Image via Unsplash by Annie Spratt
There’s a specific lie that I think every Scottish person tells at least once in their life, a phantom thread weaving its way through our collective psyche. When asked by non-Scots, usually wide-eyed Americans almost vibrating with earnestness, what the celebrated haggis actually is, we breathe deeply and begin. “A haggis is a small animal that lives in the Highlands of Scotland,” we say, pausing for effect. “It has one leg shorter than the other, and it runs round and round the hills all day, never changing direction.”
A haggis is, of course, not this animal at all. So why do we tell this lie? Maybe it’s impish Scottish humour, the wry smile and particular pleasure in winking “Aha, ah got ye!”. But I think it’s because we’re aware deep down, that the truth seems far more gross, twisted and weird.
I get it; despite being Scottish, I was disturbed by the concept of haggis for a long time. A boiled sheep’s stomach stuffed with more offal is not a sophisticated dish - it’s not fragrant with delicate herbs or rich with cream, nor can it be delicately stacked on a plate like a minuscule architectural project. And yet, every 25th of January, Scots read poems to haggises (or haggisi?), stab them ceremoniously and devour them in honour of their national poet.
The whole charade of Burns Night once made me cringe. It confirmed every stereotype about backwards old Scotland; the poetry felt weird in my mouth, the tartan was embarrassing and the food was lumpy in shad