Well, Turkey Day is here again, and it’s been some time since I last posted about Thanksgiving. This year is obviously different. This virus has complicated so many things about our way of life. Not just here in the US, but all around the world. Thanksgiving is a family event, and most of us won’t have our family with us.
This year son-the-elder is hosting our little gathering. It will be family only, so people we are in contact with on a regular basis. While this isn’t true isolation, it is safe enough for me. If things get too crazy, and people I don’t know start showing up, I’ll give my thanks to everyone and have to leave. Everyone understands that, so if it happens, it happens.
I have to admit that I have never attended a Burns night celebration. Just what is Burns night? Why it’s just the celebration of the birthday of Scotland’s poet laureate, Robert Burns.
Rabbie, as he is known, is probably best known for Auld Lang Syne, which is traditionally sung on Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve as we Americans know it.
Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the NationalBard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.
He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
Of course, the traditional meal served at a Burns night dinner is haggis, neeps and tatties. So what are these foods?
If you don’t know what haggis is, that may be a good thing. True haggis is illegal in the USA due to some of the organs used in the traditional recipe. The joke is that a haggis is a small furry creature found in the highlands of Scotland. The legs on one side of it’s body is longer than the other side so it can run around the mountain side. Funny, but not true. Click the link above to see what it really is. I don’t know if the haggis we had in Scotland was traditional or not, but I really enjoyed it. Wifey, not so much. Neeps are mashed turnips and tatties nothing more than mashed potatoes. The neeps and tatties are not to be cooked together. And don’t forget the dram of Scotch whisky!
Rabbie so enjoyed haggis he wrote a poem about it. It’s in the old Scot’s language so don’t expect it to understand it. This Wikisource page has the English translation.
“Address to a Haggis” (1787)Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,Painch, tripe, or thairm:Weel are ye worthy o’ a graceAs lang’s my arm.The groaning trencher there ye fill,Your hurdies like a distant hill,Your pin wad help to mend a millIn time o need,While thro your pores the dews distilLike amber bead.His knife see rustic Labour dight,An cut you up wi ready slight,Trenching your gushing entrails bright,Like onie 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 belyveAre bent like drums;The 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 mak her spewWi perfect scunner,Looks down wi sneering, scornfu viewOn sic a dinner?Poor devil! see him owre his trash,As feckless as a wither’d rash,His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,His nieve a nit;Thro bloody 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 make it whissle;An legs an arms, an heads will sned,Like taps o thrissle.Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,And dish them out their bill o fare,Auld Scotland wants nae skinking wareThat jaups in luggies:But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,Gie her a Haggis
Pipers welcome guests to the dinner, and then after dinner a ceilidh (dance) begins.
The piping in of the haggis and the Address to a Haggis. (I would turn the volume down if anyone is sleeping or you’re in a public place). The pipes are not appreciated by everyone, sadly.
As opposed to hot potato, or even Hot Tuna, the late 60’s spin-off of Jefferson Airplane…
Now that you have no idea where I’m going with this; Welcome! I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post either. In essence I came here to talk about food. And by food I mean hot tomatoes. And by hot tomatoes I mean they ain’t my favorite.
When I was a kid, I enjoyed spaghetti. Not so much any more. My tastes have changed quite a bit over the years. I just don’t care tomato sauce all that much. I will eat it (except for sloppy joe’s – I cannot stomach those), but I prefer my tomatoes raw. And that goes for the majority of my veggies as well. Give me a salad, tacos, a sandwich, gyros (please more gyros), with nice chunks or slices of fresh tomato and I’m good. Throw them in a pot and turn up the heat and I’m going to the (beer) fridge to see what else I can find.
Even pizza! Yes, I know; I’m a geek. Pizza is supposed to be my main food group (along with Doritos and Mountain Dew). I don’t really care for any of those things. But give me a pizza that doesn’t have “red sauce” (Hello Mellow Mushroom’s Holy Shiitake!) and I’m down with that.
Son-the-younger (a.k.a. son-the-chef) makes a wonderful veggie sauce that uses tomatoes as it’s base. But there are so many other veggies in it the tomatoes aren’t so strong. We’re lucky that he’ll make a big ol’ pot of it and we can freeze several quarts for later use.
Not only has my tomato taste changed, so has many other foods. As a kid I would never eat brussel sprouts, asparagus, avocado or even broccoli. Now I eat them all. Again, preferably raw. Wifey makes this amazing dill dip that is so good on raw veggies (and chips, and grilled cheese sammies). There are so many nights that she and I will have fresh veggies and dip as our vegetable for dinner. I’m sure I make up for the calories that I save with the veggies with the amount of dip. Not that I use that much dip per piece, I just eat that much! Portion control is not my strong suit.
Funny story – the first time I had dinner at Wifey’s house (before we were married), my wonderful mother in law asked my if I wanted “a slice of pear”. “Sure” I said, “I like pears!”. Next thing I know I have a very large slice of avocado sitting in front of me. I look at it dumbfounded. “Uh… That’s not a pear” I say as respectfully as I could. Dear ol’ mother in law comes back; “Yes it is. It’s an alligator pear!” “A what?” I exclaim. “That’s an avocado. Not a pear!”. Needless to say, I had never heard the term alligator pear. I had to politely refuse said “pear”. Then sweet mom hit me with her all important question; “Have you ever tried it?”. Her one rule was you had try whatever food she was offering before you can say you didn’t like it. There were many dinners at her house where I had a spoonful of something I had never tried before. I learned early to say that it was something new, just a spoonful, please. I miss her.
I also have a good story where I turned the tables of trying new things on her. But that’s another post..
Here’s one of my guitar gods, Stevie Ray Vaughn doing Mary Had A Little Lamb. ‘Cause lamb is food, and this is a food post.. So it fits.. Kinda?