorded mention of haggis is in a 1615 English cookbook, describing the dish as "very popular throughout England," so it must have been eaten in that-time-before-food that we were just talking out. 

The first mention of Scottish haggis doesn't appear until 1747, though in my opinion this proves nothing -- maybe it just took that long for the Scots to get up the nerve to eat it. 

The Scots are very proud of haggis, which was written about by Robert Burns, the Scottish national hero, "renegade poet" and creator of the song "Auld Lang Syne," whose lyrics go like this: 

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, 

"And la la, la la, la la, 

"Should old, um ... hmm hmm hmmm 

"La la la, in old lang syne!" 

A Scottish friend of mine gave me a tin of haggis as a gift, which I accidentally left sitting out on a table at a restaurant when I left. When I realized my mistake, I rushed back to the restaurant, but I was too late: Someone had already been to the table and left two more tins of haggis. 

At any rate, Brown's research has stirred up the Scots, who have rallied their numbers by chanting the stanzas from Robert Burns' "Address to a Haggis": 

"Trenching your gushing entrails bright 

"Like onie ditch; 

"And then, O what a glorious sight. ..." 

It goes on from there. I think the last line is "La la la, in old lang syne." 

Picture going to a restaurant and saying, "I want the thing described as gushing in a ditch." 

"Good idea," my dad would say. "What's for dinner tomorrow?" 

Scottish cooks will advise you that the best way to enjoy haggis is to picture your mother-in-law eating it. Otherwise, you're advised to have a bottle of good Scottish whiskey nearby. Take a forkful of haggis with one hand, grab the bottle of whiskey with the other, raise the haggis toward your mouth, and then quickly lift the bottle of whiskey and hit yourself in the head with it. 

"Good job," my dad would say. "What are you going to hit yourself with tomorrow?" 

A slab of haggis on a plate is very attractive if you've never before seen food. Otherwise, you get an urgent message from your stomach saying something like, "You are NOT swallowing that!" followed by strong agreement from your throat and mouth, who advise you that if you ignore their warnings you're probably going to spend an hour or so gushing onie ditch. 

So some claim the Scottish deserve the credit for inventing haggis, while others disagree, saying the Scottish deserve the blame. Meanwhile, in England, people are quoted as saying: "Wait, you're going to do what to a sheep? And then eat it? Why can't we just have a traditional English dinner at McDonald's?" 

A lot of people who are descended from Scots will find this whole column offensive and will vigorously defend haggis because they've never tasted it. Yet my father, though proud of his Scottish heritage, won't care if you take his haggis away. 

He can always have it for dinner tomorrow. 

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