The Haggis Decal Project
The Haggis.
 

 

The uncooked haggis
The uncooked haggis
 
The cooked haggis, ready to eat!
A cooked portion

After years of making jokes about haggis, on Robert Burns Day in 2002 my wife and I ventured forth to acquire the elusive delicacy. We were somewhat more successful in Metro Detroit than we'd been when we looked for it while in London on our honeymoon the previous May, but then, timing is everything.

We tracked our quarry to Ayckroyd's Scottish Bakery on Five Mile Road in Redford, Michigan. For a mere $5.76, we acquired a haggis of sufficient size to feed two adults with reasonably strong constitutions, or a nearly infinite number of people repulsed by the thought of a sheep's internal organs ground up, mixed with oatmeal and stuffed back into its own stomach1 (the casing on the one we had was thick enough for us to believe it was not exactly the same style of casing used traditionally for sausages). We spirited our paper-wrapped prize the 30 miles home, stopping only to pick up a bottle of scotch, which I had been advised would be helpful in the consumption of the haggis.

Not having any particular recipe or instructions for preparing the waxy softball-sized lump of organ meats and meal, Leslie sliced some carrots and potatoes and baked it like a roast. While it cooked, it developed several small tears, allowing the filling of oatmeal and ground meats to ooze out in rather unappealing ways. Once we cut it into two portions, it didn't look quite as bad, and more resembled a stuffed pepper-- that is, if you're in the habit of buying peppers that are the color of a brown paper bag.

Eating the haggis wasn't at all the unpleasant experience some had predicted-- it wasn't gut-wrenchingly awful (though I suspect that a sheep might have a different take on that). Unsurprisingly, it had a strong organ meat taste and was somewhat salty. It vaguely reminded me of meatloaf or White Castle hamburgers, but a tad more liver-y.

After subsequent meals of haggis, I've developed a bit of a taste for the stuff. Despite starting to lean a bit more to the vegetarian side by tastes, we've turned it into an annual tradition at our house, generally around the time of Robert Burns' Day. I've tried a canned haggis that is available, but didn't care much for that particular take on it.

Leslie wins points for being a good sport and willing participant in all of this, since she doesn't much care for the taste of meat in general, and organ meat in particular, yet she volunteered to prepare the haggis. Then again, she's the one who introduced me to Indian food2, sushi and basterma3.

Eating a haggis is something I'd decided long ago that I wanted to do some time in my life, mainly out of a vague curiousity. Now it's on to fugu or lutefisk, I suppose.

-Fritz Milhaupt


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1 As unappetizing as that may sound to some, have you ever really considered how little difference there is between a haggis and a sausage or a hot dog? You'd be amazed at how many food items don't really stand up to much examination...

2 ...and as a result, I am now officially a curry junkie- with a particular fondness for the goat masala at the late, lamented Temptations, a one-time favorite Indian restaurant in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (Michigan) area. And don't get me started on my recently-developed taste for the tripe tacos at the Mexican restauraunt across the parking lot.

3 Basterma is uncooked lamb or beef cured in spices, usually served soft. It's a delicacy in the Armenian community and was a favorite of Leslie's father. Leslie won't touch the stuff, herself, but I like it. Especially with Armenian brandy.


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