Haggis’s poster boy
Robert Burns still lends a hand with food tourism, with attractions including express Burns Suppers and weddings available at his birthplace museum
Few foods unite people in celebration, on the same night of the year, across the world, quite like the haggis. Loved and lauded, the haggis has transformed the annual celebration of the life of Robert Burns into a traditional, often dramatic Scottish theatrical production.
With a place firmly reserved as the centrepiece and main act at Burns suppers for evermore, the iconic dish recognises no boundaries; it’s often referred to as a democratic dish, being equally at home at a rich and lavish banquet as it would be at the simplest of suppers.
It's remarkable that on a night in 1801 at the first dinner held in Burns’ memory, the charm of his ‘Address to a Haggis’ elevated that simple tribute to a globally recognised annual celebration and forever cemented the relationship between Ayrshire and the haggis.
At that first dinner in 1901, on a cold, January winter’s night, the Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’ Race – arguably the best possible comfort food – was honoured by the ‘Address’ and washed down by a few drams. Whisky, Scotland’s national drink, remains the ubiquitous and perfect partner to the haggis.
Unlike modern day Burns suppers, neeps and tatties played no part, and it seems unlikely that the Bard ever enjoyed the modern trio of meat and two veg on his plate. We can only speculate whether his Address, had it been penned today, would have included sharp-witted references from Burns to current haggis trends such as, haggis pakora, haggis pizza or haggis nachos.
Food tourism is enjoying a boost thanks to Burns and the haggis. For example, a new event at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum gives tourists the opportunity to take part in an Burns Supper Express. Over the course of an hour they experience the traditional haggis (or its vegetarian equivalent), with a recital followed by cranachan then a dram at Burns Cottage. There’s also a growing popularity for bespoke weddings at the Burns Birthplace Museum or in the grounds of his cottage with, of course, haggis featuring on the menu.
With food tourism being a treasured and growing part of the Ayrshire economy, it seems fitting that one of the region’s greatest sons continues to lend a posthumous hand in promoting the most traditional Scottish fare.