Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh haggis, oh beautiful, tasty haggis!

Yes – I have been smitten! I have been smitten by the taste for haggis. Over the last 5 or 6 years I have traveled around a good part of the world. As I have visited different countries I have always tried to experience the local culture and the local cuisine. I was determined to make sure that my brief trip to Scotland was no exception to the norm. As such, it was a requirement that I had the opportunity to taste haggis – the national dish of Scotland. Through the 3 days of meetings both Martin Borch – a colleague from Denmark who was leading the meetings and I had firmly said that we wanted to have the experience of eating haggis. Two of the local Greenock staff who were involved in the meetings – Dave Clementson and Gordon Boyd, were gracious hosts and helped us fulfill this experience. After work on Thursday evening about 10 of us packed into Gordon and Dave’s cars and headed off to a small pub in the town of Greenock. We started the evening with a few drinks – in my case I had a Tennent’s Lager. Tennent’s I was informed is referred to as the Budweiser of Scotland. Apparently, there isn’t anything fundamentally great about it, but it is just the beer that most people drink in Scotland. Shortly after we arrived, Gordon went and spent a few moments talking with the proprietor of the pub. He really didn’t let on to what was said, but he came back to the table and told us that we would definitely get to have some haggis. About twenty minutes later a waiter proceeded to bring out 2 large dishes of an interesting looking dish. It kind of looked like a pastry roll surrounding an indescribable filling. Half of the pastry rolls were filled with a brownish looking paste, while the other half was filled with a black looking paste.
Though we were all a little apprehensive having heard what haggis was made of, we still dug into the dishes with gusto. I was amazed and surprised by the taste explosion that filled my mouth. It was great! There was a definite taste difference between the “brown” haggis and the “black” haggis. I didn’t realize it at first but the “black” haggis was actually a form of blood pudding – and yet it was good!! If you are wondering what is the big deal with haggis and why I would be surprised that it tasted good – here’s the definition of what haggis from Wikipedia. “Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish. There are many recipes, most of which have in common the following ingredients: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.
Haggis somewhat resembles stuffed intestines (pig intestines otherwise known as chitterlings or the kokoretsi of traditional Balkan cuisine), sausages and savoury puddings of which it is among the largest types. As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour.””
I was very thankful to my Scottish colleagues Gordon and Dave for making this experience happen. All of us involved in this series of meetings from around Europe and the US owe Dave and Gordon a big Thank You for the effort they put into making the week great! Til later – peace to all!

No comments: