Could Haggis Really Be English?

Could Haggis Really Be English?

**WARNING** Alarming haggis photo ahead!

For centuries, haggis has been Scotland’s claim to fame. But, new findings report that this classic Scottish dish may actually be English – ah – gasp! Departed Scots are most certainly rolling in their graves at the mere thought of this. It’s not enough that the English pick on the Scots for their different British accent, but now they have to go and lay claim to the Scots’ prized cultural dish!

Haggis with taters

Haggis with taters

Haggis is a savory dish made from the internal organs of a sheep (minced), mixed with oatmeal, spices, salt, pepper and boiled in a sheep’s stomach. Although this dish often disgusts naive tourists, it can make an elderly Scotsman’s mouth water. 

Haggis stuffed in a sheep's stomach.

Haggis stuffed in a sheep's stomach.

Within the United Kingdom, haggis was initially marked as a Scottish dish with the first mention of the dish found in a mid-18th century book by Hannah Glasse, followed by another mention in a Scottish poem. However, historian Catherine Brown recently found a reference to haggis in an English book, The English Hus-Wife, published as early as 1616. This would suggest that haggis was originally an English dish that was later popularized by the Scottish. Of course, the Scots say this is false, but the English are sticking by this new finding.

What a coup! I can see it now, pubs touting signs that say “London – home of Shakespeare and Haggis”. 

I have actually tried haggis, although not willingly I must confess. A few years ago when I traveled to Edinburgh, the group I was with, all tourists of course, wanted to go out for an authentic Scottish meal on our last night. Although I ordered something normal, ie. not scary, the restaurant was giving away small plates of haggis (hmm, imagine that). My friends, and I use that term lightly, dared me – no egged me on – to eat it. I am not one for trying strange looking foods, let alone strange smelling foods, but I was willing to give it a try after a few glasses of wine.

Vegetarian haggis? What will they think of next!

Vegetarian haggis? What will they think of next!

A local gent, easily my father’s age, was listening to our group’s conversation and assured me that if I ate the haggis together with the potatoes and other sides presented to me, I probably would not taste the haggis at all. “Besides,” he added in his most convincing Sean Connery accent, “how can you leave Scotland without trying a Scottish delicacy and our national dish? he winked. I think he was flirting with me. How could I say no? So, down the hatch it went. It really wasn’t that bad. Kind of reminded me of meatloaf only with different spices. One bite was enough though, even after 3 glasses of wine.

That was the first and last time I tried haggis. Although I don’t recommend eating it as an entire meal, I think that anyone who wants to experience a true Scottish dinner shouldn’t forgo the opportunity. And, as for the Scottish-English haggis debate….

I say, give the Scots their haggis. After all, the English have their Shakespeare, so really why should they complain? But, whether, Scottish or English, haggis is still an acquired taste and goes best with a bottle of red wine as a chaser.

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