|Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth|
Today is the birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and all over Scotland and parts of the world with Scottish connections, people will be gathering to celebrate his life and poetry. These gatherings are known as Burns Nights or Burns Suppers.
As our friend, Gordon, is Scottish, and it was his birthday recently, we invited him, Sue and their little boy over for a night of food and entertainment (though for scheduling reasons we celebrated last weekend).
They arrived dressed for the occasion: Gordon in tartan pyjama bottoms and Sue in a handmade sporran!
And so to the festivities. Formal Burns Suppers have a traditional running order and I adapted this one from the BBC web site.
Piping in of the guests
With the meal ready to be served, our guests were invited into the dining room to the sound of bagpipes. Well, you can't have a Scottish celebration without bagpipes!
The Selkirk Grace
Before the arrival of the food, a short prayer was offered, in best Scottish accent.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Piping in of the Haggis
The haggis was brought in on a 'silver' platter to the sound of the national anthem, Scotland the Brave, and paraded around the table.
Haggis is a national delicacy and is basically pig offal, oats and rusk cased in pig stomach, though ours was cased in plastic. They can be microwaved, baked or steamed. I chose the latter so it could be kept in the casing for the next important element. I'm guessing that some of you reading this will be thinking 'bleurghh', but it's actually very tasty!
Address to the Haggis
Gordon read the Burns poem, Address to a Haggis, and I plunged in the knife at these immortal words,
'Cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright'
I have to tell you that the entrails really did gush! As soon as the knife went in, the contents erupted through the hole!
Toast to the Haggis
A short toast with a wee dram of Crabbies Green Ginger Mac, a blend of ginger wine and whisky. Yum! I usually can't stand whisky but this was delicious.
As well as the haggis, I served the other traditional accompaniment, neeps and tatties, otherwise known as potatoes and swede, using this recipe. Plus chantenay carrots and gravy.
After the main course, it was time for some appreciation of the works of Burns. Gordon read his poem, My luve is like a red red rose, and we listed to a rendition of Rantin' Rovin' Robin.
Toast to the Laddies and the Lassies
We raised our glasses to salute first the gentlemen present and then the ladies.
Not at all Scottish, but Sue brought chocolate cake so we ate that with cream. A more traditional offering would be cranachan or clootie pudding. We listened to some classic tunes such as (our favourite) Doon in the wee room and Donald, where's yer troosers.
Auld Lang Syne
Words by Robert Burns and probably his most famous though, luckily, I'd printed out the lyrics as no-one really knows the words! We held hands and sang along to the the tune everyone will recognise from New Year's Eve celebrations, backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus. However, I wanted to share this hauntingly beautiful version with you which Chickpea and I haven't been able to get out of our heads.
And thus concluded our Burns Supper. The meal over, we retreated to the living room for one last dose of Scottishness: the DVD of Brave.
I hope you enjoyed the Home Jules version of a Burns Supper. We had a great time and laughed a lot. Maybe it's time to introduce Supper nights to honour other national poets? Which poet would you choose and what would you include?