Happy Birthday Robbie Burns

Ask any English or Welshman of your acquaintance and they will gladly confirm what I am about to impart: The Scots are weird.
Normally I would never dare to make such a sweeping statement about an entire nation and certainly never about one whose people will happily kick themselves in the head if there is nobody else’s head available. Fortunately though, today is a day when I can safely make such a sweeping statement because today is the day when all the Scots are safely horizontal from a combination of whiskey, haggis and really bad poetry. Yesterday was Burns night.

Robert Burns, for those of you who are too lazy to look him up on the Journalists’ Friend, was apparently a Scottish poet. I say apparently because his poetry is written in the low Scots dialect which is incomprehensible to anybody south of Carlisle and so we only have their word that it is, in fact, poetry. He is most highly regarded in Scotland due to being the only Scottish poet anybody has ever heard of.
To celebrate his birthday, the Scots will gather in any place they are confident of not being thrown out of where they will drink and recite poetry at a haggis. As if that wasn’t enough of an affront to the noble beast, they then eat it.

Haggis is one of those dishes born of the necessity to use up every single part of the animal. Basically you take anything that a surgeon can’t identify, add some rusk or breadcrumbs and any herbs you can find which will disguise the taste, put it in a stomach (I believe a sheep is usually the unwilling donor) and boil for the length of time it takes for you to become hungry enough to eat it.
Believe it or not, haggis is not the worst dish the Scots have ever come up with. As far as delicacies of the British Isles go, it is fairly normal. I’m never going to be thanked for pointing it out but sausage doesn’t get made with prime pork loin. It’s why it tastes so good.
Instead the very worst of Scottish cuisine is the unholy trinity of deep fried Mars bar, deep fried Bounty bar and deep fried Pizza. If anybody ever invents a time machine, forget going back to doink Hitler on the forehead with a spoon, go back and find out who introduced deep frying to the Scottish nation and prevent them from doing so by any means necessary.

I’m not averse to experimental cookery. Until I was tall enough to reach the stove I had very little choice in the matter due to Mammy’s predilection for substituting similar coloured ingredients should she have run out of the needed foodstuff. Fortunately she also liked to add a good hour onto the cooking time of any instructions so everything tasted much the same by the time it reached the table. I’m not joking when I tell you that I was 19 before I realised a Chicken Kiev wasn’t supposed to be mysteriously hollow on the inside.
Learning to cook is a vital brick lying in the middle of the road to Adulthood. Some may say it is never a good idea but I say where would we be without the ceremonial rite of passage that is getting drunk and attempting to cook whatever you have in your cupboards at the time? Without the Antipodean Meat Pie and Mushy Pea combo, that’s where.
Once upon a time in my student days I can remember attempting (in rather cash strapped desperation it must be said) to make a meal of Alligator Jerky and microwave popadoms. I wasn’t drunk at the time but it probably would have turned out better if I had been.

Maybe next time I’ll try deep frying it.

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