It's Burns Night this evening (it's always Burns Night, for some reason, never Burns Day), which is particularly noteworthy this year as it is the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth. I'm not Scottish, I'm not celebrating the occasion, and I'm definitely not planning to eat haggis, but I thought I'd look at this Scottish 'delicacy' for today's blog post.
If you've got a strong stomach, here's a recipe for a traditional haggis. The first ingredient has me stumped - one sheep's bag and pluck. A sheep's bag is the animal's stomach, I think, and pluck is, according to the OED, 'the heart, liver, lungs and other viscera (= internal organs) of an animal'. The animal's windpipe is clearly also included in the viscera as the recipe I have linked to tells you to leave the windbag hanging out of the pan while boiling everything.
There is an entire ritual surrounding the haggis. It is piped into the dining room by a Scottish piper and then Burns' poem Address to a Haggis is read aloud. Even we Sassenachs know the line 'Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!'. Here's the full text of the poem, with a standard English translation. The meal finishes with a 'toast to the lassies' (ie women).
It is unclear where the word 'haggis' comes from. Many words for food items come originally from French, and it has been suggested that 'haggis' comes the French hachis, hash or that it is related to the verb 'to chop' in French, but the OED doesn't go along with this theory.