I have often written that if I ever visited Scotland, I would eat haggis.
I have never been to Scotland, but I can now say that I have eaten haggis.
Yesterday, my family and I attended the 23rd Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Music Festival on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A friend was competing in the Highland Games portion of the event, so we traveled to Gulfport looking forward to watching the competition.
The festival was filled with activities and food. There were pale men in plaid skirts throwing rocks. There were pale men in plaid skirts playing bagpipes. There were pale men in plaid skirts herding sheep, and there were pale men in plaid skirts selling plaid skirts to other pale men.
There was also a story-telling stage with an open mic. I thought about getting up on the stage and telling the story of my most recent challenge as the parent of a second-grade boy.
Story: Two days ago my seven-year old son was playing on the swing set during recess and fell out of the swing. The problem: His pants stayed in the swing. Typically that wouldn’t be too big of a crisis, unless the son in question doesn’t like to wear underwear. He apparently spent a few seconds buck-naked on the playground, but the event wasn’t a big enough deal to him when recounting the day’s activities to his mother. “I made an A on my quiz, I had chicken for lunch, I played wallball at recess, and that’s about it.”
If I fell to the ground, naked, in front of my peers, it would take me years to get over. I have nightmares about it, today and it’s never even happened. He barely even remembered it when the teacher relayed the story. Maybe we need to send him to school in a kilt.
I had never attended a Scottish-themed event. Scottish festivals might be a great place to watch time-honored sporting events, to learn about one’s family crest, or hear Celtic music, but it’s the last place one should visit when hoping to eat good food.
If you want food, go to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Never, I repeat never, go to an event which draws its culinary inspiration from any corner of the British Isles.
There were fried Mars bars, a culinary creation born in Scotland, Angus burgers (not so bad), and the ever-present funnel cake (an American creation, but more than likely a Scottish-American creation). My children ate Scotch Eggs for the first time.
A Scotch Egg is a hard-boiled egg covered with a layer of sausage, then battered and fried. They liked it. Go figure.
I visited Hamish’s Kitchen, a booth that served haggis. I eat for a living so thought I’d give it a shot. Haggis is sheep’s lungs, heart, and liver mixed with oatmeal, onion, and beef fat. It looks like a blackish gray porridge-from-hell and smells like dirty gym socks. Actually, that description would be doing dirty gym socks a disservice. Haggis smells like… well, just think of the worst thing you have ever smelled and then triple it. That, my friends, is haggis.
I have eaten many peculiar food items in my 28-year restaurant and writing career, and up until now, chitlins have been the main offender. Folks, chitlins taste like a sweet, moist slice of chocolate cake when compared to haggis.
I took one bite (actually one-half of one bite) and thought I was going to lose it on the spot. The couple working the booth— the evil people who sold me the haggis in the first place— were laughing. How cruel, I thought, for them to make this evil gruel, ask honest people to pay money for it, and then laugh while I gnarled my face in pain and distaste while eating their concoction.
I love the Scots. I know I’ll love visiting Scotland one day. Paul McCartney has land there. Braveheart is one of my favorite movies. Celtic Festivals are a blast, but haggis should forever stay on the other side of the pond.
Robert’s Deviled Eggs
1 dozen Eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut in half, lengthwise
2 tsp. White balsamic vinegar
1 /3 cup Mayonnaise
1 /4 cup Sour cream
1 TBL pickle relish
1 1 /2 tsp Salt
1 Tbl Creole Mustard
2 tsp yellow mustard
1 /8 tsp white pepper
1 /8 tsp Garlic, granulated
Paprika and fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
Remove the yolks from the hard cooked eggs and place in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Use a pastry bag to fill the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika fresh parsley.