The 25th of January is the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, author of Auld Lang Syne, the man who said “The best laid plans of mice and men…" and gave us a good excuse for an annual Caledonian piss-up. Here are the three essential ingredients of Burns' night, along with which of the Scotch Bard's poems to read while you enjoy them:
A sheep's heart, liver and lungs, boiled in its stomach. Tastes as good as it sounds! The traditional main course at every Burns' Night meal, the haggis is carved to a recitation of the poet's famous lines: “Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" Or, loosely translated, “You look smashing, haggis." Haggis can be obtained from any good butcher, and, indeed, many bad butchers. You may not know the difference until you've eaten the haggis. Haggises are not for the weak of heart (or stomach, or lungs) but, well prepared, can be endured with grace. Best served with a side of tatties and neeps (mashed potato and swede to you and me).
Burns Poem: Address To a Haggis
Whisky = Scotch malts. Whiskey = American or Irish malts, including bourbon. On Burns' Night, we drink single malt Scotch Whisky. Got it? Good.
Whisky comes in a dizzying range of flavours, colours and varieties, can be described “smoky", “peaty", “sharp", “smooth", sorted according to age (the older, the better, as a rule) and so on ad infinitum. Select a range of whiskies to suit your guests' palates, or pick out a particularly splendid malt. An excellent place to do so is the Whisky Shop on Turl Street, who can recommend a whisky to fit any taste or price.
Burns Poem: Scotch Drink (“O thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch drink!")
Music and Dancing
Bagpipes. Love them or hate them, you can't ignore them, much like the Highland dancing they inspire. No Burns' Night is complete without hurling your friends through the air at high speed while a wheezing cat wails in the background. For maximum enjoyment, enjoy copious amounts of whisky first.
Burns Poem: Auld Lang Syne. Learn the rest of the lyrics, stand out from the crowd
A very happy Burns' Night to all!