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20 Interesting Haggis Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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interesting haggis facts

We really don’t know whether to call Haggis an unusual food or not because, Scottish and European people have known this dish for centuries. However in many other countries, Haggis is more like a cultural as well as culinary shock. We really don’t want to get into those cultural and culinary arguments because despite its weird looks and preparation method, Haggis turns out to be pretty delicious. In this article we will try and explore 20 interesting Haggis facts and in the process, learn about its ‘not-so-sure’ history and of course, we will learn what it contains. So, let us begin!

Interesting Haggis Facts: 1-10

1. Haggis is a non-veg dish made out of sheep body parts. The body parts included are not flesh. They are lungs, liver and heart, minced and stuffed together in the sheep’s stomach.

2. These body parts are first minced and then mixed with salt, spices, oatmeal, onion and suet. Suet is mutton or beef fat in raw condition. Whole thing is finally mixed with stock – a liquid made by simmering meat, or animal bones, or vegetables or seafood in wine or water and finally adding aromatic flavors.

3. The entire thing is then stuffed in the stomach of the butchered animal and cooked until the whole package takes the color of light brown to deep brown and even almost black.

4. Exactly what color will turn up is something that cannot be said for sure. The color depends on the time for which the haggis has been cooked.

5. Cooking the haggis for too long can lead to an explosion. Well, not really the Explosion explosion. We mean, the stomach of the animal can simply burst open throwing out everything stuffed inside.

6. Modern cooking methods have replaced the stomach with synthetic skin. That’s probably because many people simply hate the idea of eating up the stomach. We don’t really understand this because people do eat sausages which have intestines.

7. It is said that haggis has a nutty texture and a very savory flavor. Well, be warned that the taste of haggis actually depends on who cooks it and how it is cooked. Sometimes, it can be too difficult to stomach even a single bite, let alone filling up your stomach with this weird dish.

8. The traditional method of serving this delicacy is with turnips and potatoes first boiled and then smashed separately. Scottish people call the turnips as neeps and the potatoes and tatties.

9. Well, it is very important for the Scottish people to serve dram along with haggis. Just in case you were not aware, a glass of Scotch Whisky is known as dram.

10. In Scotland, Haggis is a traditional dish that originated centuries ago. However, the first written account of haggis dates back to cicra 1430. in England when the words haggese and hawgs were used.

Interesting Haggis Facts: 11-20

11. In 1787 Haggis became Scotland’s national dish after Robert Burns – a famous Scot poet wrote the poem named ‘Address to a Haggis‘.

12. Ever since then, Scots have celebrated the Burns Supper. It is a supper organized for celebrating the life of the poet. Mostly, Burns’ birthday (January 25) is the day when the supper is organized but it also celebrated a few days before the birthday.

13. Despite the fact that the words haggese and hawgs first appeared in England, it is widely accepted that haggis originated in Scotland. Yet again, there is a controversy regarding this as many people say that haggis originated during the ancient days of the Greeks and the Romans.

14. The most ancient version of haggis can be found in Odyssey (book 20) by Homer (8th century BCE). Homer compared Odysseus with a man using the following words:

“a man before a great blazing fire turning swiftly this way and that a stomach full of fat and blood, very eager to have it roasted quickly.”

15. According to Clarissa Dickson Wright – a celebrity chef, Scandinavians brought haggis to Scotland in a longship way before Scotland became a unified nation.

16. Clarissa also claims by citing etymologist by the name Walter William Skeat that Scandinavian origin of the dish is proven by the fact that the ‘hag’ part of the word ‘haggis’ came from the words hoggva (a word from Old Icelandic language) and the word haggw (an Old Norse word).

17. Whether Clarissa is right or wrong is a subject of debate but if we believe that haggis originated in Scotland, there is still some mystery. No one really knows exactly how haggis originated in Scotland.

18. One of the Scottish folklore that attempts to explain the origins of haggis is that women of cattle drovers of Scotland would prepare meals using things readily available at home and packed them in sheep stomach and handed over those packaging to their husbands who went to Edinburgh market from Highlands via glens.

19. Yet another popular folklore centuries ago, lairds or chieftains asked asked workmen to slaughter cattle or sheep for meat, they would give away that inner organs (known as offal) to the workmen as a share for their labor. These workmen then used the offal to prepare haggis.

20. Many people actually believe that haggis is a real animal. This came from a Scottish joke in which it is said that haggis is a small animals that runs around Scottish Highlands’ steep hills. According to the joke, the animal has longer legs on one side of the body. This unusual anatomy is said to prevent the haggis from slipping and falling down the steep slopes.

Bonus Haggis Facts:

a. Haggi or haggese are often used as plural for haggis. This is plain wrong. The plural is either haggises or haggis.

b. A vegetarian haggis was first commercially launched in 1984 by Macsween.

c. Halls of Scotland made the largest haggis in the world. It weighed a staggering 2,226 pounds.

d. Liber Cure Cocorum – a cookbook from 1430 has the first recorded recipe for haggis.

e. Most of the haggis made in Scotland is not consumed in Scotland. According to Macsween, they prepare 1,000 tons of haggis a year and 60% of it is exported to England, specifically London where haggis is extremely popular.

f. Most people around the world haven’t even tasted haggis and yet they think that haggis is a terrible dish.

g. Scots actually have a Haggis hurling sport. Participants are required to hurl a haggis as far as possible by standing on a whisky barrel. They need to be accurate and also the haggis needs to stay edible after it has been hurled.

Interesting Haggis Facts

A Haggis Cut Open

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Image Credits: 1, 2

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