Of Haggis* and other delights

Jock is a fantastic fan of Robert Burns, knows loads of his poetry by heart, quotes him at the drop of every hat, and can talk interestingly at length about his life.  When we first came to live in France, we were teased into giving a Burns lunch (as the main meal of the French day is midday we adapted the traditional Burns night).  

My lovely Scottish sister-in-law brought across a veritable paragon of haggises.  Nervous of Frankish foodieism – or faddishness if you prefer – we provided an alternative main course, but it wasn’t necessary.   Jock translated the traditional Ode to the Haggis into ordinary English, and I turned that into an approximation of a French poem,  declaimed by Jock in all three languages, and the animal was duly stabbed with our biggest kitchen knife.  The whisky toast took the place of the Trou Normande: a thoroughly civilised local custom of drinking a shot of spirits between starter and main course (something like deglazing a frying pan), which has the effect of creating a hole (trou) big enough to receive the next course in comfort.

The 8 of us polished off enough haggis to have fed 20, and they even ate the skin! Fortunately, it was the traditional ponce de brebis farcie (stuffed sheep’s stomach) and not one of the modern plasticky substitutes. 

The usual French inter-courses of salad and cheese were  Scottish Cheddar, which they thought was far too strong, and home-made oatcakes.  I thought that the traditional cranachan was a bridge too far, so  I played safe with a millefeuille of raspberries and cream, which they didn’t believe I’d made myself. 

Stappit fu’ myself, we were astonished when they saw the remaining half of my traditional English Christmas cake on the sideboard (bear in mind the date: 25th January).  Despite their fear of eating something which would clearly be utterly stale, they polished off the lot with the French equivalent of yum yums.  I mentioned that the cake had been made in October, and they were horrified until I explained the principle of  ‘feeding’ the cake with alcohol the first week to preserve it.

The meal finished with the French folk being taught some Scottish songs.  My brother in law’s video later showed this to have been unwise, as the entire company had by this time bien bu (well drunk) and was incapable of deciding on an appropriate key!  Then, some had a short walk round the garden by way of digestif while certain of us did the dishes. 

We were utterly poleaxed at that point to be invited back for supper to the house of one of the guests.  Charcuterie and salads were brought out but Jock and I certainly had no way of eating another crumb.  That didn’t put off the rest of them.  It was much later that we learned that if you invite people for lunch in France, you are expected to give them dinner as well!  Yet there’s nothing like the obesity here that you see in UK.

That was 18 years ago, and a different village.  It’s taken this long to repeat the experiment with new neighbours and friends.  We shall be 16 on 6th February, so four big haggises (haggae?) have been ordered and plans laid for an enormous meal.  Watch this space.

* an animal with legs shorter on one side than the other, to enable it to run round the rugged Scottish rocks.

 This piece was stimulated by reading all the poems for this week’s foodie Bigtent prompt. (see blogroll)

About https://vivinfrance.wordpress.com

All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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16 Responses to Of Haggis* and other delights

  1. Mike Patrick says:

    I’ve never been anywhere where haggis was served. I would love to try it. I’ve had both fried rattlesnake and alligator, of course they are cold-blooded critters, but they were good. We had a difficult time getting a recipe for rattlesnake, but I’ll never forget the recipe we got from a friend’s mother. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. My friend said that she would have a recipe if anyone would. This is how she thought they should be prepared.

    Cut off the head and discard, the thing still can bite even if it appears dead.
    Skin it.
    Remove all the intestines.
    Cut it into three-inch lengths.
    Take the three-inch pieces and flush them down the toilet.


    • vivinfrance says:

      What a gorgeous story! Do you mind if I pass this on to my daughter? She is at present driving from Joshua Tree National Park in CA to Las Vegas, through country where they might catch the odd rattlesnake.


      • Mike Patrick says:

        Please do. It is true. My friend was talking to his mother long distance. He was writing her every word down. He literally fell on the floor laughing at the end of her recipe. Everyone standing around him thought he was having a seizure.


  2. Mark says:

    Reading this, my curiosity is piqued. I must try haggis now before I die.

    The language of food and memory is amazing and intertwined.


  3. Tilly Bud says:

    Incredible how you make haggis sound like something nice to eat.

    I really enjoyed this post.


    • vivinfrance says:

      Tilly, you blaspheme! Haggis is really good to eat – and I say this as a faddy Englishwoman. Jock and I often have a small one, and it’s one of my favourite meals. I’m not so keen on the neeps (turnips), substituting carrots, but love the champit tatties (mashed potato).


  4. what a fantastic tradition! that is something so evident in many of the stories/poems this week: tradition.


  5. This is so lively and spirited! My favorite is the part about the traditional English Christmas cake. And I continue to learn new words from you!


  6. Tumblewords says:

    Lively piece – wonderfully descriptive.


  7. RJ Clarken says:

    I want to try some of your millefeuille of raspberries and cream! Sounds incredible!


    • RJ Clarken says:

      Also, what an interesting tale of the two cultures coming together – and all because of food!


      • vivinfrance says:

        It’s not difficult if you buy frozen puff pastry. roll it out very thinly and cut into 3 oblongs, and cook. When cool, spread the first two oblongs with raspberries, a little caster sugar, and whipped cream in which you have folded some flaked almonds. The top is iced with a thin glacé icing, so that it drips down the sides. I drizzle a little chocolate icing in lines across the top, and drag thelines in alternate directions with the back of a knife to make a pattern.


  8. earlybird says:

    I don’t suppose you’ve actually found oatmeal in France, have you, Viv?


  9. Dick says:

    Clearly a gastronomic extension of that long-standing link between France and Scotland, Viv!


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