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25 January 2016

Happy Burns Night!

There is a holiday here in Scotland called Burns Night in celebration of the birthday of the National Poet of Scotland Robert (Rabbie) Burns (1759-1796). Burns suppers began in 1801 and are still going strong today.
      Chances are you've heard of Rabbie Burns and didn't realize it. He wrote the famous poem Tam O Shanter and Auld Lang Syne - yes, the one you sing at midnight at the turn of the New Year. He also wrote the famous line, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" in his poem "To a Mouse." It was later used by John Steinbeck as the title of his novel.
     Rabbie Burns celebrations have been going on for over a week now. His face is everywhere in Edinburgh. And haggis, neeps and tatties are on sale in the grocery stores (neeps=turnips; tatties=mashed potatoes).
     Stan was invited to a very formal Burns Supper last week. He had to wear a dinner jacket and women weren't allowed. (Kilts and whiskey were involved.) A traditional Burns supper consists of traditional Scottish Food, such as Scotch Broth (lentils and root veggies soup) or Cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and plums), and of course (you knew it was coming), the haggis:
It is presented with pomp and a prayer called "The Selkirk Grace" (or "Burns's Grace at Kirkcudbright"):
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.
     And then it is stabbed indelicately with a large knife.
     Haggis is typically not gluten free, although sometimes it is. (It is made with oatmeal.) I have had GF haggis and I can tell you honestly, I sincerely like it. It's a comfort food and I understand why it has remained popular. That said, an any-time haggis is usually much smaller than this, more like a large sausage. This one was most definitely for show at the Burns Supper Stan and I attended together this Sunday.
     It was held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre where my friend David Campbell and his former wife Linda gave a lovely performance about Rabbie's life. (He was quite the rogue and songwriter - a true character.)
     To cap off the evening, Donald Smith, head of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, performed the entire poem, Tam O Shanter in Scots. I have a feeling I have now seen it done at its very best and other performances will pale in comparison. He was fabulous!
     All said, Burns Night has been a fun addition to our Scottish experience and I'm happy to join in to sing the bard's praises.

Burns image from Getty.

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