Robert Burns Day
January 25th, 2013
09:00 AM ET
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Food has inspired many a great creative type. From still lifes to songs, food never seems to be too far away from an artist's mind.

One of the best known food-related poems is by Scottish national poet Robert Burns. His “Address to a Haggis” became so popular that there’s a whole night inspired by its verses.

Burns Night (or Burns Supper) is held either on or during the week of January 25, the anniversary of Burns’ birth. The Scots take this celebration seriously, and there are rituals and ceremonies to adhere to.

Burns Night is also celebrated in the U.S. In fact, there are Burns Night societies that plan elaborate celebrations for their beloved poet.

If you don’t have any bagpipes lying around, or you’re a wee bit concerned about whipping up a full Scottish spread, you can stick to the simple supper that’s eaten on Burns Night.

The three essentials are haggis, tatties and neeps. (Tatties are taters, as in mashed potatoes, and neeps are turnips.)

Haggis is the most complicated of the three. You can make your own or find a specialty store that carries it. Haggis is a mixture of sheep offal, fat, oatmeal, onion and spices that is stuffed inside a sheep’s stomach and cooked for three hours until tender. The origin of haggis is a little cloudy, but it’s likely that herders developed this technique to make food both portable and easy to cook.

If you want to have the full Scottish version of a Burns supper, there are many online guides to help. The haggis, neeps and tatties are brought in on a silver tray to the sound of bagpipes before being ceremoniously cut. This might have been Burns’ favorite part, if the third verse of his poem is any indication:

His knife see rustic Labour sharpen,
And cut you up with practiced skill,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sight,
Warm-steaming, rich!

The full meal is bit more complicated and includes cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup) and a Scottish sherry trifle. At the end, everyone sings "Auld Lang Syne," which Robert Burns also wrote. See what good food can inspire you to do?

Pore over all our spirited coverage of Scotch whisky (and its close cousin bourbon, if that's all you've got on hand; Robbie would surely not mind):
Lick the Screen: Scottish breakfast
Bourbon for beginners
Five ways to make yourself a whisky connoisseur
All about shortbread, a classic Scottish biscuit
Bourbon beyond the glass
Bottle of whisky sells for $200,000
Scotch distillery turns whisky into watts
Scotch on the rocks

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Filed under: Breakfast Buffet • Food Holidays • News • Scottish


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soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. etoile isabel marant

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    February 21, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  2. oldman247

    as ac child in the mid forties i lived edinburgh as a boy in albert street and before i went to school in leith walk i hade a large bowl of porridge wlth salt spread over for taste to which i very enjoyed every breakfeast every morning ,then i walked down Albert street and up Leithwalk before turning left at the level crossing and my school was on the right about one hundred yards up the road ,where the headmester bwould wait for us te get duwn into the bottom playgroundto the cloakroam ,take off our coats and make our way to cliss we were met by the class teacher called misses My clye who was the most teacher i had ever met ,and i still remamber her since it was yestrday god may she rest in peace she sho much hope to my life and continues to enthrall me

    February 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  3. The Southern California Law Directory

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    February 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  4. paw broon

    Och aye, Haggis is braw!

    January 28, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  5. Bart Flaster

    It's best served with a side of farts from the sheep intestines you're eating. THAT's why ya drink whisky with haggis.

    January 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  6. kerryokie1

    I grew up in Scotland and I can honestly say that I have never been brave enough to eat Haggis. I've read the recipe. That's all I care tio know. My mum loves it though. I did eat "black pudding" which is a blood sausage that we fry up for breakfast. When you fry it, it turns black. I go home every year and eat like a hog the whole time I am there. I have to go on a diet for the first month after I return.

    January 26, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  7. WanderinScotsman

    I DO HAVE HAGGIS !! I like it, it goes great with some eggs and toast for breakfast.

    I also have Bagpipes but unfortunately I sound like someone abusing a goat when I play.

    January 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Fiona Douglas

    ya cana forget the whiskey yanks.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Southern Celt

      Obviously you are an American because only an American would put an 'e' in Whisky.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Brandon

        She may be American, but English and Irish also spill it whiskey.

        January 26, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Brandon

      As the saying goes in Scotland, "In Scotland there is no 'E' in whisky and in England there is no F'ing whisky."

      January 26, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  9. Barry

    Here's to you Rabbie. Slainte

    January 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  10. Ms. Grammar

    Only had it once – and liked it. It reminded me a bit of scrapple (an Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch thing). The Glenfidditch helped, I'm sure.

    January 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  11. Ed Berggren

    I understand that true haggis is illegal in the U.S. because it includes a sheep's lungs which the FDA has determined is unfit for human consumption. If you want the real thing, you'll have to go to Scotland to get it.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Fiona Douglas

      aye, na Lamb nor goat.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  12. VladT

    I am saving up $$$ to visit Scotland, hopefully by this year. I have decided that I want to try Haggis, but will only try it in Scotland, no matter how "authentic" a Scottish Restaurant anywhere else claims to be

    January 25, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Vlad, just make sure you fortify yourself before tasting. I recommend a couple of slugs of a good single malt like McCallan's before chomping away on "the prince of Sausages"

      January 25, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Fiona Douglas

      Right Ladie, go to Queen street station in Glasgow, take the train to Oban. Many food places to choose from.

      OR queens street station to get the train to Edinburgh. Good luck and remember?
      A Haggis is a small creature roaming through the Highlands of Scotland. AYE! and don't forget your single malt wiskey

      January 25, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • Rob Fargher

        Free-range haggis is the best.

        January 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
      • Sun

        Heh, that old joke still around? :D

        January 26, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  13. Mary Shannon

    Fun, fun, fun and absolutely accurate! I attended a Burns Supper in Scotland several years when I was there on business. The ceremony of the night was incredible, they really take it seriously. I will admit that haggis and I didn't agree, but I ate the tatties and neeps and a colleague from Canada ate my haggis.

    A fun night was had by all, and the hired bus delivered us all home to our hotels safely. It was a night I'll remember for the rest of my life, and I encourage anyone that has the chance to experience one, DO IT!!!

    January 25, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Joshua

      I am a piper and always wanted to visit Scotland. My wife and I finally got to spend a 2 weeks vacation there 2 years ago. What a beautiful country and most lovely people. My wife would not touch Haggis but I had to try it. It is pretty lame in taste and far removed from the legends that non Scotts have spawned around it. It looks like meat patties and pretty flat tastewise. The country is incredible though.

      January 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
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