Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The offal truth about American haggis

It’s January 25, and that means we’ve made it as far as Burn’s Night in 2013.

Thanks to the BBC, we’ve had a reminder that the Good Old US of A is not impressed by the star of traditional Burn’s suppers, and has now maintained it ban on the import of genuine, traditional haggis for some 42 years, and has resisted all attempts and appeals to have it rescinded in recent years.

We first noticed this back in 2010, and then a saw a story about the ban being further confirmed in 2011.

Authentic Scottish haggis has been banned in the United States since 1971, when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) first took a dim view of one of its key ingredients – sheep’s lung.

While millions of people around the world will enjoy, or endure, a Burns Night helping on 25 January, those in the US who want to celebrate Scotland’s national bard in the traditional manner are compelled to improvise.

Some choose to stage offal-free Burns suppers, and for most people not raised in Scotland, the absence of the dish – comprising sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices, all soaked in stock and then boiled in either a sausage casing or a sheep’s stomach – might be no great hardship.

But for many expat Scots and Scots-Americans, the notion of Burns Supper without haggis is as unthinkable as Thanksgiving without turkey.

via BBC News – The offal truth about American haggis.

I find myself in an odd position about this one these days.

While I have no doubt that the ban is ridiculous, and that it ruins the custom and spirit of the traditional Burn’s supper by replacing the star of the table with a synthetic pretender to the title, I also have a sneaking admiration for some of the vegetarian versions – and I am not a vegetarian, just someone willing to try something different.

While I wouldn’t accept a substitute being presented at a Burn’s supper, I’ve had some vile preparations offered to me as genuine haggis, some tasting and smelling so bad that I refused them, but I’ve tried some prepared meals which were complete with veggie haggis, neeps, and tatties, and found them to be better than many that claim to be genuine, but appeared to have been made from floor sweepings from a factory with dogs on patrol as far as I could tell.

Macsween seems to put a reliable offering together, but I still tend to rely on the convenience of good old Grant’s tinned haggis, since I can have it any time, without having to go catch a fresh one!

Incidentally, the BBC also tells us: “A 2003 survey suggested that a third of US visitors to Scotland believed the haggis was an animal. Nearly a quarter thought they could catch one.” As seen below perhaps?

Kelvingrove haggis

Haggis on display at Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

I asked a well-known American trendsetter for her opinion of haggis, be it traditional Scottish or synthetic American:

Grumpy haggis

Ok, I admit it… not offering toona flavoured haggis meant the answer was a foregone conclusion.


And a suggestsion from: BBC Food – Haggis ‘not just for Burns Night’


January 25, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , , ,

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