In the Western world, haggis has had a pretty rough reputation. Intestines? Heart and lungs? All packed together and boiled in an animal’s stomach?
Running for the washroom yet?
This traditional Scottish dish has definitely not gotten the credit it deserves. It was described in the 2001 edition of the French cuisine dictionary, Larousse Gastronomique as thus: “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour” (592).
Dispelling the Myths about Haggis
Haggis is not just intestines or stomach of a sheep.
While there are various recipes, including vegetarian versions, on how to make haggis, the main components are always the same. A sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs are minced and mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt. All this is mixed with stock and boiled in an animal’s stomach for about 3 hours. Today, haggis is prepared and boiled in a casing like that used for making sausages, rather than in the sheep’s stomach.
This dish has been traditionally attributed to Scottish culture but the first reference to haggis is in Homer‘s Odyssey which possible dates haggis to ancient Greek mythology. However, it is said that haggis was born in Scotland because during times of poverty and famine, inexpensive foods like heart and intestines of sheep, would have to be used for sustenance.
A typical haggis meal usually consists of haggis with “neeps” or turnips, and “tatties” or mashed potatoes on the side. It is also often served with a glass of Scottish whisky.
In 1989, imported haggis became illegal in the United States because of worries about Mad Cow Disease. In recent years, many Scottish Americans have been lobbying to the U.S. government to allow haggis to be imported.
Today, Haggis is usually served on January 25 which marks the birthday of Scotland’s poet: Robert Burns. Click over to our “Jan 25th Marks Robert Burns Day & Haggis For Scots” article for more on this holiday!