Anthony Bourdain loved haggis. But even the late, great American chef, writer and television host recognized that Scotland’s national dish, with its “sinister sheep parts” wrapped in a shroud of mystery and half-invented history, could be a hard sell.
“Don’t let them tell you otherwise, that’s really one of life’s great pleasures,” Bourdain said on one of his gastro-curious pilgrimages to Glasgow. “There is no more unfairly reviled food on Earth than the haggis.”
A mash-up of diced lung, liver and heart mixed with oatmeal, beef suet, onion and assorted spices, haggis was traditionally made by stuffing these raw ingredients into the stomach of a recently slain sheep and boiling the lot to a state of palatability.
Instagrammable is not the word that immediately comes to mind. In our 21st-century world, where “clean” eating and processed pap overlap, haggis can seem like an “Outlander”-style outlier from another age.
Yet, by some alchemy, once cooked to its required “warm-reekin’ (steaming)” state, it adds up to much more than the sum of its modest parts. It’s offaly charm has kept nose-to-tail eating alive among a younger generation of Scots that has largely turned its back on the tripe, liver and kidneys their predecessors enjoyed (or endured).
Carefully prepared, haggis tastes both oaty and meaty; it is dark and crumbly, a little crispy at the edges but still moist; earthy but also savory and spicy; deep-tasting and profoundly warming, the perfect foil for its traditional garnish of floury mashed potatoes and orange bashed turnip.
“It’s like a cuddle for the stomach,” says Nicola Turner, a 35-year-old office administrator from Helensburgh, a town on western Scotland’s Firth of Clyde.
For children of the 1960s and ’70s, like crime novelist Ian Rankin, haggis meals were a choice between the classic meat-and-two-veg plate and the battered and deep-fried, chip-shop iteration loved by both his friend Bourdain and his quintessentially Scottish detective character, Inspector John Rebus.
Now myriad other treatments have blossomed.
“I’m pretty sure the first time I dined with AB in Edinburgh we had haggis in filo pastry with a jam-style – maybe blackcurrant –…
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