Monday, 16 January 2012
Dish Of The Day
It appears that there has been a spat about where and who invented haggis. It has often appeared on the plate and at times not particular to season or date. I have also enjoyed it during Lent, if only as a gesture.
Firstly, a declaration of interest, the records of my personal family include the minutes and documents of the Incorporation of Fleshers held in Ayr and Edinburgh. They were major figures in this body for generations. One of the youngest sons of this family group had to go off and earn his living elsewhere.
In the Old Parish Records of Ayr on the facing page which records the baptism of Robert Burns is the baptism of one of the Fleshers of my family, albeit not an ancestor. My father was a butcher for a long time, boxing professionally as “Butcher Bill” and another near ancestor in another line was also a butcher.
I am fussy about my meat; it comes from the farm on special order. It costs more than the supermarket cheap stuff and but less than their premium meat. Even the sausages are made to order.
Thirty or so years ago the best haggis I could source came from mid Yorkshire, a butchers who supplied a substantial number of Scottish clients unable to find the right mix in the right quality nearer to home. I have found decent haggis in Borough Market in London.
There is more to it than that. It is my contention that not too long after the invention of fire and the various means of cooking foods over it some hominids found that stuffing an animal’s innards with assorted offal, ground meat and cereals and perhaps with added herbs made a filling and delightful meal.
Down the millennia, there have no doubt been variations on one sort or another around many civilisations according to taste, availability or religious demands. I have little doubt that my forebears in Ayr may have varied their mix from time to time according to what was available.
Quite why locally this type of dish came to be called haggis in Scotland as opposed to all the many names it must have had in many places I do not know. Perhaps it was the nickname of a housewife who made a particularly tasty version, perhaps indeed one of my own family.
For leading politicians to go ape and posture mightily over the content of a form of meal that is so ancient speaks volumes about the quality of the debate about current issues and their contempt for the electorate.
If this is the best they can do then they need stuffing.